The Arizona Republic recently reported that the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office (MCSO) has reopened more than 400 sex crime investigations resulting from failures to timely investigate. Most of the underlying alleged sex crimes occurred between 2005 and 2008. According to the newspaper:
An Arizona Republic investigation into the 400-plus reopened cases reveals the Sheriff's Office failed to adequately investigate reports of abuse and assault -- in some cases never interviewing a suspect or running a background check. Some cases were ignored -- the files were later found sitting in a drawer or in a deputy's garage. Those shortcomings, combined with lengthy delays in resolving cases, left alleged predators free to continue finding other victims, sometimes for years.
The backlog in cases and slowness in investigating claims of sexual abuse is largely connected to a severe manpower shortage at the MCSO. During the 2005-2008, period there were only four detectives staffed in the special-victim's unit whose mission was to investigate sex crimes. Even worse, in 2007, the Arizona Republic reports that the MCSO was allocated more than $600,000 to staff six full-time positions for “investigating cases involving sexual abuse, domestic violence, abuse and child abuse.” Unfortunately, those six positions were never filled. These positions may have not been filled because the MCSO was allocating manpower to other priorities:
Current and former employees say past staffing shortages were exacerbated by the agency's preoccupation with other priorities, such as illegal immigration, public corruption and animal-abuse crimes. When subordinates tried to call attention to staffing shortages and other issues, they were brushed aside by former Chief Deputy David Hendershott, said Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Lisa Allen.
Finally, in an audit of the 400 sex crimes, the MCSO determined that the cases had to be reopened for the following reasons:
120 required contact with the victim, complainant or witnesses.
116 required other work that included making contact with an out-of-state victim or suspect, or reviewing another agency's report associated with the case.
68 were missing supplemental reports.
48 needed research or comparison with El Mirage police reports.
19 required contact with or research on a suspect.
17 needed detectives to do legal research with prosecutors.
5 required some additional evidence collection.
15 showed no sign that a detective had worked the case.