The Immigration Non-Crime Wave

Proponents of tougher immigration enforcement often use crime as their big scare factor in trying to influence people to their point.  Only tougher laws and Joe Arpaio, they caution, stand athwart the coming immigrant rape of Phoenix.

But when the case is built on one or two high-profile crime where the perpetrator has not even been identified, rather than statistics, we can be suspicious of how strong the case is.  I have cited historical figures here, but the WSJ has the new figures for 2009:

Violent crime fell significantly last year in cities across the U.S., according to preliminary federal statistics, challenging the widely held belief that recessions drive up crime rates.

The incidence of violent crimes such as murder, rape and aggravated assault was down 5.5% from 2008, and 6.9% in big cities. It fell 2.4% in long-troubled Detroit and plunged 16.6% in Phoenix, despite a perception of rising crime that has fueled an immigration backlash....

In Phoenix, police spokesman Trent Crump said, "Despite all the hype, in every single reportable crime category, we're significantly down." Mr. Crump said Phoenix's most recent data for 2010 indicated still lower crime. For the first quarter of 2010, violent crime was down 17% overall in the city, while homicides were down 38% and robberies 27%, compared with the same period in 2009.

Arizona's major cities all registered declines. A perceived rise in crime is one reason often cited by proponents of a new law intended to crack down on illegal immigration. The number of kidnappings reported in Phoenix, which hit 368 in 2008, was also down, though police officials didn't have exact figures.

And just to head off the obvious straw man, 2008 was not somehow a peak year, it was actually well below historical levels.


  1. Patrick:

    "The number of kidnappings reported in Phoenix, which hit 368 in 2008, was also down, though police officials didn’t have exact figures."

    You DO realize that Phoenix being the kidnapping capital of the whole country kind of undermines your whole counter-conventional-wisdom argument attempting to de-link immigration and crime. Kidnapping is a Latin American crime ring habit.
    "It has been reported that Phoenix, Arizona has become the kidnapping capital of America. With 370 cases alone last year, Phoenix is now second in the world only to Mexico City. Phoenix Police Chief Andy Anderson says the Mexican Drug Cartels have ‘expanded business across the border’ from Texas to California. News investigations discovered cases of chopped-off hands, legs and heads when a victim’s families don’t pay quickly enough. A majority of the victims are illegal aliens whose families back in Mexico are contacted for ransom. To combat the crime wave, the Phoenix police created the Home Invasion Task Force, a special unit comprised of officers from all departments."

    Overall crime rates have fallen in past 20 years - fewer young people, less mindless putting criminals on the streets like they did in 60s and 70s, concealed carry, etc. Trends unrelated to immigration.

    The REAL question is: Would the violent crime rate be lower if there were fewer illegal aliens in our midst? On balance, the answer is yes. Would we be better off if criminal aliens were deported and were kept out? Easy answer - yes. Our failure to deport criminal aliens, and our failure to enforce laws generally, leads to that situation.

    PS. Sure, some illegal alien crimes make for big headlines -
    " Yesterday, a family member of one of the slain victims, Iofemi Hightower, described the level of savagery of the attack. He said the thugs used a machete to hack their victims."

    remember: Data is the plural of anecdote. Some innocent kids would be alive today if illegal alien gang members were kicked out of the country. Low crime rates dont invalidate concerns based on such horrific events, and more than calling the BP oil spill a 'rare event' will help support for offshore oil drilling.

  2. CN:

    Hmm... I think Patrick makes some good points.

  3. Gil:

    The mere fact that illegal immigrants are crimnals by default means the crime rate should way higher.

  4. James H:

    As there are 2 quantities involved that you are attempting to correlate, you would need to know both of them in at least 2 points in time to compare the slopes. Since we don't know the populations of illegals either now or sometime in the past (at least no information of this sort is referenced by the article), I don't see how any correlation could be made to either support increased or decreased crime as a function of the number of illegals in the state.

    I could easily posit that the declining crime rate REINFORCES the argument that illegals are responsible for more crimes, since many believe that the steep drop in construction jobs, service jobs, etc. has caused many to leave as well as more restrictive laws and increased enforcement. I'm not trying to make that argument, though, as I really don't have any information to support or refute it. It's great that crime is down, but I don't think that anything can be said about it in relation to illegal immigration one way or the other, so I would pretty much ignore these articles (unless somehow the unknown quantity is somehow included in them).

  5. TheoB:

    What about incarceration rates? If Arpaio have arrested all the usual suspects, crime rate would fall, no?

  6. NJConservative:

    I am immediately suspicious of all crime statistics. They can be manipulated to show whatever needs to be shown.

  7. Evil Red Scandi:

    Funny... I live in San Diego, and (with a snarky nod to Sarah Palin) I can see Mexico from my balcony. Yes, there are many thousands of illegal aliens here, but for some strange reason San Diego has one of the lowest crime rates in the country. Hmmmm....

  8. gadfly:

    Evil Red Scandi:

    Since San Diego ranks as the sixth costliest city in the US to live, maybe you are paying for more enforcement or maybe the illegals cannot afford to live there.

  9. Bill:

    If a tree falls in the woods and Warren did not see it fall, did it even fall at all?

    Seriously though, I was wondering how a seemingly intelligent person would fall for the obviously incorrect leftist claptrap that we are being somehow enriched by the Mexican invasion and a came across a quote by Michael Shermer. While I do not agree with Shermer's religious conclusions, this quote applies perfectly to Warren's position: "Smart people believe weird things because they are skilled at defending beliefs they arrived at for non-smart reasons." Simply put, Warren has an emotional attachment to open borders and no amount of logic or reason or facts will dissuade him from holding this position.

  10. Judge Fredd:

    From Bill: "Simply put, Warren has an emotional attachment to open borders and no amount of logic or reason or facts will dissuade him from holding this position."

    In other words, Warren has 'faith' in open borders.

  11. caseyboy:

    One name - Jose Lopez Madrigal, illegal immigrant deported 9 times was accused of raping a woman in Edmonds, WA. Gee I wonder if the police up their were allowed to inquire about his legal status? Or would that be racial profiling?

  12. mesaeconoguy:

    Well, a few things.

    First, a drop in crime rates with a contemporaneous drop in illegal population (at least partially due to a semi-major recession) doesn’t bolster the open immigration case.

    And we all know that AZ DPS throws around bogus “speedcam safety” stats, so the Phoenix PD numbers likely aren’t any better.

    Agreed, the current environment is likely no more (and probably slightly less) dangerous than previous years, but that does not excuse the federal government’s active refusal to discharge one of its primary obligations to its citizenry.

    The federal government cannot both refuse to enforce existing law, and prevent states from doing same. This is heading for major legal jousting match.

    Big mess.