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Richardson: Mesa PD system can help with Valley serial killer, sex offender cases

Bill Richardson

Did you see last week’s story on a serial killer of small girls who was just released from the Arizona Department of Corrections: http://www.cbs5az.com/story/35260864/the-phantom-serial-killer-of-children-out-of-prison-living-in-tucson

One can only guess how many other serial killers are out there.

And it’s not just us who are left guessing. It’s the cops, too.

Arizona has no system to identify and track serial killers and sex offenders like rapists and child molesters.

For all we know there could be any number of unidentified serial sex offenders operating in the East Valley, Maricopa County and Arizona at any given time. I’d bet a police pension check there are more than a dozen and less than a thousand.

Look at Phoenix’s Serial Street Shooter case. People are getting killed, wounded and Phoenix is struggling to figure out what’s happening, as are other police agencies thanks to a lack of sharing of information and a system to collect and analyze data on violent crime. Throw in the now obviously flawed Arizona Department of Public Safety (DPS) investigation into the Freeway Shooter and you have a recipe for violent serial offenders getting away with crime and killing.

It’s been reported DPS is just now sharing information with the Phoenix PD about the Freeway Shooter. During the height of the Serial Shooter Investigation local police were telling me Phoenix refused to share information about the murder spree that was terrifying the Valley.

Efforts to get Phoenix PD and DPS, the two agencies that see themselves as the “big dogs” in Arizona law enforcement, to play well with others and take a lead in collecting and sharing crime information has fallen flat.

And that brings me back to the KPHO story about the serial killer. Even though Phoenix and DPS won’t share and refuse to take the lead in an effort to solve and stop violent crime, it doesn’t mean the East Valley has to wait for them, but that too hasn’t happened.

Local police chiefs can’t seem to get the ball rolling even though they have an existing mechanism in place with the capability to collect and analyze data on serial, violent and sex crimes. It’s called the East Valley Gang and Criminal Information Fusion Center.  According to the Mesa PD website the center is “an effective mechanism to exchange information, streamline operations and enhance crime-fighting efforts within the East Valley law enforcement community by analyzing data from multiple sources.” http://www.mesaaz.gov/residents/police/divisions/fusion-center

That’s how it was envisioned by former chief George Gascon and the East Valley Chief’s Association when it was formed 10 years ago. But it isn’t happening.

Even with Gascon leaving a how-to blueprint and a very capable staff behind, the Fusion Center never progressed much past pushing pretty paper that too many in policing pay little attention to.

Efforts to get Mesa PD to take the lead in recent months and close the gap in this serious policing and potentially deadly problem have gone nowhere. Maybe Mesa’s new chief will pull it off.

Systems to track serious crime are as old as the hills, but the East Valley still can’t make it happen.

No one in policing can say how many serial killers and sex offenders are in the East Valley and that’s just plain wrong.

As it stands right now KPHO News will probably tell us before East Valley police do.

– Bill Richardson is a retired Mesa police detective.

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