PHOENIX - The overall number of violent crimes increased in Phoenix by 4.7 percent last year but decreased in Tucson by nearly 10 percent, according to preliminary FBI data released Monday.
The biggest disparity between Arizona's two largest cities was in the number of forcible rapes reported. Rapes dropped by 22.2 percent in Tucson, but rose by 3.2 percent in Phoenix.
Phoenix had 14 more murders last year, 234 compared to 220 in 2005. Tucson saw a 5.5 percent drop in the number of murders in 2006, going to 52 from 55 in 2005, the FBI reported.
Tucson Police Capt. Michael Garigan attributed the lower crime rate to better community policing, a police unit that aggressively targets violent offenders and gangs and more targeted use of intelligence data.
Phoenix police Detective Bob Ragsdale cautioned that looking at increases in raw numbers could be misleading because the city's population increased by more than 50,000 last year.
A police analysis of crimes per 100,000 people showed the city's crime rate actually increased by only 1.2 percent last year, Ragsdale said.
Rapid population increases and demographic changes could be driving Phoenix's increasing violent crime rate, an expert said.
"One thing is there are a lot more people in Phoenix. Another thing is population movement in the Phoenix area," said Arizona State University Criminology and Criminal Justice Professor Scott Decker. "When there's a lot of change, you don't know your neighbors."
Reported crime decreased in nearly every possible category in Tucson, although the city saw a 13 percent jump in the number of motor vehicle thefts.
But in Phoenix, only nonviolent crime decreased slightly, according to the FBI report. Larcenies decreased by about 5 percent and vehicle thefts and burglaries both decreased by about 2 percent.
Among Arizona's nine largest cities, only Tucson and Mesa saw decreases in violent crime, the FBI said.
Nationally the violent crime rate increased by 1.3 percent, the second year in a row that it's gone up.