Tempe has a higher serious-crime rate than Phoenix.
That’s right. Tempe, the East Valley’s college town, has a higher serious-crime rate than Phoenix, the nation’s fifthlargest city.
City and FBI statistics show Phoenix had a serious-crime rate last year of 73.5 per 1,000 residents compared with Tempe, which, though it decreased, was just shy of 100.
Rates of other East Valley communities: 64.7 in Mesa, 50.4 in Chandler, 45.5 in Scottsdale and 36.6 in Gilbert.
Serious crimes include homicides, rapes, robberies, aggravated assaults, burglaries, thefts and motor vehicle thefts.
Some Tempe residents said they found the information surprising.
"It’s where I grew up, and we’re not really on the news for crime a lot," said Kacey Bennett, 25.
"It’s a possibility there are more crimes because there are more drunk and stupid people on a university campus," said Brian Schlemmer, 25. "But I’m still way surprised to hear that."
Schlemmer, who does urban ministry, guessed Phoenix was the highest.
Tempe is at a disadvantage when it comes to crime rates because a large
number of Arizona State University’s 60,000 students are not included in the community’s population, said Tempe officer Jeff Lane.
Also, Tempe attracts large numbers of tourists, shoppers and special event attendees, Lane said.
"This population represents potential victims, witnesses, suspects and causative/determining factors of crime, in other words, where there are people, there will be crime," Lane said.
While Tempe’s crime rate may look somewhat alarming, the number of serious crimes overall dropped from 17,861 in 2002 to 15,949 last year, despite a slight increase in population.
Officials with Gilbert, Chandler and Mesa police departments also said serious-crime rates fell in 2003.
FBI statistics show there was a 20 percent decrease in homicides, robberies and aggravated assaults in the East Valley.
"We’d like to have no crime, but we’re glad that even with the increase in our population, we’re down," overall, said Chandler Sgt. Mark Franzen.
The serious crime rate is a standard used to track the quality of life and safety issues in a community, said Carroll Buracker, a former Virginia police chief who has written more than 220 strategic plans for police agencies across the nation, including Apache Junction.
Although it is an easy leap to make, it is not accurate to say that for every 1,000 people in Tempe, 100 became crime victims in 2003, Buracker said.
"One part of Phoenix might have a disproportionate number of crimes and the risk of people being victimized multiple times in that area is higher than in other parts of Phoenix," Buracker said. "The crime rate in a municipality is only an indicator of safety. I can’t say that residents in Gilbert are safer than all of the residents in Tempe."
Officials noted they are using crime statistics to develop special programs to combat such things as burglaries and car thefts, while also redirecting their resources to target problem geographic areas.
East Valley serious-crime rates compared favorably with other municipalities with similar populations in 2002.
Chattanooga, Tenn., with a population close to Tempe’s, had a serious-crime rate of 100 per 1,000 — the same year Tempe’s was 112 per 1,000.
Atlanta, which is close to Mesa in population, had a serious-crime rate of 113.5, while Mesa had an artificially inflated serious-crime rate of nearly 78 because of some paperwork glitches.
The serious-crime rate in Fresno, Calif., that year was 76.5.
Brownsville, Texas, had a serious-crime rate of 87.4, compared with Gilbert’s serious-crime rate of 45.3 that same year.
FBI statistics also show that Grand Rapids, Mich., had a serious-crime rate of 56.5, compared with Scottsdale’s 47.18. Rochester, N.Y., had 76.2.