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Arizona AG wants more funding for prosecuting border cases

October 8, 2018

FILE - This April 2, 2017 file photo made with a drone, shows the U.S. Mexico border fence as it cuts through the two downtowns of Nogales, Ariz. The Arizona Attorney General's Office is seeking more funding to ease the burden brought by a rise in cases at the border. (AP Photo/Brian Skoloff, File)

PHOENIX (AP) — The Arizona Attorney General’s Office is seeking more funding to ease the burden brought by a rise in cases at the border.

The caseload for prosecutors in the office’s southern Arizona unit has gone up significantly, according to attorney general spokesman Ryan Anderson.

The office hasn’t gotten any additional funding, but the Department of Public Safety, which has made more arrests through the Arizona Border Strike Force, continues to get funds, Anderson said.

The Border Strike Force was established by Gov. Doug Ducey in 2015. Under the initiative, the Department of Public Safety must improve its ability to address border crimes such as drug trafficking, weapon smuggling and vehicle theft, the Arizona Capitol Times reported.

A majority of the strike force cases involve drug smuggling. Anderson said even open-and-shut cases can be time-consuming.

In fiscal year 2018, there were 90 active strike force cases handled by prosecutors in the Southern Arizona White Collar and Criminal Enterprise Division, up from 69 cases in fiscal year 2017.

That’s about 14 percent of all of the cases the southern Arizona division took on in fiscal year 2018, and the agency didn’t receive additional resources to handle the increased workload, Anderson said.

In a budget request to the Office of Strategic Planning and Budgeting, the Attorney General’s Office is requesting $795,000 in fiscal year 2020 to fund eight positions in its Southern Arizona White Collar and Criminal Enterprise division.

In fiscal year 2018, there were 649 active cases being handled by Southern Arizona White Collar and Criminal Enterprise Division. Of those, 272 were resolved during the fiscal year leading to 323 defendants being charged, Anderson said. Data was not available for fiscal year 2019.

That’s roughly 81 active cases per each of the eight attorneys in the division. An additional attorney, which the Attorney General’s Office is requesting, could handle an additional 25 to 40 felony cases per year, he said.

In comparison, Anderson said the U.S. Department of Justice Fraud Section charged 301 defendants and convicted 207 defendants with a staff of 140 prosecutors in 2017. That’s about two defendants charged per attorney, compared to about 40 defendants charged by the AG’s eight attorneys in Tucson last fiscal year.

Ducey spokesman Daniel Ruiz said public safety is a top priority for the governor. He said the governor’s office will be continuing discussions with agencies as it creates its fiscal year 2020 executive budget proposal.

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Information from: Arizona Capitol Times, http://www.arizonacapitoltimes.com

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