By now everyone has heard the news that the political establishment and Governor Jan Brewer, in all of their great wisdom, has passed sweeping legislation requiring police officers to check the immigration status as part of routine law enforcement. Of course, anyone with a brain knows the obvious implications of the law, which will serve to marginalize an already marginalized population. The reasons for this law that are being touted in the press are that the law is necessary to combat “spiralling crime rates” in Arizona. I decided to check this out to see exactly how out of control Arizona crime is.
First, I managed to find a convenient data set of crime rates for Arizona from 1960-2008 (http://www.disastercenter.com/crime/azcrime.htm). While this data is statewide, the site also provides county level data, but not in such an easily digestible format. Here’s what I found. Let’s look at the worst of the worst first: Violent crime.
As you can see here, Arizona had a serious peak of violent crime during the Reagan Years, but it has been steadily going down since 1995. How about Murder and Forced Rape (like there can be any other kind of rape?)
It appears here that Murder has been pretty steady since 1960. About 10 or so murders per 100,000 people, but rape incidence has steadily gone down since 1980, with the exception of a few jumps. Maybe there was a spike in unemployment or some other problem, but overall the trend is toward less rapes, which is certainly a good thing. Remember, the Arizona law was, in part, a response to the recent murder of a border rancher, but according to this, murder hasn’t changed much since 1960! That 50 years, folks. One has to believe that at least a few of these murders are ranchers killing Mexicans as they cross the border.
Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s look at property crime:
Again, it’s been steadily going down since 1970! That’s approximately the year that I was born. This means that thefts, burglaries, larceny and auto theft have all been decreasing in Arizona for the entirety of my 40 year life span! Granted, this is state wide, there could be hot spots of crime which are getting worse, but I don’t have that data. It’s out there however.
Obtaining a precise number of undocumented residents of Ariozona is nearly impossible thanks to laws such as the one passed recently. How can we count people who are afraid to come out in the daylight? However, there are estimates available for the the entire US for 1995-2005 that I was able to track down. The results are not surprising, the undocumented population in the US, who satisfy an important demand for cheap and dependable low-skilled labor has been skyrocketing. The plot below is for the undocumented worker population in the US and, for kicks, I included the murder rate in Arizona, which, as you can see, is slightly decreasing. Even if one were to argue that it’s constant, it sure isn’t increasing with an increasing undocumented resident population.
In fact, a look at the 10 years worth of data I have, correlated with all of the crime stats for Arizona, have strong NEGATIVE associations, with the exception of forced rape, which is the weakest of them all. So there is a strong relationship of the expanding undocumented Mexican population and crime but it’s completely OPPOSITE what all these bigots in the press are touting. It is worth noting that the expanding population of Arizona and the population of undocumented residents of the US are nearly perfectly correlated, meaning that we might be able to use the national population estimates as a fair proxy for rising population trends in Arizona among undocumented persons.
What’s the take home message here? Either these folks in Arizona are completely batshit fleabaggers with no grip on reality or that the “post racial” climate of the US has taken on a much more insidious form. The politicos in Arizona has used a population of people who don’t possess the right to vote as a political tool to concentrate power by means of created a marginalized and unwelcome group. Hitler figured this out, too. While I don’t think there will be gas chambers in Arizona any time soon, I do believe that some folks on the right down there have created a common enemy, which brings people together and works out great in election years. It is, of course, ironic that people on the right who are so concerned about “socialism” would create and support a law that’s straight out of the KGB’s playbook. Where are these people and their cries for “personal freedom” and “small government”?
While drug gangs may be a problem, my guess is that the majority of America’s undocumented population just want to be left alone and pose little great threat to other people. If in fact, crime is exploding in hot spots, as could very well be the case in one or more of the four border counties of Arizona (will scare up data when I have time), then actions need to be taken to shore up law enforcement in those areas, not sweeping misguided and bigoted legislation for the entire state. If Arizona wants to get tough on immigration, then it should be going after the people who hire undocumented workers and should work to create a guest worker program to satisfy demand for labor and for the Mexican rural poor to be able to support their families. Reform the laws, make it legal and easy and they can create a win/win situation for both business and people seeking work. Blaming the victim and marginalizing state residents is not the way to do it and the justifications presented for such sweeping policy simply aren’t supported by the data.
A Japanese cameraman working for Reuters was shot the other day in the midst of Thailand’s now bloody protests against the current government. I will not pretend to know anything about the current political situation in Thailand. However, the news of his death was thought provoking. Hiroyuki Muramoto was 43 years old and apparently a long standing journalistic veteran. Information on Mr. Muramoto is difficult to find as Japanese people are horribly bad about making themselves known over the internet, but I was able to find a single picture on the Reuters site.
Muramoto is the second journalist to be shot and killed in political protests in south east asia. In 2007, Kenji Nagai was shot and killed by a policeman at point blank range during the monk uprising. Nagai, determined to the end, was flashing pictures of the policeman that shot him as he bled to death on the street.
That these people were killed is not surprising. Journalists are regularly killed covering riots, war and disasters. I’m certain that all of them are well aware of the risks. An acquaintance of mine, Ian Stewart was shot in the head by a 12 year old boy covering the civil war in Sierra Leone and lived to tell about it. At first, I was impressed that the human body can withstand a bullet through the the center of the brain with minimal effects, but mostly I was moved at the resolve that someone would have to have to enter the heat of battle for the sake of journalism. Ian has now dedicated himself to rehabilitating child soldiers in war-torn countries.
As for Mr. Muramoto and Mr. Nagai, what impresses me about these two is that, in a country where nearly everything is thought to be kowaii (scary), dangerous (abunai) or difficult (muzukasii), these guys would have the guts to volunteer to enter the heat of danger to spread news about important events. It’s easy to disparage the Japanese as consumerist sheep (an opinion I do not share), especially when one is in Japan, but, underneath the veneer of Americanized spoiled modern culture, they harbor more than their fair share of individuals who are tough as nails. Bar-room analyses of Japan by gaijin (foreigners) greatly overlook this fact and years of eurocentric thought prevents many people from believing that it’s possible that Japan could produce these type of folks. The tough in Japan just don’t make as big a deal out of their dedication as we would as dedication is considered a matter of course over there, not a badge to be worn. Consider this small post to be my small attempt to make a big deal out of some people who truly are.