The “Serial Street Shooter” has struck at least nine times in west and east Phoenix. Seven people are dead.
When I say there’s at least “one serial killer currently operating,” that’s because police may not know if there’s more than one. Arizona still has no statewide system to identify and track serial and violent crimes.
It took Phoenix police some time before they put “two and two” together and realized they had another serial killer terrorizing the community. Not unlike a decade ago when the Baseline Killer and the Serial Killers were stalking victims in Phoenix and neighboring cities, and police struggled to figure out what was happening.
In two of the Baseline Killer cases, Phoenix police attributed the murders of two women to a drug deal. Meanwhile, Tempe police went to a Kentucky jail where an inmate, whose only knowledge of the crime was from TV, confessed to one of the first murders. Two police departments going in different directions and both were wrong.
The Baseline Killer’s method of operation and incriminating information was in police records, but police didn’t find it. The same thing happened with the Serial Killers. Information was there and went undiscovered.
I’ve been told by multiple law enforcement officials that information sharing on the current serial killer case leaves a lot to be desired. Police agencies have been left to read about it in the paper.
In 2004, then-Gov. Janet Napolitano tried to establish a violent crime tracking program like Washington state’s Homicide Information Tracking System that identifies and tracks violent crimes. Napolitano pushed for $470,000 in funding to the Arizona Department of Public Safety to implement the Sex Crimes Analysis Network. According to a 2013 email from the DPS, “No one recalls it.”
On Feb. 7, 2007, following the capture of the Phoenix serial killers, acting police chief Mike Frazier sent a letter to Napolitano “strongly supporting” the Arizona Criminal Justice Commission efforts to develop an information system for criminal justice agencies.
Frazier said: “The Phoenix Police Department made progress in solving two of the serial events that occurred in Phoenix in 2005 and 2006. I am extremely proud of the dedication and commitment that occurred. However, one has to wonder whether these episodes could have been solved, or even recognized as serial crimes, more efficiently if criminal justice entities had a system of information sharing?”
Following Frazier’s letter to Napolitano, on March 20, 2007, Phoenix Public Safety Manager Jack Harris wrote to mayor Phil Gordon and the Phoenix City Council telling them, “The Phoenix Police Department supports a statewide (information sharing) plan to further enhance citizen safety for citizens of Phoenix and the entire state.”
Arizona still has no statewide crime-tracking system, and because of this statewide law enforcement has been deprived of vital information and the community of enhanced safety.
Arizona needs a violent crime tracking information system now. There really are lives at stake.
– Bill Richardson is a retired Mesa police detective and veteran of two successful serial killer and four serial rapist investigations.