South Tucson is a heavily Hispanic/Mexican enclave completely surrounded by the city of Tucson. When South Tucson was first incorporated in 1940, it was well outside the southern edge of Tucson but Tucson has grown by leaps and bounds since then, almost completely swallowing South Tucson.

South Tucson was incorporated almost purely to take advantage of certain provisions in the Arizona statutes that, at the time, allowed an incorporated city to issue more liquor licenses than county areas could have, and also allowed dog racing regulated by the city as long as the track was within the city limits. In the 1950's and 1960's, South Tucson also got a national reputation as a nasty speed trap. That led to a short section of the I-10 passing through the city limits of South Tucson with no on or off ramps in South Tucson. That eliminated the possibility of South Tucson Police Department activity on the highway.

South Tucson has also been fighting a long, uphill battle with crime rates that rival those of the highest crime cities in America (think Camden, New Jersey, in particular). For larceny, theft and aggravated assault, South Tucson ranks at about 4 times the national average. Various of the police departments involved have resorted to "wolf pack" saturation tactics that have slowly begun to make a dent in the problem. The state has also been vigorously enforcing liquor license laws while neighborhood activism has helped to reduce other illegal activities in the area.