Mayors in the Arizona border towns of Nogales, Douglas and San Luis have sent a letter to Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu asking him to tone down his rhetoric about the violence along the border.
In a letter obtained by the Arizona Daily Star that was sent to Babeu on Feb. 9, Nogales Mayor Arturo Garino, San Luis Mayor Juan Escamilla and Douglas Mayor Michael Gomez ask Babeu to stop fanning the flames of fear about the border.
You can read the full letter in the attached PDF. Here is an excerpt:
"As Mayors of border communities from Arizona, we would appreciate it if you would not cultivate a culture of fear in our state and to start being accurate about border security. While your misstatements about efforts to keep communities along the U.S.-Mexico border may keep national media coming to Arizona, at the same time your consistent inaccuracies hurt cities and towns like ours by causing those who live and travel to the border to fear for their safety when in our communities. This damages our economy - driving visitors away and leaving our businesses and residents to suffer. The facts show that violent crime is down or remains flat in our border region as we are sure it is in your area as well. In 2002 it peaked at 742 per 100,000 residents but has since drastically dropped to 219 per 100,000 in 2009 (per the F.B. I. Uniform Crime Reports Program).
Babeu does frequent TV appearances about the "off-the-chart" violence along the border and recently predicted an armed conflict between his deputies and cartel members within the next 30 to 60 days. Babeu spent 3 1/2 years with Chandler Police and did a National Guard border deployment before becoming Pinal County Sheriff in November 2008.
Here's another excerpt from the letter:
"We know and understand that there is more work to do. We have seen significant progress being made every day. We trust that the federal government will continue to strengthen the ways it protects our citizens from the violence we see in Mexico. What our communities do need, is for Sheriffs like you to focus on building strong relationships and partnerships with local, state and federal governments and law enforcement agencies to help the efforts on strengthening security on our border.
We say as one voice, “Creating panic where only vigilance is warranted helps nobody.”
Babeu's spokesman, Tim Gaffney, emailed this response to the letter:
"Pinal County is the number one county in the United States for drug and human trafficking. Our pursuits and drug seizures tied to drug and human trafficking far exceed those of the all four border counties. The threat from an unsecured border, where 241,000 illegals were apprehended last year by the border patrol and an additional 400,000 got away. Those are failing grades by anyone's score card.
Some speak of improved safety, while we have doubled the confiscation of drugs, calls to the Border Patrol and had 340 vehicle pursuits this year - up from 286 the year before and 142 the year prior. We have a serious public safety threat in my county, due to an unsecured border with Mexico and our nation should be highly concerned about the more dangerous national security threat that is presented with OTM's and persons from countries of interest (that harbor/sponsor terrorist or speak ill of the USA).
Just this week, the US Department of Homeland Security confirmed that Pinal County has a minimum of 75-100 mountains or high terrain features that are occupied by Mexican Drug Cartels. How have we arrived at this point in America that this is acceptable to have foreign born criminals controlling safe passage in an entire region of our state?
If these Mayors were serious about dialogue with me, they would have called, or at least waited for there letter to arrive by mail at my office, prior to releasing their letter to the media. They have done the very thing they accuse me of doing. I do not represent these Mayors or their citizens, yet I do represent the nearly 400,000 citizens of my county and the overwhelming majority of Arizonans, who laugh at Secretary Napolitano's suggestion that our border is more secure than ever.
The letter comes on the heels of a Feb. 1 letter to Mike Huckabee from Garino and several other mayors of border cities, including Tucson Mayor Bob Walkup and San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders. I have posted a link to that letter in the box above, too.