Phil Roberts Exaggerated the Phoenix PD's Kidnapping Statistics, Then Tried to Debunk His Own Numbers

A close-up photo of a dead man's battered face flashes on the large screen, his closely shaved head on its side — streaked, dried blood and a blackened, bloated tongue protruding between pale lips.

The image lingers for a moment, then comes another.

A woman's hand. Flesh hangs from her nearly severed middle finger. Her face is bruised; her eyes appear swollen shut. Her abductors have etched a message on her belly: "Call me."

And still more gruesome photographs of faceless victims — heads wrapped tightly with tape, one body stuffed in the trunk of a car, two more discarded in the desert.

The slideshow documented crimes committed right here in Phoenix, Arizona, in the United States of America. Sometimes in broad daylight. It's shocking, terrifying stuff, and on a spring day in 2008, before a seminar for law enforcement at a local FBI field office, Phoenix Police Sergeant Phil Roberts narrated the carnage.

Roberts, an average-size man with a shock of dirty blond hair clipped closely above his ears and the clean-cut face of a cop, described the torture endured by the victims on display — victims of the border-related kidnapping crisis that has seized Phoenix for the better part of five years.

The self-proclaimed kidnapping expert captivated his audience as he described the "anatomy of a kidnapping," which involves illegal immigrants being held hostage in exchange for ransom by the coyotes who smuggle them into the United States.

Home invasions coupled with kidnappings typically involve drug smugglers and drug dealers busting into each other's homes and ripping off loads of drugs or taking hostages for ransom demands as high as $1 million. Those cases are far more brutal, he explains.

Roberts' fellow cops certainly left the room that April day with vivid images seared into their memories from that slideshow, but it was something Roberts said that proved the most difficult to forget.

The supervisor for the Phoenix Police Department's Robbery Unit announced that his city was the nation's "kidnapping capital" — a phrase that catapulted both Phoenix and Roberts into the national media spotlight.

Roberts revealed that day that the number of kidnapping cases — and the level of violence associated with them — was on the rise in Arizona. Phoenix handled 359 kidnapping cases in 2007 alone, he said, and emphasized that every single one of them was tied to illegal immigration.

Though some Phoenix police and city officials have been confused about the origin of the phrase "America's kidnapping capital" — some incorrectly attributing it to the media — its first traceable reference comes from Roberts' presentation that day in 2008.

In his job at the time, Roberts led a squad of police detectives who responded to general robberies, as well as the violent home invasions and brutal kidnappings spurred by drug and human smugglers working across the Arizona-Mexico border. He was in a position to know firsthand of the violence plaguing Phoenix.

And people were listening to him.

A member of the Phoenix Law Enforcement Association who attended Roberts' training seminar wrote an article for the local police union newsletter headlined, "Phoenix AZ, Kidnap Capital, USA."

Two months later, Roberts was making national television appearances. He reinforced Phoenix's reputation as the nation's kidnap capital during a June 2008 appearance on Fox News' Hannity's America, where he repeated that 359 kidnappings in 2007 were attributable to drug smuggling and the border.

At least 15 more times between 2008 and 2009, Roberts talked about border-related abductions to national media outlets, including Newsweek, the Los Angeles Times, America's Most Wanted, and National Geographic. The high numbers cited from 2007 turned into equally terrifying numbers in 2008, Roberts reported.

In a February 12, 2009, article in the Los Angeles Times, Roberts warned that the vicious kidnappings in Mexico that prompt bank officials to travel with armed guards could take root in the United States, and that Phoenix cops are "trying to prevent that from happening."

A few months later, seemingly out of the blue, Roberts' story changed completely.

Instead of making national media appearances to talk about dangerous kidnappings, he went on a memo-writing campaign to explain the dangers within his own police department.

In late 2009, Roberts announced that the Phoenix PD task force handling kidnap and home invasion cases was nothing more than a "golden ticket" for detectives to build their résumés. He started downplaying the figures he'd been touting. In his voluminous memos, Roberts claimed that Phoenix kidnapping statistics were bogus and intentionally inflated by police officials to defraud the federal government of grant money.

He claimed that Phoenix had only 20 to 30 border-related kidnap cases a year, instead of the 300-plus logged in 2008.

