Maricopa Police Chief James Hughes presented the city’s annual crime statistics to the city council at its Tuesday meeting, and the results were mixed.
Violent crimes – homicide, rape, robbery and aggravated assault – were up by a total of 34 crimes. There was one murder in the city. Aggravated assaults accounted for the increased overall numbers, as they nearly doubled, from 58 in 2020 to 106 last year. Robberies were down from nine to six, and rapes were cut in half, from six to three.
Hughes said that 85 percent of the aggravated assault incidents were attributed to domestic violence.
Maricopa City Manager Rick Horst put the numbers in perspective.
“It’s important to note that if you take the percentage increase in the number of calls, that it is less than the increase in population,” Horst said.
On the brighter side, there was a dramatic decrease in property crimes last year. Defined as commercial or residential burglary, theft, theft from a vehicle and stolen vehicles, those crimes decreased by a total of 140.
Hughes said MPD’s crime prevention strategies are paying off.
“Our night shifts focus on crime prevention,” Hughes said. “They’ve been doing a great job of reducing the opportunity for people to commit crimes. It’s the Pareto Principle. Let’s focus on the five or 10 individuals who are committing these crimes.”
Hughes said there were 17 “use of force” incidents in 2021, down more than 25 percent from the 2020 total of 24. He defined use of force as any time an officer has to use a method other than verbal compliance to get cooperation, such as using a taser, a takedown, or constraint.
“Shout out to the men and women of the Maricopa Police Department,” Hughes said. “We had over 25,000 interactions with the public with some type of enforcement component to it and the use of force was just 17. That’s just tremendous professionalism.
Horst clarified the definition of “use of force.”
“A lot of people hear ‘use of force,’ and they immediately think it’s a shooting,” he said. “That’s almost never (the case).
Of the 17 use of force situations, 10 involved use of a taser and four were takedowns. Each of those incidents was sent to the use of force review board and all were found to be within Arizona law and MPD policy.
No MPD officer discharged a weapon in the line of duty in 2021.
The demographics of those upon whom force was used showed that 82% of the time force was used against males and 18% against females. The racial breakdown was as follows: White 52%; Black 18%; Hispanic 18%; Native American 12%; unknown race 5%; and Asian and Pacific Islanders both 0%.
Hughes also touched upon the department’s pursuit policy, which he described as restrictive. There was only one car pursuit last year, and it was found to be in violation of department policy, although there was no accident. He summed up the policy this way:
“Two speeding cars is not safer than one speeding car,” Hughes said.
Correction: An earlier version of this story referred to the ‘Peter Principle.’ It was corrected to “Pareto Principle.”