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OPINION

The Real Epidemic in Our Cities: Lawlessness

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.
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AP Photo/Matt Rourke

America’s recent crime wave has been fostered by poor policy decisions, prosecutorial activism, and apathy for justice. At least a dozen major American cities set records for murder totals in 2021, including Tucson, Arizona. While some are calling for enacting harsher criminal penalties, the problem in many American cities is rooted in the lack of criminal accountability and an unwillingness of prosecutors and elected officials to enforce the laws we already have. 

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Amidst the persistence of the “defund the police” movement, the recent collective response to rioting, looting, and lawlessness in most major cities has been flaccid. In cities like Phoenix, leaders recklessly allow homeless camps filled with the mentally ill and drug addicted to flourish near helpless businesses and property owners. Attacks on Phoenix police are up 30 percent in the past five years. Across the country, elected officials and prosecutors entrusted to enforce the law are implementing reckless bail “reform.” Across the country, organized shoplifting and retail theft crimes have become more violent, brazen, and sophisticated. 

Arizona isn't California or New York - yet. But with the influence of recent massive political winds in Arizona, far left officials preside over several local and state offices, increasingly embracing the same extreme ideologies and failed criminal enforcement policies ingrained in other states. The next Arizona Attorney General must be up to the task of standing against those trying to mirror “soft” on crime policies and laws like California or New York – or the quality of life we enjoy as Arizonans will be lost.

Speak with store employees across Arizona and they will tell you about the increasing number of bold retail thefts occurring. We may not have reached the point of experiencing regularly smashed store windows or roaming mobs the public has become accustomed to in New York City, San Francisco, or Chicago, but businesses and large box stores here in Arizona are succumbing to organized retail theft at an alarming rate. And with the advent of online marketplaces, it has become easier for criminal networks to offload goods quickly and anonymously. 

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Employees are relatively powerless to stop this rash of theft and police agencies are stretched too thin or constrained by top-down political calculations to intervene. This epidemic is demoralizing to business owners, employees, and law-abiding customers alike, who are paying the price with higher costs and thus increasing dependency on the online capabilities of big-box stores. The next generation of customers and business owners will be harmed in ways we haven’t yet imagined because of an unwillingness to demand law and order and collectively tackle this wave of theft.

We cannot be beholden to the liberal interest groups bankrolling and supporting the campaigns of progressive prosecutors across the country, including here in Arizona. My opponent for attorney general has already stated she doesn’t support the funding used by the Attorney General’s Office to combat organized retail theft crimes. And it’s not just organized retail theft. Under her plan, the office would see approximately $5 million dollars in precious resources used to fund the office’s criminal division simply vanish. Funding that is used to employ investigators and prosecutors of dangerous crimes involving drug enforcement, violent criminal networks, major fraud, and crimes committed against children.

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These groups – and the prosecutors they prop up throughout the country – empower lawlessness to flourish within their jurisdictions and demoralize members of law enforcement and the people who simply seek to protect their communities and their livelihoods. Many of the top cities affected by organized retail crimes are those under the unwatchful eyes of liberal mayors, district attorneys, and even state attorneys general. The continued spike in organized retail crimes in these jurisdictions is, in large part, a direct result of the lack of leadership from those who were elected to enforce our laws and keep their citizens safe.

The stakes are too high for our economy and communities to have an activist state Attorney General who will allow crimes to go unpunished under her administration. Arizona deserves an Attorney General who is committed to the rule of law and using available resources to discourage these crimes from continuing and hold the guilty accountable. As Attorney General, I will work with policymakers and law enforcement agencies to ensure that fighting organized retail crimes remains a priority of the office and that Arizona will not become the next San Francisco. 

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