A crime data analysis released by the Arizona Criminal Justice Commission shows that the state has seen its crime rate drop by nearly a third over the past 10 years.
The commission’s analysis of FBI crime data shows that Arizona’s 32 percent decrease in reported crime outpaced the 18.9 percent nationwide drop over the same time period.
The Arizona Republic reported that the biggest factor in the state’s declining rate was a 60 percent drop in the rate of motor-vehicle thefts from 2000 to 2010.
Still, Arizona’s rate for murders, rapes, robberies and aggravated assaults, burglaries, larceny thefts and motor-vehicle thefts remains above the national median.
The analysis shows that, recently, Arizona’s rates of murder, rape and aggravated assault have increased.
Arizona’s rate of rape shot up 31.9 percent from 2008 to last year. That jump led the rate to climb by 10.4 percent over the decade.
The state’s murder rate over the 10 years fell 12.7 percent. But from 2009 to 2010, the rate increased 18.5 percent.
Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio said that in his jurisdiction murders and rapes are both down so far this year compared with this point last year, with eight murders in 2011 compared with 26 up to this point in 2010.
“We had a lot of our murders in the desert. One reason in our area we’re not getting so many murders is the drop in illegal immigration,” he said.
The rates of aggravated assaults and robberies both fell by roughly a quarter over the decade. From 2009 to 2010, the rate of aggravated assaults rose 4.5 percent.
Property crimes fell more sharply led by a 30.2 percent drop in larceny theft, which includes shoplifting, pickpocketing and the theft of bicycles, and the dramatic plunge in motor-vehicle theft.
The drop in vehicle crime can be credited to a decade-old change in how the state tackled that crime, said Brian Salata, executive director of the Arizona Automobile Theft Authority. Previously, few thieves were aggressively prosecuted.
“All we were doing was knocking off low-level players and not really solving the problem,” Salata said.
In 2002, Arizona’s vehicle-theft rate was nearly 2 1/2 times the national average. Counties agreed to assign specially trained prosecutors to deal with vehicle-theft cases, and they began pushing harder for thieves to roll over against others in their organizations to get plea bargains, Salata said.
That made it easier to cripple theft rings and criminal cartels, he said. By requiring anyone reporting a vehicle theft to sign a sworn affidavit, cities and counties slashed cases of insurance fraud. Improvements in vehicle security also helped.
While Arizona’s vehicle-theft rate was still 40.9 percent higher than the national median last year, Salata said the rate is continuing to drop this year.