Property crime occurred less frequently in Queen Creek this year, although statistics show that aggravated assaults have doubled since the beginning of 2008, according to town crime statistics.
With four more months of data to be completed for 2008, the numbers have concerned some town officials.
Last year, 18 aggravated assaults were reported to authorities, according to records.
From January until the end of August this year, 36 incidents have occurred in the Queen Creek area. At the same time last year, the town recorded only 10 aggravated assaults, records show.
Public Safety manager Joe La Fortune said the high number of aggravated assaults may change after checking overlap between the town and county islands. He added that the initial numbers could mistakenly include simple assaults during an investigation.
For now, town officials said they are working with the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office to study assault reports to combat the rising number of incidents.
"We have to look at individual reports to know what's going on," La Fortune said of the aggravated assaults.
The rise of some reports of aggravated assault may point to the town's new shopping centers, including Queen Creek Marketplace, said sheriff's Capt. Paul Chagolla.
"These occurrences are contributed to these new retail centers coming online," Chagolla said.
The center brings an influx of people from all areas, which may result in more aggravated assaults, he said. In one instance, a store employee was almost stabbed by a suspected shoplifter, he said.
Queen Creek's findings mirrored recent statistics from Mesa, where aggravated assaults climbed more than 5 percent while other crime figures dropped.
La Fortune did not know where most of the assaults were occurring, but said an upcoming report would point out any high-traffic areas to allow the town to distribute deputies accordingly. La Fortune expects the report, which may uncover trends by studying individual aggravated assaults, to be completed by early November.
Domestic violence cases are sometimes reported in aggravated assault numbers when the report fits the criteria. Chagolla said certain traffic incidents also can be counted as aggravated assault. According to La Fortune, an aggravated assault typically consists of a fight between two or more people where an instrument or weapon is involved. In a town like Queen Creek, an arrest of one or two suspects can sometimes bring certain crime statistics down, La Fortune said.
In other crime statistics provided by the town, Queen Creek's property theft plummeted between January and the end of August compared with last year. La Fortune credits the positive results to the sheriff's office, the town's crime prevention posse and self-awareness pamphlet that provides tips to improve home safety.
The Queen Creek Crime Prevention posse organizes town volunteers to patrol neighborhoods, which helps with crime prevention.
Queen Creek property theft soared in 2007 to 231 incidents from 167 incidents in 2006. So far, the town has recorded only 65 incidents.
Marnie Schubert, a spokeswoman for Queen Creek, said the estimated population for the town has grown by just less than 600 people to 22,851 citizens this year. From 2006 to 2007, the town's estimated population grew by more than 1,700 people. From 2005 to 2007, the town's rate of crimes per 1,000 people rose slightly, from 25 to 28.
Car break-ins are already near 2007's numbers yet car theft has dropped significantly, the records show. Eighty-eight cars were reported stolen last year, but only 35 have been reported so far in 2008.
"A lot of (car burglary incidents) are because the vehicle is unlocked or from things left in the bed of a truck," La Fortune said, adding that many thieves also favor the "smash and grab" technique of breaking a car window and taking what's inside.
With four months left in the year since the crime numbers were collected, 365 violent crimes have been recorded compared with 628 in 2007, according to the records. Most crimes, including homicide, sexual assault, robbery and arson, remained similar to last year's statistics.