Phoenix was once dubbed the kidnapping capital of the United States. Now it turns out that claim may have been based on faulty information.
An investigation into 2008 Phoenix Police crime statistics has found that reports of 358 kidnappings that year may have been inflated. The stats may have been padded in order to receive a $1.7 million federal grant, and it's caught the attention of the Department of Justice.
According to an analysis of police reports:
-- Only 25 percent of the kidnappings were connected to border-related human or drug smuggling.
-- 53 reports don't use the word "kidnapping" but were other crimes such as assault or robberies.
-- 59 reports pertained to "information" only, not crimes. Some were just women who said men tried to pick them up off the street.
-- Some reports were counted twice.
The Phoenix Law Enforcement Association, the union representing the police officers, says there were not 300-plus kidnappings several years ago, but only about 75.
"Apparently there is a belief there was a mistake made," said Mark Spencer, president of P.L.E.A. "We do not think it was a mistake but a foul."
Spencer added, "Clearly they were warned the numbers were bad and they went ahead with them anyway."
Now there are both federal and local investigations underway. The Department of Justice and Inspector General are looking into the claims, and the city is launching its own investigation. On Thursday, the city announced that police chief Jack Harris will no longer oversee the day-to-day operations of the police department. A new acting chief has been named while a city panel completes a review of Harris' situation in 60 days.
Assistant City Manager Ed Zuercher said he believes the agency will be cleared.
"I am confident that it does not involve fraud, it may involve mistakes and sloppy record keeping, and that's what we need to get into and look at," said Zuercher.
Meanwhile, the former police chief is defending his department and his job.
"Anyone that wants these stars can come and get them but I got news for you, I'm not giving them to you, you're going to have to take them," Harris told the media on Thursday.