Swarming is a technique generally used by insects and birds, but Tempe police are now applying Mother Nature’s tactic to fight crime.
Whenever a call comes in on a serious crime in progress, every available officer nearby swarms the area in search of the suspect. They drop their sandwiches at lunch and leave any other minor task behind.
Officials believe the technique is helping to catch more criminals in the crucial 10 to 15 minutes after a crime is committed.
“We came up with a plan that when we have a crime in progress or ... dangerous felony suspects, to respond and try to swoop up on them,” said Tempe police Cmdr. Noah Johnson. “What we did is we kind of changed the mind-set of our police department.”
Tempe police spokesman Sgt. Mike Horn said in the past a few officers assigned to a particular area would generally respond to the scene, but since Tempe is relatively small in area and surrounded by several freeways, criminals were able to quickly leave before those officers could catch them.
In their efforts to catch more suspects, Tempe police held meetings to brainstorm better techniques. The idea of swarming the area seemed the most effective, Johnson said. So the new tactics were adopted in August.
The Tribune requested statistics to determine if swarming was having an impact, but police said they haven’t yet developed a system to track that data.
Still, the most recent statistics for jail bookings point to more arrests this year. In 2006, police booked 4,765 prisoners, while this year that’s up to 6,626.
Also, crimes per 1,000 residents are declining — 11.6 percent for property crimes and 17.5 percent for violent crimes.
But the swarming method isn’t beneficial just for lowering crime rates. It also helps protect police, Johnson said. Since there are now more officers in an area, they can look out for one another.
Tempe hired more officers, reorganized the department and, most recently, organized the swarming method to lower crime rates after the city came under scrutiny over its ranking as the Valley’s crime capital.
“We were embarrassed over a lot of the articles that came out about the crime rate,” Horn said.
Statistics for this year show most serious crimes are on track to be lower than last year.
The biggest reduction came in auto thefts, about a 31 percent reduction. Also, rape, robbery, assaults, larceny and arson are down. Homicides, however, are up, as well as burglaries.