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Arizona attorney general candidate Kris Mayes said on Republicans’ watch, Arizona’s murder rate increased by 20% over the last decade.
The number of homicides in the state rose by 20.62%, but because the population also grew, the homicide rate didn’t rise as much.
The homicide rate in Arizona increased by 4.14% from 2010 to 2020
In the Sept. 28 attorney general debate hosted by Arizona PBS, Democrat Kris Mayes said, "We have seen over the last 10 years, under Republican agencies and Republican governors, a rise in the murder rate in Arizona of 20%."
The Republican Party has controlled the governorship and both houses of the state Legislature for the last decade. The number of homicides rose during that time, but so did the state’s population. That undercuts Mayes’ statement.
We reached out to Maye’s press office and it pointed to a fact sheet from the Center for American Progress Action Fund, a Democratic advocacy group.
The document used data collected by the Arizona Department of Public Safety showing the state’s raw number of homicides per year from 2010 to 2020, the most recent year of data collection.
The number of murders increased by 20.62% from 2010 to 2020, state data shows.
In the debate, Mayes referred to the murder rate, which is different from the number of murders. The rate is the frequency of murders per 100,000 people.
Edward Maguire, criminology and criminal justice professor at Arizona State University, said a simple count of homicides is misleading.
"Because during that same period, the population of the state grew," said Maguire. "The appropriate way to do this analysis of change is to use homicide rates."
Including 2020, the murder rate in the state increased by about 4.14% over the last decade.
The FBI also tracks homicides and although its yearly numbers differ from the state’s, the trends and patterns in homicides are the same.
The 4.14% increase in murder rates between 2010 and 2020 does not tell the whole story.
As the COVID-19 pandemic spread, homicides in Arizona, and the United States, skyrocketed in 2020.
Criminologists advise caution when including 2020 in an analysis of murder rates.
"In 2020, violence was disrupted by a massive environmental change that impacted culture, routine activities, levels of anxiety, employment, etc," said Charles Katz, a criminology professor and director of the Center for Violence Prevention and Community Safety at Arizona State University.
The exact reasons for the increase in murders in 2020 are still being studied, Katz said.
Excluding 2020 from the decadelong analysis makes a difference.
From 2010 to 2019, homicide rates in Arizona decreased by about 20.58%.
The data also shows that homicide rates fluctuated throughout the decade.
Rates fell slightly from 2012 to 2015, then increased from 2016 to 2017, and fell from 2017 to 2019. The murder rate then crept upward in 2019.
"These kinds of fluctuations are typically a consequence of broader environmental and macro level changes," said Katz. "These changes are modest and it would be tough to assess the causes."
Mayes said, "We have seen over the last 10 years under Republican agencies and Republican governors a rise in the murder rate in Arizona of 20%."
Mayes’ number is incorrect. The number of murders in the state increased by 20% from 2010 to 2020, but the murder rate rose by 4%.
That span includes the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, which disrupted many norms, including homicide patterns. Excluding that year, the murder rate fell by about 20%
We rate this claim Mostly False.
Arizona PBS, Attorney General Debate, Sept. 28, 2022
Center for American Progress, Fact Sheet: Dangerous Gun Laws in Arizona, Sept. 21, 2022
Arizona Department of Public Safety yearly state crime reports, 2010-2020
FBI Crime in Arizona yearly reports, 2010-2020:
Ballotpedia, Party control of Arizona state government, Oct. 27, 2022
FBI crime data explorer, Arizona, 2010-2020
Pew Research Center, What we know about the increase in U.S. murders in 2020, Oct. 27, 2021
NPR, FBI data shows an unprecedented spike in murders nationwide in 2020, Sept. 27, 2021
Email exchange, Edward Maguire, professor of criminology and criminal justice at Arizona State University and director of the school’s Public Safety Innovation Lab, Oct. 20, 2022.
Email exchange, Charles Katz, professor of criminology and director of the Center for Violence Prevention and Community Safety at Arizona State University, Oct. 24, 2022
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