Public Safety

How are we doing?

The Tucson Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) had a rate of 447.4 violent crimes per 100,000 residents in 2019. That was slightly fewer violent crimes per 100,000 residents than the state total of 455.3. Arizona had the third-highest rate of violent crimes per capita when compared to the western states. New Mexico had the highest rate at 832.2, while Idaho had the lowest rate of violent crimes per 100,000 residents at 223.8. Limited data at the MSA level was available for overall violent crime rates. Of the data available, Tucson’s rates were comparable to Colorado Springs. A breakdown of violent crime by type is available at the MSA level and can be found on the Comparison Page.

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 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 seventh-lowest rate of motor vehicle theft among 11 western MSAs in 2019, the fourth-highest rate of larceny among the peer group, and the third-highest rate of burglary. Las Vegas had the highest rate of burglary of the MSAs that reported data.  (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 31.1% from a high of 649.7 violent crimes per 100,000 residents in 2005 to 447.4 in 2019. 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, decreasing by 21.9% between 2005 and 2014, but then subsequently increasing back to its 2005 level. The violent crime rate in the U.S. has generally declined since 2006, with a slight uptick in crime between 2014 and 2016. However, since 2016 violent crime rates fell to the current level of 366.7 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 saw 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 collects 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 crime levels have been scaled to population levels, so as to compute a rate comparable across geographies.