The Phoenix Police Department stood by its numbers, even when New Times reviewed records and found them to be grossly inflated. The agency's defiant stance and failure to examine the statistics more closely is what effectively ended the career of Public Safety Manager Jack Harris, who retired after the city manager reassigned him to oversee municipal building security out of an office at Sky Harbor International Airport.

Roberts, meanwhile, claimed he'd exposed the police department's "corruption." He called himself a hero and a whistle-blower.

The truth? This cop was anything but.

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55 comments
edclaughton
edclaughton

See this month's "Police Magazine" article on crime stat which references this article.

Fiduciary Responsibility
Fiduciary Responsibility

Phil Roberts is one of many PPD employees who abuse the overtime and standby systems to enrich themselves at the taxpayers expense. Someone in the corrupt city managers office needs to reign in all of those phony overtime and 24/7 standby details.

ShyAuthor
ShyAuthor

I dunno. Has anybody considered the possibility that the drug cartels who regularly murder Mexican politicians and drug enforcement personnel may have threatened Phil Roberts because he brought national attention to their activities in Phoenix?

Ted Seift
Ted Seift

Get back on the meds, Reich. I assure you that I am no girl. If you say it again, I might sling you down by your ponytail.

Ted Seift
Ted Seift

Oh, just saw Three-Name Reich posting again here. It's all about his "art." Anybody with a website can look up IP addresses of those who post, you luddite.

Ted Seift
Ted Seift

Again, Phil.... We all know you are Bob and T.Durden and most all of the others here. Who else would care about your nutty ass? Stop trying to turn the tables and make it about New Times. You are a conniving fool. Face it.

Bob
Bob

The New Times started for drugged out hippies now added illegals to their audience.

T.Durden
T.Durden

This article is clearly biased and poorly written. What the hell does Roberts' physical appearance have to do with ANYTHING? . . . It's time the media stopped trying to spoon feed the public half-assed hit pieces and started reporting the entire story so the public can decide for themselves. "There is no such thing as public opinion. There is only published opinion." - Winston Churchill

Ted Seift
Ted Seift

Phil, stop writing under assumed names. New Times can check the IP addresses, you moron. Not even your momma believes you anymore.

Biggary4545
Biggary4545

Actually, Harris is a winner, for waiting until April to retire as Public Safety Manager, thus insuring a second city-paid retirement pension. Hey, maybe ol' Phil G. and his buddy Cavazos can dream up another job title for him to be rehired again, and do the same job he did as Chief! You know, just in case his feelings ar hurt. Just sayin'

Chuck
Chuck

If lying to police is a crime, why is not a crime for a pig like this to lie to the people he serves?

Tom
Tom

Arizona, the state of lying bastards and stupid morons!!! What's new?!

American Patriot
American Patriot

Is this paper a communist paper.......I never seen anything but left slanted news and a ton on freeing illegals to run muck on society. It's amazing how a commie paper like this exists in the country.......know who your getting your news from people, this paper is absurd.

Bob
Bob

It looks like they are doing plenty of drug deals at the NEW TIMES instead of looking for new news. How many weeks can you run the same headlines?

Tom H.
Tom H.

I haven't read this article, but I notice it's been on your page for what seems like weeks! You must really love it.

Dumoudan
Dumoudan

Would someone please explain to me how we will decrease unemployment by granting amnesty to 12,000,000 people who entered the United States by illegal means?

raspandcream
raspandcream

The biggest problems we have here are drop-houses, human smuggling, people dancin across the border at all hours of the night..drive-by's...yeah I guess you could say our neighbors to the south keep us up most of the night.....

Telling It Like It Is 2007
Telling It Like It Is 2007

I've always gotten the impression that the Phoenix PD is undermanned for a metro area this size and that was before the budget troubles everyone is having.

Telling It Like It Is 2007
Telling It Like It Is 2007

There's enough real crime here in Phoenix - it doesn't need to be trumped up or exaggerated. I've actually seen and heard people doing drug deals and prostitution hookups in broad daylight in a few places where I used to live here in town. They are continually discovering illegal "safe houses" and meth factories. The gangs rule the streets here but nobody wants to talk about it. I was out in West Phoenix (around Desert Sky Mall - near 79th Ave & Thomas - that area) and did not see ONE Phoenix PD squad car the whole time I was in that part of town. Leads me to believe that there are actually large swaths of city that the PPD just doesn't patrol and only goes there if someone is shot or killed. Maybe you guys could do an investigation on where the police actually patrol. You see cop cars in Scottsdale and Paradise Valley all the time but other areas they are nowhere to be seen

The truth please.
The truth please.

