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Welcome to Phoenix but don't mess with the locals

Chris Jackson | 15:45 UK time, Friday, 22 January 2010

On the show this coming Monday we expose the conman who ripped off a northern town before fleeing to the States.

US flags and Welcome to Phoenix sign

As you'll see in the programme we track him from Whitley Bay all the way to Arizona - there'll be more on how we found our man in my next blog on Monday evening.

But first I thought I'd share some behind the scenes stuff with you about what I found after we arrived in Phoenix.

Arizona desert with cactiIt isn't just the desert rock formations and cacti that make you realise this is the Wild West of the movies. You don't want to mess around with the locals. Push them too far and they might just be tempted to sort a problem out, and I don't mean taking you to court.

More than half the population here carry a gun and as one female shop assistant told me:

"If you're gonna shoot - shoot to kill."

Gill had woken up in the night to find a burglar naked in her bedroom. She rolled over, gently slipped the revolver from under the pillow and challenged the intruder. She didn't have to pull the trigger, but she would have had no qualms doing so.

It's legal to carry a firearm here. The Arizona gun laws state it has to be on show or stowed away, such as in your car's glove compartment.

Another of my brief acquaintances during my trip was out celebrating a family birthday. His son was 21 that day and only now could he drink legally in a bar, yet for years this youngster had been carrying gun in his car. So had the daughter, so had the wife. The entire family carried arms in their vehicles and he was glad of it.

But the prevalence of guns in Arizona is a good thing he tells me; road rage is rare out here:

"Truth is you just don't know who is packing a gun. That's why no-one gives anyone the finger while out driving."

He's a retired lawyer and tells it like it is. I can't vouch for the accuracy of his claims but in conversation he says if a guy upsets enough people around here someone will eventually take them to task. It would involve a gun and some kind of injury or worse. The police, he says, won't investigate too hard: "after all we're doing them a favour - it's one less bad guy".

Bar talk? Well, Gill the shop assistant says if she'd shot her would-be assailant she wouldn't have aimed to maim - "I'd have gone for the body mass".

She has undergone training and knows what she's doing. It seems here a dead intruder is better than a live one. Much less paperwork and there's only one side of the story.

Myleene KlassIt appears the legal system has a presumption in favour of the homeowner over here. Compare that to the recent British case of Myleene Klass who was ticked off by the police for brandishing a knife when she spotted intruders in the garden of her home.

What unites my two new-found Phoenix friends is a fear of NOT having a gun. If they go across the border to Mexico they hate not having a revolver to hand. As a Brit it's all a bit too cowboy country for me.

In Gill's case the intruder fled from looking down the barrel of her gun. He was caught by the cops close by and she says he's now doing six years.

Maricopa County Sherriff Joe Arpaio has a tough regime. He's been branded America's toughest cop. Jailbirds are fed only twice a day on a budget of 15 cents a meal and all inmates are forced to wear pink underwear.

For the record I better make it clear the conman we were trying to find in this coming Monday's show had no history of violence nor did we come face to face with a gun when we tracked him down.

However should he ever think about scamming the good folk of Phoenix he better watch out. In Arizona upsetting the locals leaves a conman with only two choices. When he gets his comeuppance will he be wearing brown pants or pink ones?

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