This morning, President Obama delivered a speech on the need for comprehensive, federal immigration reform in which he made an interesting claim about the current state of border security:
For the first time, we’ve begun screening 100 percent of southbound rail shipments. And as a result, we’re seizing more illegal guns, cash and drugs than in years past. Contrary to some of the reports that you see, crime along the border is down. And statistics collected by Customs and Border Protection reflect a significant reduction in the number of people trying to cross the border illegally.
So the bottom line is this: The southern border is more secure today than at any time in the past 20 years. [emphasis mine]
This of course belies anything and everything we’ve heard from state officials in recent history. Just a few days before the President delivered his speech, our illustrious Governor decided to release a video in which she declares, with a straight face, that “we will not surrender any part of Arizona” evidently implying that Santa Anna’s zombie is leading an army of Mexican immigrants straight to the Capital. Law enforcement has gotten into the act as well. Paul Babeu, Pinal County Sheriff, beneath the fold:
Night vision cameras have photographed military armed cartel members delivering drugs to vehicles along Highway 8.
“We are three counties deep. How is it that you see pictures like these, not American with semi and fully automatic rifles. How is that okay?” asked Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu.
Babeu said he no longer has control over parts of his county.
“We are outgunned, we are out manned and we don’t have the resources here locally to fight this,” he said at a Friday news conference.
Babeu said he doesn’t believe the drug cartel problems will not be solved when SB 1070 becomes a law, or with President Obama’s promise of 1,200 troops spread out among four border states.
“It will fall short. What is truly needed in 3,000 soldiers for Arizona alone,” Babeu said. [emphasis mine]
Apparently, Pinal County is the Helmand Province of the United States of America. Maybe Arizona should rope in the now unemployed McChrystal and his motley crew of military discontents to bring things under control?
So who’s right? I can’t speak to the accuracy of the President’s 20-year claim, but according to the FBI, he is certainly on the right track:
The FBI’s preliminary Uniform Crime Report, or UCR, for 2009 shows that violent crime — murder, forcible rape, robbery, and aggravated assault — is down in Arizona for the third year in a row. The absolute number of violent crimes in 2006 was 30,916 in Arizona. By 2009 it had dropped by 15 percent to 26,094.
Factoring in the change in Arizona’s population, the rate of violent crime per 100,000 persons in 2009 was 390.5, which is a 22 percent decrease from 501.4 per 100,000 in 2006. For comparison’s sake, the violent crime rate in nonborder states such as Georgia and Florida was 410.6 and 604.9, respectively, in 2009.
Nationally, violent and property crimes were down between 2008 and 2009, but Arizona saw rates of decline more than double that. The nation as a whole saw a -5.5 percent change in violent crime and –4.9 percent change in property crime from 2008 to 2009, but Arizona experienced a percent change of –11.1 in the former and –12 in the latter in this same time period. [emphasis mine]
State officials say the darndest things when there exists the possibility of grabbing the national spotlight and/or federal funds. Nevertheless, it would be naive to deny that a crime problem exists in the state; cartels have certainly been increasing criminal activity on both sides of the border. Unfortunately, and in this regard both national and state officials are guilty, everyone seems willfully blind to a major part of the solution: legalization.
Walters said the U.S. government is seeking additional resources to prosecute traffickers of marijuana, which now earns cartels about $8.5 billion or about 61 percent of their annual estimated income of $13.8 billion. Cocaine sales earn the cartels about $3.9 billion, and methamphetamine about $1 billion, he said.
“While the criminal organizations that are a threat to both of our countries make a lot of money off of heroin and cocaine and methamphetamine, the vast majority of their money to buy guns, bribe, corrupt and destroy lives is from marijuana,” said Walters, head of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy. [emphasis mine]
Cartels are dependent on revenue from marijuana trafficking– revenue they go on to spend on weapons with which they commit violent crimes. Taking control of the demand for drugs through marijuana legalization won’t be a panacea, but, by financially crippling the cartels, it would certainly be more effective at curbing drug-related crime than our current attempts to eliminate the supply.