The crime rate in the Gila Valley remained relatively consistent last year, with the exception of thefts, which jumped.
On Sept. 28, the FBI released its annual Uniform Crime Report. The report provides statistics on the number of murders, rapes, robberies, aggravated assaults, burglaries, larceny/thefts, stolen cars and arsons that have taken place within the year prior. Law enforcement agencies within each of the communities are required to provide their statistics to the FBI.
According to the statistics, there were three murders, one robbery and zero rapes within unincorporated Graham County in 2019, but the communities of Pima, Thatcher and Safford didn’t report any.
However, Safford reported a 42 percent increase in the number of larceny/thefts over 2018 and Thatcher reported a 77 percent increase in the same category.
Thatcher Police Chief Shaffen Woods and Safford Police Chief Glen Orr both said they believe businesses are catching and reporting shoplifters more.
“In previous years, some retail businesses were reluctant to report shoplifting as often as they do now,” Woods said. “Some were even uncooperative. We have had more cooperative businesses as of late when it comes to shoplifting. We took 61 shoplifting cases in 2019 vs 21 in 2018. Forty more shoplifting cases is a lot, but I attribute it to businesses being more willing to prosecute offenders than in previous years.”
Most of Safford’s theft cases can be tracked to Walmart, where loss prevention officers consistently catch shoplifters, Orr said.
Pima Police Chief Diane Cauthen said she did provide her statistics to the FBI in 2018, but the UCR does not reflect those numbers. The 2019 report indicates 21 larceny/thefts were reported in Pima.
The Graham County Sheriff’s Office reported 148 larceny/thefts in 2019 compared to 143 the year prior.
In the violent crime categories, Safford fell from 32 to 21. There were 29 aggravated assaults and three robberies in 2018 and 21 aggravated assaults and zero robberies in 2019, according to the report.
Thatcher reported three violent crimes in 2019, all aggravated assaults. The town didn’t have any aggravated assaults in 2018.
Pima didn’t report any aggravated assaults in 2019.
There were 50 aggravated assaults and one robbery in unincorporated Graham County in 2019 compared to 42 assaults and three robberies in 2018.
It’s difficult to determine sometimes why crime statistics in certain categories rise and fall from year-to-year, the chiefs said.
“If we knew why, there’d be zero,” Orr said. “Sometimes we just get what we get.”
On the other hand, there are some crimes, like burglaries, that law enforcement officers and community members can definitely influence, the chiefs and sheriff said.
According to the report, 33 burglaries were reported in Safford in 2019 compared to 46 in 2018. Thatcher’s burglaries remained consistent at 12 for each year and Pima reported 10 burglaries in 2019.
Graham County reported 47 burglaries in 2019 compared to 52 the year prior.
Graham County Sheriff P.J. Allred and the chiefs agreed that residents in the Gila Valley do an excellent job paying attention to what’s going on in their neighborhoods and reporting suspicious behavior.
They also credited their officers for maintaining a presence in neighborhoods and talking to people about any issues as they arise.
“If we have an area where it looks like something’s going on, we’ll concentrate on that area,” Allred said.
Cauthen said her department takes the same approach, going so far as to map areas where extra attention is needed, even if it’s just traffic-related.
Residents also do a pretty good job at locking up their homes and vehicles, Orr said.
Overall, the Gila Valley is a safe place to live and work, the sheriff and chiefs agreed.
“We’re very fortunate,” Cauthen said. “”Knock on wood, we’re actually doing pretty good. Our officers have experienced some serious calls, but we haven’t had those really bad calls.”
The Federal Bureau of Investigations and local law enforcement agencies are in the process of changing how they keep crime statistics. The current Uniform Crime Report only reports the most serious crime committed during an incident. The new NIBRS system reports all crimes committed during an incident.
Safford’s Chief Orr said residents will notice the changes on his monthly report, which can be found on the city manager’s website page under departmental reports.