Since the passage of Arizona’s tough new immigration law, its defenders have justified SB-1070 by claiming that Phoenix, AZ is the “kidnapping capital of the world.” Though that claim was immediately dismissed by experts, the 358 kidnappings the Phoenix Police Department reported in 2008 is quite high when compared to other surrounding areas. Sgt. Phil Roberts, who worked kidnapping investigations for Phoenix, is now alleging that the Phoenix Police Department is “inflating its kidnapping numbers, possibly to get federal stimulus money.”
According to Roberts, only 20 to 30 “traditional” kidnappings occurred in Phoenix in 2008 — a range which more closely resembles that of surrounding cities. “Traditional” kidnappings are defined by procedures such as monitoring phone calls, money drops and apprehension or attempted apprehension of kidnappers. Roberts believes the inflation occurred as a result of procedural errors and duplicate reports. “Despite this understanding of how kidnapping statistics were being falsely inflated,” he wrote in an August 13th memo, “others would later push and tout these numbers to the news media and eventually to the United States Congress.” KPHO reports that the Phoenix Police Department’s own records “describe 59 of those 358 reports as ‘incident information only,’ and states that those reports ‘should be excluded from the count of kidnapping incidents.’”
Mark Spencer, President of the Phoenix Law Enforcement Association (PLEA) is standing by Roberts’ claims. “Frequently when you work with the federal government as long as the problem persists the money keeps flowing,” explained Spencer. “The bigger the problem, the more money you get.”
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Nonetheless, the Phoenix Police Department denies Roberts’ and PLEA’s allegations. “If it’s a kidnapping, it’s a kidnapping and that’s what we count as a kidnapping,” stated Sgt. Tommy Thompson. Ironically, Roberts actually cited the same kidnapping figures he now disputes in an interview with ABC News for a report broadcast in February 2009. And despite PLEA’s claims that the kidnapping numbers are fudged and that the kidnapping problem is not as bad as it has been made out to be, they are still strong supporters of Arizona’s controversial immigration law.