Let's be clear about a few things regarding Phoenix's kidnapping statistics snafu.
Phoenix Police Chief Jack Harris tells the Arizona Republic that he is outraged at what is happening in the community regarding kidnappings and other crimes, and he adds:
"If anyone doubts we have a home-invasion problem in this community . . . they must have been under a rock."
The scrutiny is not because anyone doubts that border-related kidnappings and home invasions are taking place in the Valley. Not even the Phoenix Police Law Enforcement Assocation -- Harris' worst critics -- doubts that these crimes are real.
The issue is that Phoenix police officials have clearly misled the public by saying for months that 2008 statistics were valid when, in fact, they were not -- saying they reviewed the figures, when clearly, they had not.
On February 28, Phoenix Police Sergeant Tommy Thompson issued a statement on behalf of the Phoenix Police Department, saying it "is conducting an audit concerning kidnapping and home-invasion incidents...As a result of the audit, the department has determined that there are reports that do not belong in these statistics."
It offered a breakdown of the kidnapping figures, noting that they don't include "for information only" reports or domestic violence or sexually motivated kidnappings or those cases in which there wasn't enough evidence to prove that a crime even occured.
(An in-depth review by New Times since has proved that isn't true.)
Even so, on August 25, Harris wrote a memo to City Manager David Cavazos parroting the same information provided by the Crime Analysis unit.
And take a look at a letter that Cavazos wrote on December 15 to the general manager of KPHO after the TV station reported that the feds were investigating Phoenix police. He wrote: "It is important to clearly state that we have verified several times the accuracy of the kidnapping statistics" and the "questions...were asked and answered in August." And, again, "kidnapping statistics...have been thoroughly vetted by the hard-working detectives."
Okay. Let's take just one of the kidnapping cases that makes up the 358 cases that Harris was referring to when he told the Republic: "The bottom line is we stand by those statistics."
This five-sentence departmental report from March 21, 2008 is labeled "Extortion." It notes an early-morning call from the Blessed Sacrament Church to Phoenix police. A priest told police he received an e-mail from someone threatening to kill him if he didn't pay $15,000. He said he had no idea who sent it.
Cops went to the church, picked up the e-mail, and logged the incident. It makes no mention of any harm coming to the priest, or of anyone getting kidnapped. Nevertheless, it ended up on the list of kidnappings in that year.
Another kidnapping report, DR 2008-81502660B, says says, "This report was generated in error."
Three others on the kidnapping list: DR 2008-82013526A; DR 2008-82000249C; DR 2008-820002490. Each flatly states that the purpose behind creating the report is to record that a car is being impounded.