Study Finds Violent Crimes are Higher in Phoenix’s Low-Income Areas


Many studies point to a high link between low income and violent crime. Research has found violent crimes are higher in Phoenix’s low-income areas.

As well as elevated levels of violent offending, residents of these neighborhoods often suffer from more drug and alcohol abuse and mental illness.

Studies show a link between violent crime and poverty in Arizona
Studies find more violent crime in low-income areas

In a recent report, AZCentral noted higher levels of offenses like killings and violent assaults in the Alhambra village.

Even in 2014 when the homicide rate in Phoenix was down on previous years, the Alhambra village saw a rash of killings. Of 116 homicides that year in Phoenix, 14 occurred in

The Alhambra village. This was the second highest murder rate in all of the villages in the city and double the overall murder rate for Phoenix.

AZCentral noted villages like Alhambra, Central City, and South Mountain also had higher rates of violent crime than the city average.

A link between income and violent crime was also apparent in a 2018 study by 24/7 Wall Street. Tucson, the second largest city in Arizona, was included in a table of the 50 worst cities to live in in the country. The typical household income in Tucson was just over $40,000, the study found.

With a poverty rate of nearly 24 percent, Tucson comes in way above the national average of 14 percent and Arizona’s poverty rate of 16.4 percent, according to the article.

“Crime is also relatively common in Tucson,” the article stated. “There were 799 violent crimes and 5,891 property crimes in the city in 2016 per 100,000 people, more than double the comparable crime rates on a national scale.”

The 24/7 Wall Street article listed Phoenix as the 15th poorest city in the country. The study found nearly 123,000 people in the Phoenix live on or below poverty level incomes in 64 extremely poor neighborhoods, where as much as 40 percent of the population is impoverished. The study stated:

“Americans living in extreme poverty face greater hurdles to economic and social mobility. At Phoenix’s poor neighborhoods, just 8.1 percent of adults have a bachelor’s degree compared to 31.4 percent of adults in the rest of the metro area.”

Crime was concentrated in poor neighborhoods in Phoenix. The study suggested the high concentration of poverty in the largest city in Arizona may be fueling the metro area’s overall violent crime rate. The study pointed to 471 violent crimes for every 100,000 Phoenix residents in 2017, considerably above the national violent crime rate of 383 per 100,000.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration makes a clear link between poverty and mental health. It says poverty may exacerbate the severity of mental health issues.

At the Garcia Law Firm, PLC, attorney Bernardo Garcia has a long and distinguished track record in representing people with mental illnesses who are charged with violent crimes. Please call us at (602) 340-1999.

Posted in Violent Crime | Tagged |

Phoenix Reconsiders Approach of Police to Mental Health as Officer-Involved Shootings Soar


The number of officer-involved shootings of suspects soared in Phoenix last year. Now police are looking at reasons for the spike. The approach of the police department to mental health is being scrutinized.

The Phoenix Police Department has released an independent report on the large number of officer-involved shootings. The number of officer-involved shootings in 2018 was double that of 2017. It rose to among the highest in the country.

The Phoenix New Times reported the detailed report failed to come to a conclusion over the spike in officer-involved shootings.

Police seek to tackle large numbers of officer-involved shootings in Phoenix
The number of officer-involved shootings in Phoenix is soaring

Phoenix recorded 44 police shootings in 2018 — 23 of them fatal. The report identified a significant rise in shootings involving armed suspects and people assaulting cops with deadly weapons.

The report noted the number of assaults on an officer with a deadly weapon almost doubled in 2018, from 42 in 2017 to 87.

Dr. Justin Nix, one of the researchers who worked on the report, said the rise in assaults on officers was significant. It’s not clear if it fueled officer-involved shootings. Although Phoenix police could have responded to an increase in assaults on them with a deadly weapon, the total number of assaults on police officers declined from 991 in 2017 to 951 in 2018. The violent crime rate also slightly during that time period.

Nine key recommendations made by Police Chief Jeri Williams could impact how officers respond to incidents.

The most fundamental change would require the police department to record every time a police officer points a gun at someone. The National Police Foundation maintains police departments that implemented this change ended up with lower rates of police shootings.

The recommendations may result in changes to how Phoenix police deal with people who suffer from mental health issues.

The Phoenix New Times reported city Mayor Kate Gallego said the city will set up a task force focused on the police approach to mental health, as well as the key recommendations outlined in the report.