MONEY DROP PRODUCTIONS...How does a lieutenant believe she can form a video production company which uses her units work product for it's source material to not be a conflict of interest? Sounds a lot like insider trading, using information the general public does not readily have based upon your position and profiting from it. So of course she would not have a problem with the inflated numbers, they helped make a problem seem bigger, therefore generating more attention which she could profit from. When the scam went bad she closed shop and pointed at other people as the problem. All of this is documented on abc15 investigation into kidnappings. Monica don't you think a lieutenant in charge of the unit could have easily discovered what Roberts discovered? You can't have it both ways.

Patheticstory
Patheticstory

Well this is what you get when you go against management a story that attempts to destroy you and say you are the problem. The truth is in working with Phil over the past 20 years none of the other so called Lt's would never be allowed to even stand in his shadow. Phil's dedication and work he has done for our department should stand on it's own merit. This is a smear story bought and paid for by burgett and her followers and you should be embarressed to put your name to it.

sheeba
sheeba

Oh good lord.. New times. gets delivered by Arizona republic and that's who owns the new times!.. if your white you can't get a job there. if your illegal your in! My husband and a few other white guys worked there worked them out tell they had nothing but mexicans working there

Jason
Jason

Sgt. Phil Roberts is a corrupt police officer and needs to be stripped of his badge. Just like his hero the Flaccid Fool of MCSO.

He must have been at the "throw shit at the wall and see what sticks" seminar with Candy Andy Thomas and Senator Pearce when he wrote his delusional memos supposedly exposing Phoenix PD "corruption."

This fool ruined the lives of so many people, including his victims. I hope his ass gets sued in his personal capacity.

Why the fuck does this fool still have with the Phoenix PD? He needs to be fired!!

OUTRAGED AND HUMILIATED
OUTRAGED AND HUMILIATED

As the actual Victim with "Call me" written on my stomach, and the fleshy finger i am outraged!!!!! These are actual photos... my story was no less than horific! For them to print this in a news paper for every one can see is a fucking outrage!!!!!!

Tangled Web
Tangled Web

Perhaps if Phoenix New Times put as much effort into supporting our border protection policies as it does into debunking Mexican crime statistics in the US, we wouldn't have to worry about this in the first place.

Why does this media outlet have such a pro-Mexican stance? How about we look into where some of YOUR funding comes from.

levelwiz
levelwiz

Many of these cases started with kidnappings, drop houses and narcotic violence as a result of our proximity to the border and the association with drugs coming up from Mexico to be sold in US (you know, demand) The definition for border related is new and vague and an attempt to describe the issue. The incidents of violence is enough to make the issue real and the clear connection to drugs and smuggling makes what Roberts did very shameful. the result has clouded the reality of the valid cause for concern.

Mistalee
Mistalee

So of the estimates of the kidnapping and home invasion cases attributable to border issues, Roberts went from 100 percent to less than ten percent. It only takes one unrelated case to disprove that statistic, and it would be an easy matter to do so, just checking the stories in the New Times.

How many of these cases are attributable to border issues? The question begs to be answered, but the article does not appear to address the issue meaningfully.

Guest
Guest

Interesting article, though it doesn't appear to be fair and balanced reporting. According to other media sources, Lt. Burgett also made several thousands of dollars, started a production company to profit from the statistics personally and outside the department and has even traveled to foreign countries purporting to be the kidnapping expert. The only part of this article I would agree with is the fact that the department could have, and should have, handled the accusations differently at the onset.

shadeaux14
shadeaux14

Is there a single law enforcement agency in this state that ISN'T corrupt?

Wayne Michael Reich
Wayne Michael Reich

Oh Teddy, you are so adorable when you get all puffed up.

And BTW, you look great in that dress- the color yellow really does suit you.

