Phoenix city officials have been going out of the way to assure residents that the whole "kidnapping capital of the world" thing is media hype -- and that you, your family, and any tourists who want to visit town are absolutely safe here.
Someone apparently forgot to get the message to Sal DiCiccio.
In the most interesting moment of last week's otherwise humdrum District 6 council debate, the recently appointed councilman made a point of stressing just how seriously he took the threat of being kidnapped.
"I'm worried about it," the councilman said. "I'm worried about my family. It's a small leap from kidnappers going after undocumented people to targeting other families."
If this were a movie, of course, that statement would have been followed by the mayor leaping from his chair in oh-so-very-slow motion and making a desperate leap in attempt to silence the councilman -- by physical means, if necessary.
This being Phoenix and not a dumbass Hollywood comedy, that didn't happen. Instead, DiCiccio continued.
"This could happen in our community today," he said. "I am worried about it. And I am doing something about it today."
Now, we don't know about you, but we're simply exhausted by having to defend Phoenix every time we go back to the Midwest. ("Nope, grandpa, I've never been kidnapped. I don't care what you see on Lou Dobbs -- it is completely safe for white people to walk the streets at night.") U.S. citizens are not being kidnapped by Mexican gangs in Phoenix: If they were, trust us, the media frenzy would be off the charts. You see how crazy CNN and FoxNews go when some pretty blond chick goes missing; can you imagine if she was being held for ransom by some -- and we quote -- "illegal"??
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All kidnapping, of course, should be treated with the utmost seriousness and diligent law enforcement response. But it's pretty silly to insist that it's "a small leap from kidnappers going after undocumented people to targeting other families." Really, it's a huge leap -- and one that no gangster is stupid enough to make on this side of the border.
The mayor and the police department have done a good job of correcting the misconceptions when they can. Phoenix Police Tommy Thompson did a whole interview with the Republic's E.J. Montini on the subject. Mayor Gordon has taken on Russell Pearce. And when I called the mayor's spokesman and let him know I was interested in the whole kidnapping-capital-of-the-world thing, it took him not 20 minutes to call back and fill up my voice mail with all sorts of reasonable points.
Maybe DiCiccio didn't get the memo. Or maybe he's just hoping to get the endorsement of Sheriff Joe Arpaio. Oh, wait ... too late for that -- Arpaio has already endorsed DiCiccio's opponent, Barry Paceley.
He must just really believe this stuff ...