Ex-Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s obsession with arresting immigrants spiked crime

Joe Arpaio Donald Trump
Trump and former Maricopa County, Arizona, sheriff Joe

AP Photo/Mary Altaffer,

A former Arizona police chief who publicly clashed with
ex-Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio while their tenures
coincided has spoken out about the consequences of Arpaio’s
single-minded focus on immigration enforcement, saying such
tactics “harm public safety.”

was pardoned by President Donald Trump Friday
after being
convicted of criminal contempt for violating a court order to
stop racially profiling Latinos. The pardon sparked outrage
across the political spectrum.

Over his nearly 24 years as sheriff,
Arpaio had racked up a legacy
of lawsuits, inmate
deaths, and allegations of rights abuses and constitutional

In an
interview with The Crime Report
 Tuesday, former Mesa
Police Chief George Gascón, who now serves as San Francisco
District Attorney, said Arpaio’s fixation with arresting
undocumented immigrants left the sheriff’s office drained of
resources that were necessary to investigate crimes.

Gascónon also said that during his tenure at the
Mesa police department between 2006 and 2009, his city saw a
reduction in both violent and property crime. Yet just across the
city lines, in the areas of Maricopa County that were policed by
Sheriff Joe Arpaio, “crime consistently went up,” Gascón said.

report by the conservative, Arizona-based Goldwater Institute

partly confirmed Gascón’s analysis, determining that reported
violent crimes in Maricopa County rose by 69% and homicides leapt
166% between 2004 and 2007, meanwhile Mesa’s violent crime rate
dropped by 11% and its homicide rate remained
stable. Over the entire span of Arpaio’s tenure, however,

crime overall tended to fluctuate
 year by year, with
property crime dropping significantly, while violent crime
remained stable or dropped slightly in certain years.

Gascón attributed the discrepancy between Mesa’s and Maricopa
County’s crime rates to the trust levels the separate law
enforcement agencies had cultivated with their communities. Mesa
residents were willing to report crime to their local police
department, Gascón said, but many Maricopa County residents were
hesitant to contact their sheriff’s department.

“The reason why crime was going up there just across the city
line while, in similar communities, crime was going down, was
because, number one, we began to develop a relationship with our
community members, who were then willing to come and report crime
and work with us,” he said.

“And number two, we were able to dedicate our resources to deal
with what local law enforcement is trained and chartered to do,
which is to deal with local crimes.”

Joe Arpaio
Joe Arpaio
AP Photo/Ross D.
Franklin, File

It’s an argument commonly made by proponents of so-called
“sanctuary city” policies, which many jurisdictions employ to
limit their local police departments’ cooperation with federal
immigration authorities. Sanctuary cities believe that tasking
local police officers with enforcing federal immigration law sows
fear throughout immigrant communities, preventing them from
interacting with law enforcement, reporting crime, or testifying
as witnesses in criminal cases.

The issue has been thrust into the political limelight by
President Donald Trump, whose administration has sought to crack
down on sanctuary cities by withholding grant funding to police
departments. In response to the efforts, multiple cities have

sued the Trump administration

According to Gascón, immigration enforcement by local police has
demonstrably counterproductive results. He recalled that during
his time as Mesa police chief, he was once told of an
undocumented woman from Guatemala who was assaulted and raped
while she lived in a Maricopa County jurisdiction, but feared
seeking medical treatment or reporting the crime to police.

“So you had a woman who had been brutally raped, needed medical
assistance, and really needed to have law enforcement investigate
the case, but who didn’t want to do any of those things because
of her immigration status,” Gascón said.

“We came to find out later that the person who sexually assaulted
her had likely been involved in other previous sexual assaults
and eventually assaulted and raped another woman. So this is an
example of why you don’t want community members to be afraid to
report a crime. When that happens, the criminal elements in the
community believe they can act with impunity because certain
victims, and certain witnesses, are not going to report them.”