Williams supports more partnerships between officers and the mental health providers whose job it is to respond to people who face a mental health crisis.

A report on KJZZ noted how Detective Sabrina Taylor works for Phoenix Police as the Crisis Intervention Team training coordinator. Her team brings every stakeholder to the table — from police and behavioral health professionals to advocates, to address the problem.

Attorney Bernardo Garcia has represented mentally ill defendants for decades. You can contact him at (602) 340-1999.

Posted in Violent Crime | Tagged |

Mental Illness and Prohibited Gun Purchase in Arizona


Some people who suffer from mental illness face restrictions on the buying of firearms. Although Arizona has liberal firearms laws, it’s important to be aware of prohibited gun purchase in Arizona.

There are also federal laws that relate to the purchase and possession of firearms for people who suffered mental illness.

Under 18 U.S.C. § 922 it is unlawful for anyone to sell or supply any firearm or ammunition to any person if they have reasonable cause to believe the recipient “has been adjudicated as a mental defective or has been committed to any mental institution.”

Gen purchase and mental illness

Can mentally ill people buy guns?

Arizona’s law relating to mental illness and prohibited gun purchase is less detailed than those of many other states.

Arizona bans possession of a firearm by any person found to constitute a danger to himself or herself or others pursuant to a court order under and whose right to possess a firearm has not been restored pursuant.

The Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, a non-profit set up after Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was shot in the head in Tucson in 2011, highlights prohibited gun purchasers in Arizona.

A person with a mental illness is barred from possessing a firearm if deemed to constitute a risk to himself or herself or other people or to be disabled under a court order if their right to possess a firearm has not been restored;

Someone who is found incompetent, and not subsequently found competent is also barred from firearm possession as well as a person who is found guilty except insane.

Other prohibited purchasers include those convicted of a felony or adjudicated delinquent for a felony whose civil right to carry or possess a firearm has not been restored.

It’s also a crime to possess a gun if you are serving a term of imprisonment in any correctional or detention facility.

Undocumented immigrants are banned from firearm possession under Arizona law.

Arizona also prohibits any person who was adjudicated delinquent for an offense that would be a felony if committed by an adult from owning, carrying, or possessing a gun within 10 years of his or her release date.

People who suffer from mental illnesses may not always be aware of the specific prohibitions for owning, carrying, or possession of a firearm. Please contact our Arizona criminal defense lawyer today for help.


Posted in Violent Crime | Tagged |

Supreme Court Says Executing a Man with Dementia May Violate the Constitution


The U.S. Supreme Court has devoted considerable time in recent years to questions about the death penalty for people with mental illnesses and severe learning disabilities.

A ruling in February clarified the circumstances in which an inmate with a mental disability can be executed.

The court decided an execution can take place if the accused does not remember committing the crime. However, the government cannot execute a prisoner if he is unable to understand why he has been “singled out” to die.

In a 5-3 decision, the Supreme Court ruled if somebody with dementia is unable to understand the reason for his or her execution, the death sentence is unconstitutional.

Concerns over executing a man with dementia

Executing a man with dementia may be unconstitutional

The decision was handed down as the court blocked the execution of 68-year-old Vernon Madison.

Alabama imposed the death penalty on Madison. Justice Clarence Thomas issued a temporary stay just 30 minutes before Madison was due to die. The court is considering an appeal from the defense team.

Madison spent more than three decades in solitary confinement awaiting execution on death row. He shot and killed a police officer who responded to a dispute involving Madison and his girlfriend in 1985.

Since a judge sentenced him to death, Madison suffered numerous strokes. He suffers from vascular dementia. His attorney said he has no memory of the crime. The Supreme Court took on the case to consider whether executing Madison violates the ban on “cruel and unusual punishment” set out in the Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

As well as the dementia issue which is pertinent to mental illness, Madison’s lawyers argued the death sentence is unfair. They point out an Alabama law enacted in 2017 no longer allows judicial override. A judge imposed the death penalty in 1994 after a jury recommended life in prison.

The use of the death penalty in Arizona has stalled. The Death Penalty Information Center pointed out the state executed Robert Moorman in 2012. His attorneys argued he was mentally disabled and suffered mental abuse for years. Prosecutors claimed Moorman’s mental capacity when he committed murder was slightly above the legal threshold for mental impairment. Moorman killed and dismembered his adoptive mother.

