Do You Live in One of Arizona's Five Safest Cities?

Do You Live in One of Arizona's Five Safest Cities?
Andrea B. Scott
click to enlarge ANDREA B. SCOTT
Andrea B. Scott

When he was still only a mere nominee, Donald Trump made headlines when he uttered in his acceptance speech the following words: “Decades of progress made in bringing down crime are now being reversed by this administration’s rollback of criminal enforcement."

The Man Who Would Be President was right on the facts — no, really. It’s true. He was drawing from FBI stats that showed a 17 percent jump in raw number of murders in the 50 largest U.S. cities. But Trump was wrong on the interpretation. The U.S. murder rate peaked in 1993 and until last year had been dropping ever since to historical lows.

Trump didn’t have what we now have: the national crime rate statistics, as reported by the FBI for 2015. That year showed a slight uptick from a rate that had been falling steadily since 2006 and was a fraction of what it had been back in the day. Last year’s data aren’t out yet.

Now comes the National Council for Home Safety and Security with its annual list of safest places in Arizona. Ready? Here is the council’s top-five list. We’ll share our own later on.

The No. 1 safest place in Arizona is … Florence.

Here’s how the council described the Pinal County seat, southeast of Phoenix.

“It has lots of parks and historical attractions along with a fun aquatic center for kids, located downtown. Built around the Gila River, it's one of the oldest towns in the county, and that old-world charm is preserved in their downtown, which houses many of the buildings that are part of the National Registry of Historic Places. There were only 34 violent crimes, at 1.26 per 1,000 people, compared to the state’s average of 3.36 per 1,000 people,” the report said.

Charming, isn’t it? Idyllic. Not mentioned: half a dozen prisons, capable of housing more than 14,000 inmates. Apparently they didn’t count the inmate attacks on guards and other inmates, or a string of shanking murders that bumped up the capital crimes caseload at the Pinal County Attorney’s Office a while back.

No. 2: Sahuarita: Just south of Tucson, population 28,067. Violent crimes: 13. Property crimes: 339.

Sahuarita is off of I-17, home to the Titan Missile Museum and not far from the Silver Bell Mine, which is known as a major smuggling area for the narcotraficantes and human smuggling coyotes.

Researchers said the low crime rate was not surprising and described it as “a young town, turning 23 in 2017. They're a town that's actively working to grow and better meet the needs of its future population.”

No 3. Gilbert. Population 247,324. Violent crimes: 177. Property crimes: 3,267.

Gilbert “is mostly focused on being an agriculture-based community, growing at a very fast rate every year,” researchers said. “It is an affluent area, with a $109,000 average household income. What was once the 'Hay Capital of the World' is now the place to be.”

Apparently not for violent criminals. Not a bad place to raise a family, either, we're told.

No 4. Oro Valley. Population 42,258. Violent crimes: 27. Property crimes: 583.

A little north of Tucson, researchers were full of praise for Oro Valley.

“With stunning views of the Pusch Ridge in the Santa Catalina Mountains, Oro Valley is a beautiful place to live. It has been recognized by many popular publications, including Family Circle magazine as one of the Top Ten Best Towns for Families, Nick Jr. Family magazine as one of the Ten Most Playful Towns in America, and Fortune Small Business magazine as No. 44 of 100 Best Places to Live and Launch a business,” they wrote, adding a special shoutout to the burb’s educational system. “Their schools rank in the top third of the state with impressive student to teacher ratios — it seems that everything this city does is done well.”

Oro Valley’s population is 40 percent older and 50 percent richer than Arizona’s, according to U.S. Census data. It also has higher concentrations of college-educated residents and military veterans than most places in Arizona.

No 5. Maricopa. Population 48,193. Violent crimes: 83. Property crimes: 600.

The Pinal County town of Maricopa, not be confused with the sprawling county by the same name, was one of the fastest growing cities in America before the Great Recession, and then became one of places with more foreclosures than just about anywhere. The property crime rate is manageable, but not that long ago it wasn’t unusual to see trucks in the night hauling off copper piping, fridges, and kitchen countertops. Even if was nailed down, it wasn’t safe. Not anymore.

None of that was mentioned in the write-up.

“This small, 47-square-mile town has been renamed three times. First, it was Maricopa Wells, then Maricopaville, and then Maricopa Junction, which was eventually shortened to Maricopa,” the council wrote. “It's a young city, officially incorporating itself in 2003.”

The National Council for Home Safety and Security describes itself as “a trade association comprised of home security professionals across the United States” which “advocates for safe communities and home safety with a strong focus on community involvement.”

The council went on to list the top 50.

Round these parts, here are some highlights in the rankings.

Phoenix, 38. Tempe, 40. Scottsdale, 19. Glendale, 45.

The rest of the 10 safest, in order, were Sedona, San Luis, Somerton, Paradise Valley, and Buckeye.

But, since we are hard-bitten, mistrusting journos, we decided to check out the stats ourselves. The FBI reports from 2015 are a little different, and break out the types of crimes, if you're interested.

The average violent crime rate in Arizona was 382.7 crimes per 100,000 people. That makes, Glendale, at 392, the closest to normal. The worst was Willcox at 2,326 crimes per 100,000, or six times the state average. On the other end of the spectrum was Kearny, which reported zero. Putting that aside for second, Buckeye logged 45.4 violent crimes per 100,000 in 2016, or about a tenth of the Arizona average.

Here are our full lists.

First, the five safest in order: Buckeye, Sahuarita, Thatcher, Oro Valley, and Mammoth.

The least safe are: Willcox, South Tucson, Pinetop, Miami, and Globe.

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Sean Holstege is a freelance reporter with a 30-year career in print news. He was an investigative reporter at The Arizona Republic and the Oakland Tribune. He won a Sigma Delta Chi award for investigative reporting. He’s covered transportation, terrorism, the border, disasters, child welfare, courts, and breaking news.
Contact: Sean Holstege