Many Guadalupe residents calling for Arpaio's resignation

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by Catherine Holland, azfamily.com and Jacques Billeaud, Associated Press Writer

Video report by Ryan O'Donnell

Posted on December 9, 2011 at 6:53 AM

Updated Friday, Dec 9 at 8:39 AM

Map: Guadalupe, Arizona

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GUADALUPE, Ariz. -- Many residents of Guadalupe are disappointed that their elected officials have made no move to ask for the resignation of Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio.

Citizens for a Better Arizona brought a resolution calling for Arpaio's immediate resignation that was to be considered at Thursday night's Town Council meeting.

Those who call Guadalupe home are concerned about allegations that Arpaio and his department botched hundreds of sex-crime investigations, many of them involving children. They worried that what happened in El Mirage could also be happening in their town.

Guadalupe, which is tucked between Phoenix and Tempe and is home to about 5,500 people, does not have its own police department so it contracts with the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office for its public-safety needs.

Earlier this month, it came out that more than 400 sex-crimes reported to Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio's office during a three-year period ending in 2007 - including dozens of alleged child molestations - were inadequately investigated and in some instances were not worked at all, according to current and former police officers familiar with the cases.

That has residents of Guadalupe worried.

"I have a 12-year-old daughter," Veronica Vargas said. "It hurts me every day, knowing anything could happen to her out there and nobody's going to give a [expletive deleted]."

Many residents had hoped council members would vote to take action at Thursday night's meeting, but it didn't happen.

"Children who don't have a voice, we are here for that very reason, as community members to demand -- again -- that Sheriff Joe Arpaio be arrested, prosecuted and incarcerated for his criminal neglect," Juana Doe said.

"A bully will continue to be a bully until people stand up to this bully," State Rep. Steve Gallardo (D, District 13) said. "I would ask the Town of Guadalupe to stand up to this bully. This is a message I'm delivering to the town of El Mirage, as well."

"I stand united with my constituents and town officials of Guadalupe in support of the Guadalupe Resolution calling for the resignation of Sheriff Joe Arpaio," said Rep. Ed Pastor (D, District 4) in a statement released before the Town Council meeting.

It's not just the mishandled sex-crimes investigations that have Guadalupe residents angry and frustrated with Arpaio. They say their town is a frequent target of Arpaio's controversial crime-suppression sweeps and illegal-immigration raids.

The Guadalupe Town Council is scheduled to meet again on Dec. 21. It's clear if council members will take action at that time although Councilman Andrew Sanchez said he will push for it.

McCain, Kyl chime in on botched sex-crimes cases

Sens. John McCain and Jon Kyl issued a written statement involving the reopening of 432 sex-crime cases.

"Victims of abuse not only deserve the respect of law enforcement, but their rights must also be protected throughout the criminal justice process," the statement said.

The senators said they intend to back requests from other authorities for support from the U.S. Justice Department to properly investigate the cases from Arpaio's office and other police agencies.

Arpaio responded in a written statement: "I appreciate the offer of assistance by Sens. McCain and Kyl to help this office and other major law enforcement agencies in the valley (in metro Phoenix) that currently have the same problem we did back in 2007."

Of the 432 reopened investigations, 428 have been completed, resulting in 19 arrests. The sheriff's office said 116 cases were deemed to have no basis in fact or stories that didn't add up.

Another 224 had victims who didn't want their cases pushed further, were turned down by prosecutors, or weren't submitted to prosecutors because they didn't have enough evidence.

Arpaio's office also said 69 cases had no information to pursue further

The botched sex-crimes investigations have been an embarrassment to a department whose leader calls himself "America's Toughest Sheriff" and a national hero to conservatives on the immigration issue.

Arpaio apologized for the botched cases Monday after The Associated Press outlined some of them. The situation had been reported earlier by other local media outlets.

In El Mirage alone, where Arpaio's office used to provide contract police services, city officials discovered at least 32 reported child molestations -- with victims as young as 2 -- where the sheriff's office failed to follow through, even though suspects were known in all but six cases.

Retired El Mirage police official Bill Louis, who reviewed the files, has said many of the victims were children of illegal immigrants.

Democratic U.S. Rep. Raul Grijalva and two Democratic state legislators have called for Arpaio's resignation. The concerns voiced by McCain and Kyl were the first to come from the state's GOP heavyweights.

The sheriff's office has said it has made changes to better track cases, instituted more training and moved certain employees out of the sex-crimes squad.

 

 

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