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Fabricating Arizona's "Immigrant Crime Wave"

Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly (among others, including prominent Republicans such as Sarah Palin) has repeatedly blamed Arizona's "500,000 illegal aliens" for (in O'Reilly's words) bringing a crime wave in Arizona, particularly Phoenix, that is "overwhelming... dangerous... through the roof," creating social chaos" so "desperate" and "dangerous," that the state had to impose its draconian immigration crackdown law (Fox News reports of May 3, 4, 6, 13, and 14). "Arizona had to do something," O'Reilly declared. "In the capital city, Phoenix, crime's out of control. For example, last year, New York City, with six times as many residents as Phoenix, had just 16,000 more reported crimes."

These kinds of claims are numerical--that is, there should be hard numbers to show more crime in Arizona and more Hispanics arrested for them. O'Reilly and Fox News didn't bother to check, but it takes just a few minutes to scrutinize the FBI's Uniform Crime Reports and the Arizona Department of Public Safety's Crime in Arizona reports to determine:

1. There's no crime wave in Arizona in Phoenix, or elsewhere. Crime is actually down in recent years.
2. Hispanics--both illegal aliens and legal immigrants vilified by O'Reilly and the anti-immigration law--constitute a declining proportion of the state's criminal arrests, despite rapidly increasing population.

The FBI's 2009 report shows New York City reported 21,672 violent offenses and 66,016 property offenses, while Phoenix reported 4,566 violent and 32,747 property offenses. So, while New York City had 17,000 (not 16,000) more violent crimes, that represented 4.7 times more offenses than in Phoenix in a city with 5.3 times more people--hardly supporting O'Reilly's apocalyptic alarmism. Meanwhile, Chicago, with less than twice Phoenix's population, reported 3.3 times more violent crime, indicating that whether or not Phoenix is uniquely crime-ridden depends on which city is chosen for comparison.

Worse still for O'Reilly's demagoguery, Phoenix's reported fewer violent crimes in 2009 (4,566 reported offenses) than in 2008 (5,316), continuing the city's steady, large drop in violent crimes over the last 15 years (9,754 reported in 2000, 11,590 in 1995)--a period when the city gained 500,000 residents, most of them Hispanics!

Further, Hispanics form a declining, not rising, proportion of Arizona's criminals. In 2002, the earliest posted state crime report, Arizona law enforcement authorities reported that Hispanics constituted 34.4% of arrests for violent felonies, 34.1% of arrests for serious (Part I) felonies, and 30.2% of arrests for all criminal offenses.

Now, consider this: over the last decade, Arizona's Hispanic population has increased by 40%, nearly three times the rate of its non-Hispanic population--and that doesn't include the alleged influx of illegal aliens. So, we'd expect Hispanics to constitute a rapidly increasing proportion of the state's arrests as well, if for no other reason than population increase.

Right? Wrong. Arizona's latest crime report shows Hispanics (legal and illegal immigrants) comprised  just 31.8% of all arrests for violent felonies, 33.8% of arrests for Part I felonies, and 30.1% of arrests for all offenses--lower proportions than in past years.

While, in past years, Arizona Hispanics were more likely to be arrested for violent, other serious, and minor offenses alike in the past than their population numbers would predict, today their criminal arrest proportions are very close to their proportions of the population.

There's no immigrant crime wave. Nada. In fact, recent years, law enforcement reports show NON-Hispanic arrests rates have risen much faster in Arizona (despite much slower population growth) than have Hispanic arrest rates.

As Arizona became more Hispanic, it became safer from serious crime. Once again, the best facts at hand document the opposite reality from the false panics the panic-over-immigration politicians and punditry are whipping up.

Keywords: Arizona, crime trends, immigration, Mike Males

Posted in Blog, Sentencing

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