Arizona theft crimes slowly declining

Crimes involving theft and stolen property in Arizona have decreased since 2013, according to the Arizona Department of Public Safety.

Crime reports from both the Mesa Police Department and the Arizona Department of Public Safety documented that cases of theft, robbery, and larceny have declined since 2013.

In 2013 there were over 223,000 property crimes in the state of Arizona, which reduced to 215,000 property crimes in 2014, according to Captain Damon Cecil from the Arizona Department of Public Safety. There were also 48,292 robberies in Arizona in 2013 and 43,562 in 2014, said Capt. Cecil during a telephone interview.

The frequency at which theft-related crimes occur has also decreased. According to Capt. Cecil and AZDPS crime reports, in 2013 there was one property crime every two minutes and 25 seconds in Arizona. By 2014, this frequency had decreased to one property crime every two minutes and 39 seconds. There was also one burglary every 11 minutes and 37 seconds in 2013 and one every 13 minutes and nine seconds in 2014. Though the majority of crimes involving theft decreased over the year, the frequency of larceny increased from one crime every three minutes and 25 seconds in 2013 to one crime every three minutes and 36 seconds in 2014.

In the city of Mesa, crimes involving theft have also decreased since 2015, according to crime reports from the Mesa Police Department. Though many districts in Mesa saw a decrease in theft over the course of 2015, the Superstition district experienced the biggest decline in theft related crimes between December of 2015 and January of 2016, according to the Mesa Police Department. In December, the Superstition District experienced 86 thefts and only 65 in January of 2016.

“The Superstition district is our largest patrol district and also the most populated,” said Esteban Flores, who has worked for the Mesa Police Department Media Relations Unit for 22 years. “This does account for the higher frequency of thefts. It also includes a lot of retail stores, more than anywhere else in Mesa.”

In an e-mail interview, Flores stated that densely populated areas like Mesa experience constant crime trends throughout the year.

“We have a large population of winter visitors that effect our population, and with added population comes added crime and victims,” said Flores. However, Flores also stated that Mesa experiences fairly low crime rates in comparison with other similarly sized cities across the country.

The large decline in theft crimes between December and January is partially due to the holiday season that falls between those months, Flores noted. Because of this high risk time period, the Mesa Police Department increased its patrol duties.

“During the holiday season, starting just after Thanksgiving, special attention is given to these types of crimes and we worked different operations, one of which was called Fade to Black Friday,” he said. “Once we arrest people or groups who go around committing these crimes, the calls for service always seem to drop.”

Fade to Black Friday was an ‘effort by retailers and law enforcement to reduce the seasonal spike of shoplifting crimes in the East Valley’, as stated in a press release from the Mesa Police Department. The operation used undercover detectives as well as retail loss prevention in order to deter holiday season thefts. Flores said the operation succeeded as 35 arrests were made and over $4000 of stolen property was recovered.

Though theft crimes overall have decreased in the state of Arizona, the rate of stolen vehicles has increased since 2013, said Capt. Cecil. In 2013 over 16,966 vehicles were stolen in Arizona, which increased to over 17,558 in 2014.

“The rate of stolen vehicles has gone up and sometimes it’s because people will just leave their keys in the car and leave the engine running when they go to the store or the gas station,” Capt. Cecil said. “It’s just common sense, and people need to give up their convenience and lock their cars.”

Capt. Cecil also noted an incident in Tucson where almost 17 cars and their inside valuables were stolen in the same time period because all the cars were left unlocked.

Flores stated that many property crimes in Arizona were also the result of unlocked doors, noting, “Most real criminals don’t really care about locks, but most property crime that is committed is done because of opportunity,” he said. “The person saw the opportunity to take something that wasn’t secured and they felt it would be easy to not get caught. Do your best to be aware of your surroundings and secure your stuff.”