That’s right! Your federal tax dollars are hard at work in Arizona. In mid-December, a sting operation took place on the streets of Phoenix. On the law enforcement side were agents of the United States Department of Homeland Security. The alleged bad guys, interestingly, were not terrorists, domestic or foreign; nor were they illegal immigrants or cyberspace criminals. They were a couple of guys who the cops say were selling counterfeit Rolex and Tag Heuer watches. The sting was apparently successful, with two agents buying around half a dozen watches that they say are fakes.

So why are we writing about an alleged trademark violation. Certainly, it’s a small-scale operation, and our guess is that anyone buying high-end watches from a street vendor would have to be pretty gullible to think they’re the real thing. Well, we’re not sure why Homeland Security was involved, particularly where the underlying offenses here are ordinarily misdemeanors. Maybe we’ll find out down the road that the proceeds from the sales were going to be used to fund Al Qaeda. But probably not. All of which got us to thinking about Homeland Security, and what it’s supposed to be doing.

According to the official website of the United States Department of Homeland Security, its mission includes 5 separate (but perhaps overlapping) areas:

  • The prevention of terrorism and the enhancement of the nation’s security;
  • The security of our borders;
  • Enforcement of immigration laws;
  • Safeguarding cyberspace; and
  • Coordinating the response to disasters.

We’ve read the missions, and small-scale trademark infringement in violation of state law just doesn’t seem to be on the list.

Now we don’t want to be seen as minimizing the importance of the missions of Homeland Security. On the other hand, we’re trying to understand why the Department’s agents were doing the work of the Phoenix PD or the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office, trying to enforce non-terrorist, non-violent, non-immigration-related, non-cyberspace related, non-disaster related acts. It would all be academic if Homeland Security’s mission included helping out local law enforcement for any old problem they might encounter. But considering that the Department of Homeland Security has an annual budget of over $70,000,000,000 (yep, that’s $70 billion), we’d hope it’s agents would be working on more important things.

Law Offices of David A. Black
40 North Central Avenue #1850
Phoenix, AZ 85004
(480) 280-8028


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