“Every reflecting person becomes daily more alarmed at our situation.” – James Madison
By Roger L. Vanderpool, Sheriff, Pinal County
To the Citizens of Pinal County:
This statement is oh so true when we reflect upon the world today, and upon happenings in our own state and county.
At the date of writing of this letter, June 18, 2004, we have witnessed in the last two days two vehicle crashes involving vans crammed full of undocumented aliens (UDAs) traveling through our Pinal County. The response to deal with the injuries and deaths out of these crashes falls upon the law enforcement, fire departments, and ambulance services in Pinal County. We have seen time and time again, as with the I-10 shooting spree last November and the shootings in the Red Rock area, not a person involved is a United States Citizen!
Now don’t take me wrong, and assume that I am not a caring person and concerned about the welfare of those involved, I am, but I want to make a couple points here. Over and over I have made the same statement to federal law enforcement officials and our congressional delegations. That statement is, “From where I stand and what our deputies see on a daily basis, homeland security is a joke! If thousands of poor farmers from Mexico can enter our country daily, what is to deter well financed and fanatical terrorists from coming in?”
Our deputies who routinely patrol the remote desert areas in the southern part of the county tell me that what used to be UDA foot paths have now become roadways. The deputies routinely come in contact with groups of undocumented aliens daily. Understand that deputies have no authority to interfere with UDAs unless they are committing a crime. Nor do we necessarily want the authority, as we have enough crime to contend with, and our jail is already overcrowded. This is a Federal issue.
When we are able to stop them and call for Border Patrol, there are usually no agents available. The Border Patrol is stretched thin and understaffed. They also have a policy of forward deployment, that is, they send everyone from the Casa Grande Office to the border on the reservation. Recently we have seen a build up of federal agents in Maricopa County, Phoenix namely, but that is obviously because of the media attention given to some stash houses that have been raided up there. Consequently, there is no one left to patrol Pinal County, no one to assist our deputies when they catch loads of UDAs. It seems to be the same old story; Pinal County is just the stopping point between the state of Maricopa and the territory of Pima.
Besides the INS facility in Florence and the Border Patrol Office in Casa Grande, there is ONLY one federal law enforcement agent assigned to Pinal County. We have one Immigrations and Customs Enforcement agent assigned to the Narcotics Task Force, and he has only been here for about 18 months. One agent for the third most populated county in the state, and one of the fastest growing counties in the country. Folks we need more, the border is a FEDERAL issue, the feds need to step up and take care of it.
Our deputies are routinely getting calls from residents that live in the rural areas of our county about large groups of people (UDAs) coming across their property, tearing down their fences, stealing things, etc. We only have 148 total deputies to conduct law enforcement across a 5400 square mile county. This 148 is not all on patrol, this includes the detectives, narcs, civil, school resource officers, range deputies and administration, so to say we are stretched thin is a understatement, we are nearly transparent. The Department of Public Safety is also so understaffed that after 2:00am, there’s no DPS officers on patrol in the county! All calls are answered by deputies outside the cities until a DPS officer is called out from their home.
What can you do to help? Call your congressman your senator and demand/plead for more federal assistance to Pinal County. We deserve it!
We could use at least 30 more deputies right now to make a true difference. Of course, there would also be a need for support staff such as dispatchers, etc. We are working on a major jail expansion that will also add more detention officers and give us a place to put more bad guys, but that is 18 months to two years down the road.
Something I am announcing is again pulling a trick out of the old western Sheriffs’ hat, like we did when we created the Posse. We are offering a reward for information that leads to the arrest of any suspect that has committed a burglary in Pinal County. Knowing that they steal to get their drug money, I am going to seize upon that premise and offer a $200.00 minimum reward for each arrest made. The information must be substantial enough for us to make an actual arrest. To take advantage of this you just need to call the Pinal County Sheriff’s Office Property Crimes Unit at 520-866-5149. If you supply information that solves several burglaries, then the reward will be larger. Hopefully this will lead to more arrests and property being recovered.
We plan on publishing wanted posters and putting them up around the county, I would like to get a couple billboards, and put the info and phone number on them (it would be nice if some company would want to donate one or two as a civic act) and we plan on placing the posters in the jail. I also plan to start running this information in the local newspapers, if they are willing.
Till next month, be careful and safe, and may God bless you and continue to bless our great nation.