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TPD needs to take FBI crime ranking seriously

By Wildcat Opinions Board

Wednesday October 31, 2001

A new report by the FBI that ranks Tucson's crime rate as 10th highest in the nation has Tucson law officials running through the streets swearing it's not true.

Tucson Police officials hope to deconstruct the new data to show that the report unfairly suggests that Tucson is a dangerous place to live. Why? Because if they don't do something, the report not only suggests that Tucson is a dangerous place to live, but that our police departments are less than effective.

The police department argues that because the FBI's annual Uniform Crime Report does not differentiate between property and violent crimes, it makes Tucson look worse than it actually is. Assistant Tucson Police Department Chief Robert Lehner said, "A hubcap theft counts the same as a homicide." While this is true, and it is also true that Tucson's average for violent crime compared to non-violent crime, 9.4 percent, is lower than the national average, 12.3 percent, it does nothing to lighten the fact that Tucson police officials are making excuses for themselves.

Lehner goes on to point out that the crime rate in Tucson has remained the same from 1999 to 2000. In 1999, there were 4,307 reported violent crimes and 38,073 reported non-violent crimes. The figures for 2000 are 4,542 for violent crimes and 39,983 for non-violent crimes. For the most part, Lehner is not incorrect in stating that crime has remained the same; however, his reaction, as a representative of the police department is more foreboding than the actual statistics.

Lehner seems to be arguing that because our crime rate has not changed much, we shouldn't be worried about crime in our city. But we should; we should be very worried. According to the FBI report, Tucson sees more rape, murder, robbery and aggravated assault than does the Phoenix-Mesa area that has a significantly higher population.

Tucsonans don't want more excuses - we want less crime.

The ranking Tucson has received concerning our crime rate should not be treated like a ranking about whether or not Tucson is a livable city, has the most appealing climate or the best enchiladas - crime is serious, and it should be treated as such.

Lehner not only is not taking the ranking seriously, he seems to be going so far as to say that it reflects Tucson in a positive light. He considers the fact that Tucson's non-violent crime is lower than the national average "encouraging." While we appreciate Lehner's optimism, it is alarming to note that the assistant chief of police considers a rise in crime anything but upsetting.

Tucson's police departments need to put their calculators back in their desk drawers and start focusing on how to combat crime. No matter how you look at the data, Tucson is a dangerous place to live. We have a disproportionately high amount of crime for our size, and it's getting worse.

Lehner's final suggestion on the matter is, "what that means is you should really lock your door and your car." What Lehner should really do is find ways to stop crime, not ways to excuse his department.


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