(Arizona business leaders fret that immigrant baiting is bad for business.
Stats contradict immigration rhetoric on crime
by Mike Sunnucks
Phoenix Business Journal -
June 3, 2010
Gov. Jan Brewer, State Sen. Russell Pearce, Maricopa County Sheriff Joe
Arpaio and others supporting the state's new immigration law say it is
needed to stem waves of crime. However, new reports show crime is on the
Arizona is main conduit into the U.S. for Mexican cartels and smuggling
rings and Phoenix is a hotbed for human smuggling related kidnapping, they
say. "We're out here on the battlefield of illegal immigration and all the
crime that comes with it," Brewer said on Fox News last month. Brewer
referred to the situation as "the terror which our citizens live in day and
day out along the border." Arpaio and Pearce have made similar comments on
CNN and other national news outlets.
That rhetoric worries economic developers, tourism officials and others who
want to attract high-wage jobs to the state. They say it sends a negative
message that could dissuade visitors, skilled workers and companies from
coming to the state.
"Any kind of negative publicity hurts Arizona as it competes for new
business locates and the jobs and tax revenues they represent, especially in
the economic climate we live in today," said Rock Rickert, chairman of the
Arizona Association for Economic Development. "Indirectly, these same
things - jobs and taxes - are adversely affected when tourism is negatively
impacted because Arizona is portrayed as a dangerous, inhospitable, or
backward place to visit." Rickert stressed he isn't talking behalf of AAED,
a statewide association promoting economic development and business
attraction, but on his own.
Crime in the Valley and Arizona is on the decrease, according to recent
The city of Phoenix reported 131,052 crimes in 2004. That number fell to
109,784 in 2008 and 90,024 in 2009, according to the Phoenix Police
Department. Phoenix had 9,679 drug crimes last year compared to 10,741 in
Statewide, the Arizona Department of Public Safety said there were 255,133
serious crimes in Arizona in 2009. That is down 12 percent from 2008. DPS
reported 341,101 serious crimes in 2002 and 291,380 in 2001.
"Statistically - and you know what Mark Twain said about statistics - the
overall crime rate is lower now than it has been in recent years, however
the level of attention being paid to a number of recent pieces of
legislation, periodic crime sweeps conducted by the Maricopa County
Department, and incidents of violence along Arizona's border with Mexico
only increases the national and international perception that Arizona is not
open for business," Rickert said.
The exception to that trend is kidnapping, which is at a high level in
Phoenix because of human smugglers who detain illegal immigrants in drop
houses asking for extra money. Phoenix has had 1,000 kidnapping reports the
last three years, according to various sources. Many other crimes against
undocumented immigrants, including sexual assaults against women, often go
Still, much of the crime related to drug and human smuggling does not impact
tourists or law-abiding Arizonans. The Phoenix area ranked as the 74th worst
metro area for crime in 2009, according to CQ Press. New Orleans, Miami,
Memphis and Las Vegas are among the top cities for crime. Tucson was 29th
worst and Yuma 203 worst out of 332 U.S. metros.
Thunderbird School of Global Management President Angel Cabrera and Greater
Phoenix Economic Council CEO Barry Broome also are concerned about the focus
on crime related to immigration flap. The new law gives police greater
authority to question and detain suspected illegal immigrants.
GPEC, Thunderbird and some other business and community leaders want to
launch efforts to combat such negative images propelled by the law.
Cabrera said Brewer and others are creating an "apocalyptic view" of Arizona
that will discourage students from studying here, tourism and high-wage job
growth. "That's not helpful," Cabrera said.
Year Murders Violent crimes Drug crimes Total crimes
2003 254 9,816 8,975 122,047
2004 238 10,503 10,741 131,502
2005 238 10,782 10,114 121,636
2006 253 11,240 9,856 117,446
2007 244 11,125 9,928 117,872
2008 196 10,864 9,145 109,784
2009 139 9,282 9,679 90,024
Source: Phoenix Police Department