The Range

Crime Time

At the top of this week's crime blotter: Congressman Tom DeLay's mug shot. It's like an early Fitzmas present!

Back home, Tucson's homicide rate is on the rise, with 55 homicides in 2004, according to FBI statistics released last week. That's up from 50 in 2003, while the national numbers are trending downward. The Uniform Crime Report also showed that reports of sexual assaults were on the rise, but property crimes were on a slight decline. City officials say the property crime stats are overstated, especially when you account for minor thefts such as beer skips.

FBI officials caution against reading too much into the figures, which "are merely a quick choice made by the data user; they provide no insight into the many variables that mold the crime in a particular town, city, county, state or region. Consequently, these rankings lead to simplistic and/or incomplete analyses that often create misleading perceptions adversely affecting cities and counties, along with their residents."

So ... never mind.


Elsewhere in the crime blotter:

· Busted! A multi-agency task force nabbed members of a criminal gang allegedly responsible for stealing ATMs around town. The thieves, who used everything from stolen pickup trucks to borrowed backhoes to snag the machines, were apprehended after a botched theft near Green Valley. Officers from the Tucson Police Department, the Oro Valley Police Department, the Pima County Sheriff's Department and the FBI nabbed Raymond Anthony Broeker, 32, and Charles Bradley Gauthier, 27, after a brief car chase and foot pursuit. Arrested without incident later was Michael Ward, 33, whose fingerprints were allegedly found at two of the ATM crime scenes. Ward faces burglary, theft, criminal damage, car theft and other charges.

Deputy Dawn Barkman tells The Range that more suspects remain at large and that--surprise!--meth is suspected to have played a role in the crime spree.

· Busted! Tucson Police Department detectives captured two 19-year-old men suspected of chopping down several saguaros and a mesquite tree along the Rillito River Park near First Avenue earlier this month. Lincoln Herget and Christopher Newman were each charged with felony counts of criminal damage and destruction of a native protected plant.

· Busted! Brandon M. Robinson briefly escaped from Pima County Jail after being brought in on outstanding charges from Santa Cruz County. Robinson, who was unattended without handcuffs, picked up a clipboard and impersonated an officer to slip out the door.

Barkman said it took "about two seconds" to realize that Robinson was on the loose. He was recaptured in the vicinity within an hour and faces kidnapping and sexual-assault charges.

Finally, in road-rage news: The Range happened across an remarkable TPD incident report: A 30-year-old driver who made a sudden stop before turning right into an apartment complex at Campbell Avenue and Prince Road found himself followed into the complex by a woman who had been directly behind him. The woman proceeded to berate the driver before extinguishing a lit cigarette on his right cheek, using a tire iron to beat him and shatter his rear window, and threatening him with a knife.

Remember, citizens: Courtesy is contagious!

On the Outs

Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard joined the fight to knock Rep. David Burnell Smith out of office. Officials with the state's Clean Elections program ruled that Smith violated spending rules and must forfeit his office, but the Scottsdale lawmaker is fighting back with a lawsuit in Maricopa County Superior Court.

Goddard filed a petition last week requesting a writ of quo warranto--whatever that is--to remove Smith from office, saying he had missed his deadline to appeal the order that he resign from office.

In a related Clean Elections story, Republican David Gowan, who was recently fined $10,000 because of Clean Elections violations during his unsuccessful 2004 bid for a House seat in District 30, has appealed his fine. Gowan, a Sierra Vista magazine salesman, has hired none other than David Burnell Smith to represent him in his appeal to Clean Elections officials, according to Doug Ramsey of the Clean Elections Institute. We guess Smith does know a thing or two about how the program works.

Despite the $10K fine, Gowan is already registered for a rematch in District 30, which is now represented by Republicans Jonathan Paton and Marian McClure. Gowan has not yet applied to run as a Clean Elections candidate in 2006.

Fox News!

Herb Stratford of the Fox Tucson Theatre Foundation announced that the downtown landmark had received $500,000 from First Magnus Financial Corporation. The theatre's auditorium will be named after First Magnus, which will also be sponsoring the theatre's New Year's Eve reopening gala.
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