If you or a family member has been charged with a crime in Arizona, please contact the Garcia Law Firm at (602) 340-1999.

Posted in Violent Crime |

Is There a Relationship Between Mental Illness and Homicide?


Many studies that tackled the issue of the relationship between mental illness and homicide have detected mental disorders in many defendants charged with extreme cases of violence.

For example, a study of 71 people convicted of murder (excluding vehicular homicide) in Contra Costa County, California, found 49 of them suffered from serious mental disorders.

Experts study homicide and mental illness

Is there a link between mental illness and homicide?

The diagnoses included multiple infarct dementia, chronic paranoid schizophrenia, antisocial personality disorders, and psychosis linked to drugs like methamphetamine

The study found most people convicted of homicide were not legally incompetent or mentally ill by “common standards.”  However, a high percentage of murderers appeared to be mentally ill.

Other research suggests the California study may overestimate the link between mental illness and homicides.

More recent research carried out into people convicted of homicides in the United Kingdom, found 545 of the 1594 defendants suffered from a mental disorder, amounting to 34 percent. Of these, 149 received a diminished responsibility verdict in which a judge and jury acknowledged the role a mental disorder played in the crime.

Most of the killers who had a mental disorder had not been treated by psychiatric services. This is a theme we see over and over again. People with mental disorders are more likely to commit violent crimes if their condition goes untreated.

Unfortunately, many people with mental illnesses in Arizona do not receive proper treatment for their conditions.

A 2016 report by the Treatment Advocacy Center called Serious Mental Illness and Homicide found people with schizophrenia and bipolar disorders are responsible for about 10 percent of all homicides in the United States. For mass killings, the percentage rises to about 33 percent.

Steven P. Segal of the University of California at Berkeley analyzed homicide rates by states. The academic found state homicide rates rose in states with stricter involuntary treatment policies. It appears to be more difficult to treat those in need of help when they are forced into institutions.

At the Garcia Law Firm, we have worked with mentally ill defendants for years. We are well aware of their needs and factors that make violent crime more likely. We are adept at presenting a full picture to the courts in Arizona. Please contact us today if you loved one has been charged with a violent crime.

Posted in Mental Health, Violent Crime | Tagged |

What Sentences Do Mentally Ill People Charged With Robbery Face in Arizona?


Mentally ill people charged with robbery often face long prison sentences. It’s important to highlight your issues if you have been charged with this serious offense.

Robbery offenses are felonies in Arizona. The consequences of this charge are severe. Under state law, robbery is a class 4 felony. Class 4 felonies carry a presumptive term of two years and six months in prison and an aggravated term of three years and nine months.

A defendant commits a robbery if he or she threatens or uses forces against another while taking any property of another from him and against his will.

Mentally ill people charged with robbery

What happens to Mentally ill people charged with robbery?

Robberies can carry an even higher prison sentence. An aggravated robbery in which the defendant is accused of having an accomplice is charged as a class 3 felony.

When the accused is charged with armed robbery, which entails having a dangerous or a deadly weapon, or simulating a weapon during the robbery, he or she is charged with a Class 2 felony. Armed robbery is classified as a “dangerous offense” under Arizona law. Even a first armed robbery conviction carries a sentencing range of seven to 21 years prison, fines of $750 to $150,000 fines, and other costs.

Defendants with a previous conviction for a dangerous offense could spend almost three decades in a state prison for armed robbery.

People who suffer from mental illnesses are often charged with robberies. Last year, a man reported to be mentally unstable was arrested in Graham County, Arizona, after an alleged robbery at a convenience store with a knife. Media reports claimed he told police he believed the Mexican drug cartels were out to get him.

The Arizona justice system is a blunt instrument for people with mental illnesses. If you or a family member has been accused of robbery and have struggled with illness, it’s important to contact an Arizona-based criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible.

Posted in Mental Health, Violent Crime | Tagged |

Arizona U.S. Marshal Killing Highlights Gaps in Mental Health Safety Net


The criminal justice and mental health services in Arizona often fail to help people with psychological problems until it’s too late. Recently, police said they struggled to deal with death threats from a man accused of killing a deputy U.S. marshal.

Ryan Schlesinger is the suspect in the killing of 41-year-old Chase White last November. The official was shot dead while serving a fugitive warrant in Tucson.

