Kristol misrepresents Phoenix crime levels to defend AZ law

On Fox News, Bill Kristol stated that crime along the Arizona border “may be down” but that “a lot of the crime has migrated up to Phoenix.” In fact, crime rates in Phoenix and the surrounding metro area have dropped over the past decade and reportedly “plunged” in 2009.

On Fox, Kristol claims crime has migrated from AZ border to Phoenix

Kristol: “A lot of the crime has migrated up to Phoenix” from the border. On the July 1 edition of Fox News' Special Report, Kristol criticized President Obama for “second-guessing” Arizona's controversial new immigration law and claimed, “If you look at one particular county on the border, crime may be down, but then a lot of the crime has migrated up to Phoenix. Look, it's a big country and my view on this is Arizona should make its judgment about what it needs for law enforcement.”

In fact, crime rates in Phoenix and surrounding metro area have declined over the past decade

FBI data shows crime rates in Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale Metropolitan Statistical Area have dropped. According to the FBI's “Crime in the United States” annual reports, the violent crime rate in the Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale metro area has declined from 560 per 100,000 population in 2000 to 490 in 2007 and 455 in 2008 (a 19 percent decrease from 2000 to 2008). The property crime rate has also declined from 5,644 per 100,000 population in 2000 to 4,653 in 2007 and 4,256 in 2008 (a 25 percent decrease from 2000 to 2008). The FBI's 2009 crime statistics for the Phoenix metro area have not yet been released.

Phoenix Police Department: Total violent and property crimes declined 44 percent from 2002-2009. According to a Phoenix Police Department report, the total violent and property rates in Phoenix declined 44 percent from 2002 to 2009. During that period, the violent crime rate fell 30 percent and the property crime rate fell 46 percent.

WSJ: Violent crime in Phoenix “plunged” in 2009. The Wall Street Journal reported on May 25 that according to preliminary FBI figures, "[t]he incidence of violent crimes such as murder, rape and aggravated assault ... plunged 16.6% in Phoenix, despite a perception of rising crime that has fueled an immigration backlash." The Journal further reported that “Arizona's major cities all registered declines”:

In Phoenix, police spokesman Trent Crump said, “Despite all the hype, in every single reportable crime category, we're significantly down.” Mr. Crump said Phoenix's most recent data for 2010 indicated still lower crime. For the first quarter of 2010, violent crime was down 17% overall in the city, while homicides were down 38% and robberies 27%, compared with the same period in 2009.

Arizona's major cities all registered declines. A perceived rise in crime is one reason often cited by proponents of a new law intended to crack down on illegal immigration.

Statewide crime rates in AZ have also dropped, while crime along the border has “remained essentially flat”

Crime rates in Arizona at lowest point in decades. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), the violent crime rate in Arizona was lower in 2006, 2007, and 2008 -- the most recent year from which data are available -- than any year since 1983. The property crime rate in Arizona was lower in 2006, 2007, and 2008 than any year since 1968. In addition, in Arizona, the violent crime rate dropped from 577.9 per 100,000 population in 1998 to 447 per 100,000 population in 2008; the property crime rate dropped from 5,997 to 4,291 during the same period.

During the same decade, Arizona's undocumented immigrant population grew rapidly. The Arizona Republic reported: “Between January 2000 and January 2008, Arizona's undocumented population grew 70 percent, according to the DHS [Department of Homeland Security] report. Nationally, it grew 37 percent.”

AZ Republic: Crime rates in Arizona border towns “have remained essentially flat for the past decade.” In a May 2 article, The Arizona Republic reported “FBI Uniform Crime Reports and statistics provided by police agencies, in fact, show that the crime rates in Nogales, Douglas, Yuma and other Arizona border towns have remained essentially flat for the past decade, even as drug-related violence has spiraled out of control on the other side of the international line. Statewide, rates of violent crime also are down.”

Chief Harris: Police already “have the tools that we need” to fight crime related to smuggling, kidnappings, home invasions

Harris: Not “true” that “the new law provides a tool for local law enforcement.” Phoenix Public Safety Manager/Police Chief Jack Harris stated during an April 30 press conference:

HARRIS: Proponents of this legislation have repeatedly said that the new law provides a tool for local law enforcement. But I don't really believe that that's true or accurate.

We have the tools that we need to enforce laws in this state to reduce property crime and to reduce violent crime, to go after criminals that are responsible for human smuggling, to go after criminals that are responsible for those home invasions, kidnappings, robberies, murders. We have those tools.

I have ten ICE agents embedded in the violent crimes bureau. We have a policy that allows officers to contact ICE when they need to access their databanks to further criminal investigation. I'm not sure what the tool is that this new law is providing to local law enforcement.

What I believe it is, is it provides a tool to divert our officers from investigating property crimes and violent crimes and divert their -- these resources, our personnel to enforcing civil portions of federal immigration law. In other words, it takes officers away from doing what our main core mission of local law enforcement is, and that's to make our communities safe and enforce our criminal codes in that effort.

Baier uncritically aired Sen. Kyl's claim that Phoenix has second-highest kidnapping rate in the world

Baier uncritically aired Kyl's claim that Phoenix's kidnapping rate “is second only in the world to Mexico City.” During the July 1 Special Report, host Bret Baier uncritically aired Sen. Jon Kyl's (R-AZ) claim that “Phoenix is the kidnapping capital of the United States, second only in the world to Mexico City.”

PolitiFact: Claim that Phoenix has second-most kidnappings worldwide is false

PolitiFact: “Experts advise that such rankings can't be made based on available information,” “no evidence” claim is accurate. assessed the claim that “Phoenix is the second kidnapping capital in the world” and determined it is “false.” In a June 27 analysis of the claim, PolitiFact concluded:

Phoenix has experienced hundreds of kidnappings over the past few years. However, we couldn't find reliable around-the-planet evidence to confirm that only Mexico City experiences more of them. In fact, experts advise that such rankings can't be made based on available information. If they could, they speculate, other cities would prove to have more kidnappings than Arizona's capital.

We found nothing confirming Phoenix as No. 2 in kidnappings worldwide.

Kidnapping expert: “No reliably empirical data” exists on worldwide kidnappings. PolitiFact reported that Daniel Johnson, “an overseas kidnapping operations consultant at ASI Global,” a company that counsels companies whose employees are kidnapped, said that kidnappings are “inherently under-reported” and that “no reliable empirical data” exists on them. Johnson also stated that “the definition of 'kidnap' varies” making totals difficult to quantify. PolitiFact further reported:

Johnson said: “From our internal experience in the last year, Mexico by far has been the biggest location for kidnappings” followed by Honduras, Venezuela, Nigeria and the Philippines. The company has handled domestic cases but Thompson said they don't compare in volume to overseas incidents. Thompson said the company annually dispatches a consultant to handle about 50 to 100 cases a year. Mexico City, Caracas, Venezuela, and Tegucigalpa, Honduras are the three cities where they work on the most kidnapping cases, he said.

Phoenix Police Dept.: "[A]lmost everyone who is kidnapped in Phoenix is involved in criminal activities." PolitiFact further reported that Sgt. Tommy Thompson, the Phoenix Police Department's public information officer, “said almost everyone who is kidnapped in Phoenix is involved in criminal activities such as illegal border crossings and the drug trade. 'Unless you're involved in the dope trade, there's a very very slim chance' that you'll be kidnapped, he said.”