Oops! Former Guv Napolitano Wrongly Hyped "Impending Crime Wave" in 08

Janet, Janet, Janet ...

We found ourselves sadly shaking our head while reading the New York Times yesterday, wondering (yet again) how our former governor could have gotten things so wrong.

Governor Janet Napolitano, need we remind you, repeatedly insisted the state was not in a budget crisis -- suggesting as late as 2008 that we ought be giving free college tuition to any Arizona student who could muster a "B" average, even though in just a few short months things are bad enough to discuss selling the freakin' Capitol building. She also famously buried her head in the sand on Joe Arpaio, letting the sheriff get away with murder before realizing she'd helped to create a monster.

Now this.

Tucked near the end of a fascinating Times piece about the nation's plunging murder rate, we were reminded that Napolitano was part of a team of Dem governors who predicted that just the opposite was bound to happen, only a year and a half ago.

Napolitano, along with Governor Kathleen Sebelius of Kansas, Martin O'Malley of Maryland, and Phil Breseden of Tennessee, held a press conference in D.C. in February 2008 to detail an upcoming problem so great, it surely required suspending all sorts of civil liberties: A massive crime wave! Headed right toward your suburban neighborhood!

According to a press release from Third Way, the progressive group hosting the press conference, four new and "menacing" trends were converging all at once. We're talking about "a massive group of prisoners poised to reenter" your community! And "the lengthening shadow of illegal immigration!" And "the sprawling parentless neighborhood of the Internet"! And, finally, "the surging youth population"!

The exclamation points are ours. The overheated rhetoric, sadly, isn't.

Of course, as reporter Shaila Dewan points out in yesterday's Times' analysis, just the opposite is now happening all over the country. Crime rates, in fact, are plummeting.

As DeWan notes, regarding the governors' press conference:

Such appeals to Americans' fears, several criminologists said, is often linked to a political agenda fueled less by crime than by another variable that is famously unfazed by real-world predictors: public perception. Along with its report, The Third Way released a poll showing that by a 5-to-1 ratio, Americans believed crime was worse than it had been the year before. By year's end, though, the national crime data showed a decrease.

Indeed, the press release from Third Way shows that then-Governor Sebelius was using the supposed crime wave to call for "signficant federal support" for a "crime-fighting agenda." So now that it turns out the feds didn't increase their support for crime prevention, and the murder rate is way down, will we see Napolitano suggesting that we need fewer resources over at the Department of Homeland Security?


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Sarah Fenske
Contact: Sarah Fenske