Crime stats up a tick under new reporting system

Maricopa Police Headquarters
The Maricopa Police Department has begun a national search for a replacement for former Chief James Hughes, who resigned in August.

The Maricopa Police Department recently changed the reporting system for crimes in the city from the previous Universal Crime Reporting (UCR) system to the newer National Incident-Based Reporting System, (NIBRS), resulting in a rise in the statistical number of crimes in Maricopa in February. 

However, due to the new system, that higher rate does not necessarily mean more crimes were committed. Under UCR, if an incident was reported that included a homicide, aggravated assault and several other crimes, it was only categorized as one incident and was tied to the most serious crime. Under NIBRS, each individual crime is counted toward the total, raising the number of total offenses. 

The NIBRS statistics showed an increase in the number of crimes per 1,000 residents as anticipated, since each offense is tracked individually as opposed to each incident.

Maricopa Police Chief James Hughes said this was not a surprise. 

“As expected, there is an increase in this number,” he said. “Please remember NIBRS is counting crimes, not incidents and has included more crimes in the cumulative totals. I anticipate this number will show a 5 to 10% increased variation due to the transition to NIBRS. I recommend we use 2022 as a baseline and evaluate subsequent years using that baseline.” 

For example, in the Crimes Against Persons (Violent Crime) category, which consists of homicide, sexual offenses, aggravated and simple assaults and other sex offenses are down slightly from 12 in January to 10 in February 2022. Assaults were up from 32 to 39 for the same period. So, with the new NIBRS reporting, Maricopa Police responded to 49 Group A person crimes in February 2022 as compared to 45 in January. 

Hughes said these crimes are a priority. 

“MPD will continue to focus on domestic violence through education and prevention,” Hughes said in a letter to the city council. “Our School Resource Officers (SRO’s) have been working closely with their assigned school administrators to address assault related incidents in our schools. A high percentage of assaults result in the immediate arrest of the offender.” 

Property Crimes, which include robbery, burglary, fraud theft, stolen vehicles, and criminal damage, also were up slightly in February. There were no robberies last month, but burglaries increased from nine in January to 11 in February. Fraud rose from 33 in January to 36, and thefts grew from 37 to 45.  

Stolen vehicles went down in February from six to three, and criminal damage remained at 33 for the month. There was a total of 129 property crimes in February 2022 compared to 120 in January 2022. The increase of nine crimes is due to the rise in theft and fraud, according to Hughes, who said many of those crimes were shoplifting and internet related crimes. 

“Our night shifts continue their focus on crime prevention,” Hughes said. “The daily mission of our night patrols is to maintain periodic property checks of the new developments in our city and to collaborate with the builders, many of whom have installed cameras. Nearly 50 percent of the theft crimes are shoplifting from our retail stores. I have tasked our Community Policing Unit to work with our business community to apply crime prevention strategies to address these crimes.” 

The Crimes Against Society category is a new one and includes drug and weapons offenses. According to Hughes, increases in this category usually are the result of proactive policing by MPD, including its SROs. Drug crimes increased from 33 in January 2022 to 52 in February 2022, while weapons offenses remained static at seven crimes for the month. The total of 61 crimes against society in February represented an increase of 20 crimes from January 2022. 

“MPD will continue to dedicate resources towards the removal of illegal drugs and weapons from our community,” Hughes said of the increase. 

The second tier of offenses, known in NIBRS as Group B crimes, includes many crimes whose perpetrators are cited as a result of proactive policing, Hughes said. These include offenses such as driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol and liquor law violations. February saw a total of 119 Group B crimes in comparison to 111 in January 2022. 

“MPD will continue to remove impaired drivers from our roadways,” Hughes said. “February saw an increase in DUI arrests. There were 36 DUI arrests, up from 21 in January 2022.” 

Hughes said that in order to provide more accurate reporting of crimes per 1,000 residents, he has updated Maricopa’s population to 68,100 for 2022 based on input from statistics for the city’s economic development department for crime reporting purposes. 

Hughes said the numbers continue to show that Maricopa is a very safe city. 

“Overall, these continue to be very healthy numbers for a growing city of our size,” he said. “However, the PD will continue to challenge the status quo and work hard to improve these excellent numbers.”