Thomas Takes Credit for Drop in Crime; Repeat Offenders Locked Up at Higher Rate


Do the "tough-on-crime" policies of Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas work to reduce crime?

Thomas thinks so.

The prim politician, now in his second term, campaigned in 2004 on a platform of stopping illegal immigration and throwing the book at criminals.

Now, if you believe him, those policies have reduced crime in the Valley even as the population has grown.

This is one of those chicken-or-the-egg studies that's difficult for the layperson to judge. You can be damned sure that if crime had gone up, Thomas wouldn't say his policies are responsible. But there is a certain logic to the idea that locking up more repeat offenders -- one of Thomas' goals -- keeps citizens safer from being preyed upon.

The above chart supplied by Thomas shows that, since 2004, criminal offenses have dropped as the county sent more people to the state Department of Corrections. City officials quoted in Of course, it's helpful to keep in mind that crime has been dropping in recent years across the state and across the country, which further dilutes that idea that local influences have made that much of a difference.

Another area that may have reduced crime locally is the drop in the number of illegal immigrants. But in this case, Thomas' influence is even tougher to gauge.

As Thomas and even New Times have shown previously, illegal immigrants do commit crime out of proportion to their numbers.

Part of that trend is due to the fact that otherwise law-abiding folks, who just happen to be undocumented, resort to identity theft or other relatively minor crimes, like failing to pay a traffic ticket, just to keep living here. Another problem for immigrant-crime apologists is that illegal immigrants are mostly made up young men -- the same demographic category that most criminals inhabit.

Yet the question Thomas poses (actually, he poses it as a fact) is whether the targeting of undocumented migrants by him and his law enforcement buddy, Sheriff Joe Arpaio, is helping the drop in crime. We believe there's no way in hell anyone can say what the Arpaio/Thomas effect has been on undocumented immigrants, because the state's economic problems must be having a far greater effect.

One thing that's nice about this news: Crime is dropping, especially violent crime. Whoever or whatever is causing that trend -- thanks!

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Ray Stern has worked as a newspaper reporter in Arizona for more than two decades. He's won numerous awards for his reporting, including the Arizona Press Club's Don Bolles Award for Investigative Journalism.