Mental health concerns are highlighted by U.S. Marshal killing

U.S. Marshal killing highlights mental health fears

Officers said they struggled to deal with alleged threats and mental health issues related to Schlesinger for more than a year, according to a report in AZCentral.  In late August 2018, officers went to Pima County Justice of the Peace Court to request harassment injunctions against Schlesinger and another man who was frequently seen by the police department’s mental health unit, according to the media report. It’s an unusual move by police officers.

Police said the men had allegedly harassed officers assigned to the mental health unit. At the hearing, before Justice of the Peace Paula Aboud, Sgt. Jason Winsky, who heads up the mental health unit, said his team investigated alleged threats and the mental health status of Schlesinger.

Aboud granted the injunction requested by the cops. It also prevented Schlesinger from possessing firearms.

Officers tried to get an order forcing Schlesinger into mental health treatment after the granting of the injunction but were ultimately unsuccessful. The AZ Central report stated they obtained an arrest warrant against him for stalking one of the two officers whose family members’ home he had visited.

Cops said they were concerned about Schlesinger’s behavior. Winsky testified in August 2017 that officers tried to contact Schlesinger and he barricaded himself in the house.

Sadly, the mental health and criminal justice systems in Arizona often fail to intervene until it is too late. People who have mental health issues may not get a fair trial.

It’s unfair for the criminal justice system to punish someone who lacks full control of his or her mental faculties. In any criminal proceeding, all of the circumstances related to a defendant’s behavior must be considered by the judicial system.

If you or a family member has a mental illness and is facing charges, please contact our Arizona criminal defense lawyers as soon as possible at (602) 340-1999.

Posted in Mental Health, Violent Crime | Tagged |

Violent Crime Rises in Arizona as Overall Crime Falls


Crime has been falling in Arizona for at least six years, but violent crime in the state spiked last year, according to a new federal report.

Figures from the FBI’s annual Uniform Crime Report for 2017, which was released in September, revealed an overall drop of 1.4 percent in the state but a 7.9 percent rise in the violent crime rate.

Under the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting program, violent crime is made up of four offenses: murder and non-negligent manslaughter, rape, robbery, and aggravated assault. Violent crimes are defined as offenses that involve force or threat of force.

Concern as violent crime rises in Arizona

Violent crime rises in Arizona

According to the FBI report, the violent crime rate across the U.S. fell slightly by 0.9 percent in 2017. The decease followed a rise in previous years. The property crime rate in the United States fell by 3.6 percent.

Violent crimes rose by 9.5 percent last year in Arizona. The city of Phoenix accounted for much of the increase. In Phoenix, police recorded 1,800 more violent crimes in 2017 than in the previous year.

Phoenix police noted part of the rise in violent crime was linked to a change in the way figures are recorded. From 2014, definition changes have been made to aggravated assaults and rapes.

The uptick in violent crime in cities like Phoenix was expected by some academics. Michael S. Scott, a clinical professor in the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice at Arizona State University, told AZCentral the types of offenses recorded in the annual report can vary greatly among towns and cities. Reporting practices within individual agencies that share information with the FBI also vary. He said:

“We’ve seen years in which murder was down significantly in some major cities and up in others. Local conditions (social, environmental, economic) largely dictate crime levels rather than national factors.”

Experts warn against comparing different cities where there may be variations in how crimes are compiled. Scott told AZCentral, the data should not be used to compare cities because there are many other factors that lead to variations from place to place. While the public is concerned about violent offenses, the report leaves out crimes like drug offenses.

Violent crimes such as homicides are among the most serious offenses you can be charged with. Homicides such as first-degree murder carry a life sentence in prison and prosecutors may seek the death penalty. Other homicides such as manslaughter, second-degree murder, and negligent homicide carry significant prison sentences. You should seek the help of an experienced Arizona homicide defense lawyer as soon as possible. Call the Garcia Law Firm at (602) 340-1999.

Posted in Violent Crime | Tagged |

When is An Assault Elevated to an Aggravated Assault in Arizona?


Assault is one of the most common offenses in Arizona. Whether you are facing misdemeanor assault or felony aggravated assault charges, the consequences of the crime can serious and devastating on your life. Aggravated assault in Arizona should not be taken lightly.

