Phoenix's recent crime wave has put public safety in the headlines. As our hardworking police force works to make our streets safer, we should study successful crime fighting models like New York.
Once the inspiration for Batman's Gotham City, New York is now the safest big city in America. By comparison, Phoenix has the third-highest overall crime rate among the nation's ten largest cities.
Our murder rate is double New York's, and almost three times higher than the national average. And in the last two years, our violent crime rate has surged. A recent Arizona Republic editorial dismissed the increase saying crime rose in "nearly every other major American city." What the editorial didn't say was that Phoenix's violent crime increase was four times higher than the national increase, 10.4 percent compared to 2.5 percent.
Phoenix Police Chief Jack Harris told the Arizona Republic, "To make Phoenix the safest major city in the country, we're going to have to have more officers in the future." In 2000, Phoenix had two officers per 1,000 citizens. At last count, the ratio dropped to 1.89. So while New York has more than four officers for every 1,000 citizens, Phoenix has less than two.
Making funds available for new officers must be part of our fight against crime, and the resources are there. The city's general fund increased almost ten percent over the last fiscal year. The problem isn't resources, it's priorities. Providing more funding for public safety will be a key to making Phoenix safer and this may require cutting back on luxury projects like theatre.
No one blames the recent violence on any of our elected officials. But we all should agree on the need to discuss ways to make our community safer. Even if that includes questioning City Hall's priorities.
Darcy Olsen is president and CEO of the Goldwater Institute. A longer version of this article appeared in the Arizona Republic.