Public Safety

How are we doing?

The Tucson Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) had a rate of 499.0 violent crimes per 100,000 residents in 2017. This ranked Tucson ninth among 12 western MSAs. Portland had the lowest rate of violent crimes per 100,000 residents (283.2) and Albuquerque had the highest (1084.9). Austin, El Paso, Las Vegas, Salt Lake City, and San Antonio experienced a decrease in the rate of violent crimes per 100,000 residents between 2016 and 2017. All other MSAs posted an increase in the rate of violent crime per 100,000 residents between 2016 and 2017; however, Tucson had the lowest rate increase at only 0.5%.

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 fifth lowest rate of motor vehicle theft among the 12 western MSAs in 2017, but the third highest rate of both burglary and larceny among the peer group (note that only nine of the 12 MSAs reported burglary statistics in 2017). Albuquerque had the highest rate of each type of property crime, while El Paso had the lowest rates of burglary and motor vehicle theft. San Diego had the lowest rate of larceny. (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 nearly 25.0% from a high of 649.7 violent crimes per 100,000 residents in 2005 to 499.0 in 2017. However, Tucson’s violent crime rate of 499.0 in 2017 was up by 18.4% from 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 increased almost back to its 2005 level. The violent crime rate in the U.S. 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 to the current level of 382.9 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 20% 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.