Feathered Bastard

Joe Arpaio, Russell Pearce and Jan Brewer's Arizona: Hate Crime Stats Climb

As if you need more proof that Arizona is the "state of hate," look no further than the FBI's recently released hate crime report.

From 2008 to 2009, Arizona's number of reported hate crimes increased by more than 18.3 percent. This is up over the year prior, 2007 to 2008, which saw a 14.9 percent increase in hate crimes statewide.

The numbers themselves show the creep upward. In 2007, there were 161 incidents reported in Arizona; in 2008, 185; in 2009, 219. This bucks the national trend, which shows reported hate crime incidents declining nationwide.

Hate crimes are notoriously underreported, and the FBI is reliant on the various law enforcement agencies involved to submit accurate data. So these numbers are guaranteed to be a lowball, but they give us evidence of a disturbing trajectory.

As I first reported back in March, hate crimes in Phoenix -- Arizona's most populous city -- are up nearly 30 percent from 2008 to 2009. There were 89 incidents in 2008, 115 reported by the Phoenix Police Department in 2009.

That's a huge increase over the previous year. In 2007, there were 80 reported by the PPD. So 2008's jump to 89 was an 11.25 percent climb.  

Let's not kid ourselves, there's a direct link between the rise of nativism as a force in Sand Land and the increase in hate crimes. The political atmosphere in this state created by Sheriff Joe Arpaio, state Senate President-elect Russell Pearce and Governor Jan Brewer is toxic, and hostile to anyone who doesn't have creamy white skin.

A recent study by BBVA Bancomer Research suggests that as many as 100,000 Hispanics may have left the state since the debate over Pearce's breathing-while-brown law SB 1070 began.

Arizona's stagnant economy no doubt was a factor in the exodus. But the signing of a bill into law that has as its intent "attrition through enforcement" (i.e., ethnic cleansing) sends a clear signal to Latinos that they are being targeted, whether they are here legally or illegally.

Moreover, the rhetoric of hate spewed by Governor Brewer, Pearce and others, and Sheriff Arpaio's anti-immigrant sweeps in Latino communities, have made the message as bright as neon: If you're brown, you're not welcome.

True, there are reasons for bias crimes other than race and ethnicity, but these are two of the more common motivations.

And Arizona's nativist vitriol acts as a magnet for hate groups such as the neo-Nazi National Socialist Movement, which has made Cactus Country its playground, as was evidenced in the NSM's recent rally at the Sandra Day O'Connor U.S. Courthouse.

How bad can it get? Stay tuned till next year, when Pearce is President of the state Senate, and he and his legislative henchmen can push their challenge to birthright citizenship through. The ugliness is guaranteed to get uglier.

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Stephen is a former staff writer and columnist at Phoenix New Times.
Contact: Stephen Lemons