Richardson: This is only 1st step in Ariz.’s human trafficking problems - Ahwatukee Foothills News: Opinion

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Richardson: This is only 1st step in Ariz.’s human trafficking problems

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Retired Mesa master police officer Bill Richardson lives in the East Valley and can be reached at bill.richardson@cox.net.

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Posted: Wednesday, January 22, 2014 6:45 am

“To all the victims of human trafficking out there: We have not forgotten you. To the criminal traffickers, say: Your days are numbered,” Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer said during her State of the State Address as she signed an order to abolish CPS.

Brewer wants the absolute best for the victims of human trafficking and the worst for those who sell the flesh of others for profit.

Arizona has an organized crime problem and human trafficking is a small part of it.

To target human trafficking and not organized crime as a whole is like having the highway patrol only write speeding tickets to people in red cars.

Arizona’s steady decline in enforcement and targeting organized crime groups over the years has made the state what it is today, a great place for organized crime, including human trafficking, to grow and prosper.

The state has become a destination for a laundry list of organized criminal activities that include everything from drug smuggling to mortgage fraud to bootlegging copyrighted technologies.

Criminal groups based in Arizona, Mexico and even other states operate with near impunity knowing the state has no unified effort or system in place to make life miserable for them.

The once highly respected and extremely effective Organized Crime Division of the Arizona Department of Public Safety is now only a memory in the minds of those who worked in it or who were prosecuted by it.

DPS, the Phoenix Police Organized Crime Bureau, Arizona Narcotics Strike Force and local police agencies with dedicated officers to go after organized crime, along with the Arizona Attorney General’s Office and key county prosecutors, kept the mob on the run. It made Arizona an unwelcome place and a state where it was harder to make money off criminal activity.

With the demise of DPS’s statewide anti-mob efforts in the 1990s, organized crime once again found comfort and profit in Arizona like it had in the ’60s and early ’70s.

Loss of interest also brought a loss of funding and technology that once allowed law enforcement to take the “war” to the criminals. Arizona doesn’t have a statewide data system to collect, analyze and disseminate information of organized crime activities.

Also lost was the brain trust of hardened detectives who weren’t afraid to go after the worst of the worst. They slowly went away as many retired or were reassigned to other duties.

A perfect storm for organized crime was created, and that brings us back to Gov. Brewer wanting to go after human traffickers. A human trafficker today is drug smuggler tomorrow and car thief the day after that. The effort needs to be against all organized crime and not a single type of crime.

While her idea to create a “Human Trafficking Council to address the problem statewide” sounds good, and her desire “to create zero tolerance for this crime against humanity” rings well for the public and politicians in an election year, I have to ask what’s going to be done by her and the Legislature to bring the Arizona DPS back online as a major statewide force to effectively target the organized groups from the prison gangs that control the prisons and street gangs? What about the California gangsters who are selling sex in Phoenix, and a host of other criminal groups that have the run of the state?

Talking about human trafficking is a good start, but the governor’s discussion needs to be all encompassing in regards to organized crime in Arizona.

More laws aren’t the answer. Coming up with an all out attack plan on organized crime that’s invaded Arizona is the answer.

• Retired Mesa master police officer Bill Richardson lives in the East Valley and can be reached at bill.richardson@cox.net.

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