Public Safety

How are we doing?

The Tucson Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) had a rate of 457.4 violent crimes per 100,000 residents in 2018. This ranked Tucson seventh among western MSAs (note: Denver, Las Vegas, and San Antonio total violent crime figures for 2018 were not reported). Austin had the lowest rate of violent crimes per 100,000 residents (291.4) and Albuquerque had the highest (1084.7). Austin, El Paso, Phoenix, Salt Lake City, and Tucson experienced a decrease in the rate of violent crimes per 100,000 residents between 2017 and 2018. Albuquerque also experienced a very slight decrease of 0.2 percent. All other MSAs posted an increase in the rate of violent crime per 100,000 residents between 2017 and 2018.

Why is it important?

Crime rates have important social and economic implications for the development of communities, especially at the neighborhood level. They can impact perceptions of resident safety and community involvement, and consequently population dynamics of a region. High crime rates can also lead to gentrification as geographically mobile households relocate to improve perceptions of safety and neighborhood satisfaction. Increased social involvement and community engagement by residents have been linked to reduced crime rates and consequently improved citizen quality of life.

How do we compare?

Property crime occurs at a much higher rate than violent crime in all MAP Dashboard geographies. Tucson had the sixth lowest rate of motor vehicle theft among peer western MSAs in 2018, but the highest rate of larceny among the peer group and the third highest rate of burglary. Albuquerque had the highest rate of burglary, while El Paso had the lowest rates of all property crime types. (Click on and off geographies in the legend to filter the chart below.)

What are the key trends?

Tucson’s violent crime rate fell by 29.6% from a high of 649.7 violent crimes per 100,000 residents in 2005 to 457.4 in 2018. This is down from Tucson’s violent crime rate of 499.0 in 2017, which was a peak after a thirteen year low in 2015. Arizona’s violent crime rate followed a similar pattern to Tucson between 2005 and 2014, decreasing by 21.9%, but then subsequently increasing nearly back to its 2005 level. However, Arizona’s rate dropped in 2018 to 474.9. The violent crime rate in the U.S. also followed a similar pattern with a 22.9% decline between 2005 and 2014, then increases in both 2015 and 2016. There was a slight decrease in the U.S. crime rate in 2017 and in 2018 to the current level of 368.9 per 100,000 residents. Another notable trend is diverging crime rates in southern border cities Tucson, El Paso, and San Diego (see the trend chart with all geographies on the Comparison Page). While all three border cities had comparable levels of violent crime in 2009, only Tucson posted an increased violent crime rate since that time; both El Paso and San Diego have experienced significant rate declines (around 21% each). 

How is it measured?

Violent and property crime data are from the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Uniform Crime Reporting System (UCR), which collect crime statistics from law enforcement agencies nationwide. The FBI publishes UCR statistics annually. Several key limitations of the data result from differences in collection methods at the local level. For example, the FBI began collecting data for forcible rape under an expanded, revised definition in 2013. State level violent crime rates are measured using the revised definition; however, the total U.S. violent crime rate still uses the legacy definition of rape to maintain 20-year trend reporting. Accordingly, violent and property crimes levels have been scaled to population levels, so as to compute a rate comparable across geographies.