Tell you what, my anonymous Tom/Ted/Tomato, how about you actually DO something rather than hide in the Internet's closet bragging about what a sassy princess you are?

It would be a refreshing change for all of us, and I know I'd enjoy it.Heck, I could use a good laugh

Until you do, you're just pounding sand- and we all know it.

On a side note: what is your obsession with my ponytail? Did a hairstylist touch you as a child?

Because seriously, that would explain a lot.

respectfully,Wayne Michael Reichhttp://www.WayneMichaelReich.c...

Wayne Michael Reich
Wayne Michael Reich

Um, Ted?Sorry, Tom.Oops, my bad. I really meant Tomato.

Definition of Lud┬Ědite (ldt)-----------------------------------------------

-1) Any of a group of British workers who between 1811 and 1816 rioted and destroyed laborsaving textile machinery in the belief that such machinery would diminish employment.

-2) One who opposes technical or technological change.

So, how does either of these apply to me, exactly?

I'm not from the UK, and I actually embrace change- in my case, I hope to see the Editorzilla of this paper go bye-bye.

Stick to using words you actually know the definition of like "moron", you well... moron.

What's next? Verses from the Bible, I can only assume?You just keep hoping the mud will stick, don't you?

With no due respect- when it comes to your aim, I'm a Teflon duck, and you're nothing more than a retarded version of Angry Birds to me.

So to once again answer your delusions: I, unlike you, [a petty cyber-bully/coward] post under my full name, using two e-mails:

darkreich@yahoo.com/wayne@waynemichaelreich.com

As you said, it's easy to check, right?Think hard about that.

However, when it comes to you...

You post under a variety of names, in a pathetic attempt to cloud the issues and heap scorn. Anonymous screeching is hardly a threat on any level, and just like in the world of the Real- you don't matter one iota here, either.

So keep hissing at me from under your bed Princess- you are such a baaaad girl.Nothing is hotter than cowardice and hypocrisy in my opinion.

Just remember when you answer- to ignore all the actual points I've raised about your hypocrisy, cowardice, and IQ, and just start leveling the 3rd grader insults and baseless slander we have come to expect from you.

And could you make it quick, please? I have a ton of laundry to do.

respectfully,Wayne Michael Reichhttp://www.WayneMichaelReich.c...

Wayne Michael Reich
Wayne Michael Reich

He will if you will, "Ted"- or should I say "Tomato"?

BTW, how would you know what NT can or can't do, unless you work for NT?

And why would they be checking IP's anyway- is someone was getting ticked off at being constantly slapped into ketchup?

Hmmm... who could this possibly be?

(I'd LOVE to see what IP address comes up for you, sassy girl.)

PS: I HAVE MISSED YOU!!!!

respectfully,Wayne Michael Reichhttp://www.WayneMichaelReich.c...

Tom
Tom

Just like you and your entire family living here on the Native Indians' land you moron!!!

Guest
Guest

Monica, I'm surprised you were able to type this article with Burgett sitting on your keyboard. My guess, DOJ knows everything going on (a lot more than Newtimes) and in the end, isn't that really all that matters. I wonder if MCSO has pink underwear for ladies?

WuzPPD
WuzPPD

Touche' and ditto...I worked with Phil for years and although he is scrambling now his evaluation of Burgett is spot on. She used to drive around in her undercover purple Camaro with her kids car seats in the back. She is a spoiled product of Andy Hill and Andy Anderson. She followed them around the PPD like a puppy dog until she imploded as a Lt. Ask the gun squad how they liked her when she arrived as a Sgt. This story is full of inaccuracies. The HIKE squad did not want to go to DEB they were forced until Burgett saw the writing on the wall to distance herself from robbery number fiasco..

Jason
Jason

I'd sue the fuck out of Phoenix if I were you. This must be an absolute nightmare for you. I am so sorry for what happened. You need and deserve justice.

malasangre
malasangre

that doesnt really adress the made up b s does it?

levelwiz
levelwiz

One wonders why a person makes over 100 complaints and accusations that have been UNFOUNDED. One wonders why PLEA and others continue to bleed false stories to the media. and one wonders why people continue to believe the staged agenda. One story by Ch15 Biscobing as a news source is about as outrageous as making $66k in a year where he now question the number of incidents. Investigators and supervisors make overtime, but $150k in 3 yrs??? What numbers are you comparing? He was one of the top paid on PD and bragged about it to everyone. The kidnap panel and the PD have determined where the stats have gone awry and they dealt with the statistics department. Sounds a lot like sour grapes. oh, and how exactly does an LLC profit from stats? There are so many media stories out there it sounds like a soap opera regardless of the numbers. Thanks to PLEA and Phil.