Misdemeanor assault charges can be elevated to felonies when certain aggravating factors surround the assault. Aggravated assault crimes involve injury to another person and are taken seriously by the courts.

What is aggravated assault in Arizona

Defining aggravated assault in Arizona

It’s important to hire a defense lawyer from the outset in assault cases. The attorney will be able to introduce defenses such as whether your actions stemmed from a fear of attack or were in self-defense at an early stage.

The most common forms of assault in Arizona are simple assaults. These crimes range from a class 1 misdemeanor to a class 3 misdemeanor.

You can be charged with an assault without causing injury to anyone. A class 3 misdemeanor simply requires the state to prove that the defendant knowingly touched another person with the intent to injure, insult or provoke the other person. A mere light nudge or a poke can lead to an assault charge if it is a provocative gesture.

You can be charged with a class 2 misdemeanor assault for putting someone else in reasonable apprehension of imminent physical injury. This charge does not require you to even touch another individual. A threat of serious injury such as a raised fist or angry words can lead to an assault charge.

A class 1 misdemeanor assault can land you in jail for six months. It’s the most serious form of a misdemeanor because the state must prove you intended to cause physical injury, whether intentionally, recklessly or knowingly. The defendant must have caused a physical injury to be convicted of a class 1 misdemeanor but it can be a minor injury such as a bruise.

An aggravated assault in Arizona is a felony defined under A.R.S. § 13-1204 (A). In some cases, there may be a gray area between a misdemeanor assault and a felony assault. Defendants can serve up to 21 years in jail for an aggravated assault. You may be charged with an aggravated assault if you:

  1. Cause serious physical injury to another;
  2. Use a deadly weapon or dangerous object to use as a weapon in the crime;
  3. Commit assault by means of any force that leads to temporary but substantial disfigurement; broken bones, temporary but substantial loss, impairment of any bodily organ or another body part;
  4. Commit assault when the victim is physically restrained, bound, or while the victim’s capacity to resist the alleged assault is substantially impaired;
  5. Commit an assault on a child under 15 if you are over the age of 18;
  6. Assault someone after entering the private home of another with the intent to commit assault;
  7. Commit a misdemeanor assault in violation of a valid protection order or restraining order.
  8. Take a police officer’s firearm or other weapon or attempt to wrest it from the officer;
  9. Commit any level of assault against a police officer, peace officers, other law enforcement officials, public defenders or criminal prosecutors, firefighters, paramedics, teachers or school employees, or licensed health care professionals while they are on their job.

The state of Arizona can be relentless in prosecuting people accused of assault. In borderline cases, a simple assault is often elevated to an aggravated assault.

If you or a family member has been charged with aggravated assault in Arizona, we are available to talk to you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week in English or Spanish. Please call us at (602) 340-1999.

Posted in Violent Crime | Tagged |

Tent City to Become Rehab Center


Since the infamous Tent City was recently shut down, Sheriff Paul Penzone announced that an air-conditioned space previously apart of the jail will be turned into a facility to help treat those suffering from substance abuse and addiction. Transforming Tent City into a rehabilitation center is apart of an ongoing effort to help keep repeat offenders out of the prison system and will help them live normal, productive lives.

The rehabilitation center will have space for classrooms and places to sleep. Sheriff Paul Penzone recently spoke about the new facility and said, “we want to ensure that [chronic offenders] have an opportunity to be productive, to not return here to this jail. I hope that all those in our community recognize the investment that we are making to become a more holistic Sheriff’s Office.” Penzone hopes to reduce the rate of recidivism and come up with solutions that will get to the root of the problems many repeat offenders face such as drug addiction and mental illness.

There are also plans for a proposal that would include an employment center for inmates, as well as a community corrections center. Both of these announcements quickly followed the retirement of Tent City. Not only will the changes being made help repeat offenders in the long run, it will also reduce spending by almost $5 million each year. Penzone also hopes that the investments being made will decrease crime rates in Arizona.

The rehabilitation inmate program is seven weeks long and will help inmates to identify early trauma and patterns of behavior. These services will benefit many people who most likely do not have the resources to visit specialists on their own. Once the program is over, the inmates will be given resources to help make sure they have opportunities to succeed when they are out in the real world.

Photo by Лечение Наркомании

Posted in Arizona, Drug Crimes, Law Enforcement, Mental Health, Violent Crime | Tagged , , , , |