Fewer people were murdered last year in the Phoenix area than in any year since the beginning of this decade, mirroring a trend in large cities nationwide that criminologists are still struggling to explain, says the Arizona Republic. The 273 homicides reported to area police agencies in 2008 marked the first time since 2004 that murders dipped below 300, but the significant size of the drop, nearly 20 percent, was remarkable, even in the face of comparable statistics emerging from large metro areas around the country. “We’re still in a long period of time where violent crime has declined,” said Bill Hart, a professor and policy analyst at Arizona State’s Morrison Institute for Public Policy. “This is good news, and it indicates at least we’re not going back up in homicide, but there are so many different factors.”
Criminologists predicted that police agencies would take the credit for the drop in homicides, and asked if police would take blame when the numbers inevitably increase. The across-the-board decline in murders indicates there’s a larger issue at play, said criminologist Franklin Zimring of the University of California Berkeley, which goes beyond the work of any particular police force. “In general, when you see the whole area doing it, that’s a reason to suspect it isn’t police,” he said.