Nearly every kind of crime in Tempe is dropping, with especially large declines in violent crime and auto thefts.
Overall crime dropped more than 8 percent in the first nine months of 2007, compared with the same period last year, according to police statistics. The biggest drop was in auto thefts, which fell about 28 percent. Violent crime was down 17.5 percent.
At the same time, the number of bookings into the city jail has been setting records every month since June.
Police have boosted their visibility, too, hoping to signal to would-be criminals that the city is taking a more aggressive approach toward enforcement, said Sgt. Mike Horn, a police spokesman.
“We wanted to send that message that what you have done in the past isn’t going to cut it anymore,” Horn said.
Tempe’s crime rate has been falling for several years, but it still had the highest rate of any Valley municipality as of last year, according to FBI statistics. Police attribute the high crime rate to massive influxes of college students and the large number of people who attend events in Tempe. Also, the city’s population swells temporarily every day because it is home to more jobs than it is residents.
Police attribute the drop in crime to a new philosophy in the department. Law enforcement agencies sometimes lose focus of what they’re doing about crime as they deal with internal matters like scheduling or personnel issues, Horn said.
The department now is urging officers to constantly think about how they can do a better job fighting crime, Horn said, and the initiative has spawned several efforts that have resulted in more arrests.
More officers are responding to in-progress calls such as robberies, Horn said. The department has encouraged all levels to scramble on these calls if they’re nearby because police have a greater chance of making an arrest when more officers respond.
The result: The capture rate is up on in-progress crimes.
Some other examples of the steps taken by police:
• Police boosted crime-analysis staffing so the department can more quickly spot trends and shift detectives to specific areas or types of crimes.
• There are now more robbery detectives working nights, when most robberies occur. This lets them get involved in cases from the start and has resulted in more arrests.
• Juvenile suspects are now being fingerprinted and photographed, which usually didn’t happen before. Police hope that will discourage juveniles from committing crimes in Tempe again or at least to provide more information to officers if the minors do break the law.
• Police boosted crime prevention efforts by encouraging property owners to improve lighting or trim overgrowing landscaping in places where that’s contributed to crime.
• Jail employees pick up suspects where they’re arrested so officers have more time on the street and spend less time doing paperwork at the jail.
A larger force also has helped, Horn said. The city has funding for 348 sworn police employees, up from 327 two years ago.