A Newcomer Outsider
A Newcomer Outsider

Am buoyed by this sole, sane observation in the cacophony of propaganda-driven extremism favored by an uninformed/misinformed AZ electorate. It is so SAD a statement on human society to hear SO much vindictiveness in the public voices -- especially when most of the remarks are just plain cruel.

Also find it ironic and odd that AZ agencies with a firsthand view of the unfortunate output of Mexico's deep layers of corruption somehow can condone (or perhaps uttlerly lack self-awareness of) their own corrupt or unethical tactics. At this rate, the Dept. of Justice might as well open a permanent office in Phoenix. No matter which side one identifies with in this piece, all of the alleged players seem to demonstrate the many ways that "Absolute power corrupts absolutely."

Mistalee
Mistalee

I cling to the hope that the city dogcatcher is on the up-and-up.

Wayne Michael Reich
Wayne Michael Reich

Sorry...I just noticed my grammatical error.

However, in my defense- I was just so darn excited to read Tomato/Ted/Tom's elegant rebuttal.

The fact that Tomato consistently posts under three names might be considered hypocrisy by some, but not me. I think hiding anonymously under the Internet's bed while pretending to be a big girl is actually kind of sexy when you get right down to it.

So in reference to my mistake, it should have read:

" is someone getting ticked off at being constantly slapped into ketchup?"

My sincerest apologies.

respectfully,Wayne Michael Reichhttp://www.WayneMichaelReich.c...

Mycroftholmes32
Mycroftholmes32

Have any of you noticed that Tom, Ted and Tomato keep using the same turns of phrase?Interesting....

Gbh45
Gbh45

How is this related to the union? It appears an employee who had knowledge of the situation made a complaint which was validated by the New Times investigation. The Police management chose to ignore the problem instead of checking the validity of it. Subsequent news reports by ABC 15 and Baphoenixcops showed how Sgt. Roberts supervisor, Lt. L.Burgett, knew there was questions about the numbers but failed to act on the questions. Poor supervision? Or possibly with the formation of a company which films and sells the video of kidnappings she was looking to cash in on a problem. It would be harder to sell your video product if you don't have the public interest fueled by media reports of the enormity of the problem. Big conflict of interest running a unit whose public work ends up making you profit in the public sector. I think the worse part is the damage all of the exaggeration of the problem has hurt meaningful immigration reform.

Phxtrio
Phxtrio

So what your saying is you are misinformed. There was no company with video associated with the city that sold anything from the real video. What your saying is the numbers generated interest and not the reality of a US City dealing with kidnappings. Check out Discovery, ABC National News, Newsweek, National Geographic, local news clippings who rode with the Unit, the public domain is rife with these investigations. Do you know anything about Public records laws, these are all available. Free enterprise is for everyone. regardless of the lack of any substantial evidence of conflict, according to this article of Robert's own writings, he provided the information to these NATIONAL stories. try looking at PLEA's own website as they also touted and pushed the numbers to fuel anti-immigration laws and rhetoric. It seems to me this story is interesting due to the reality, not the numbers. Oh by the way, no one disputes the reality. PLEA is behind all the media push to attack management, Chief Harris and anyone around him. Hope you are not an investigator. Conflict of interest? First you would have to prove that is true, and it is not. I saw a contract signed by the chief for another company to make a show. where is that show and where is that profit. The chief signed an agreement with another company to do a story on the unit which has been done a dozen times. Also, I do not see where anyone failed to act on the question, I have heard the recorded conversation with Biscobing and he left many things out. People write books, discuss an issue and create their own niches all the time, the great thing about free enterprise(and a hundred best sellers of people's stories) the only way to make money is people have to be interested. Seems controversy would fuel that. Try not to let facts get in the way.. Badphoenixcops I-Team investigation,,great sources.

 
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