Gilbert earns recognition as 2nd safest city in America - East Valley Tribune: Gilbert

Gilbert earns recognition as 2nd safest city in America

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Posted: Monday, December 16, 2013 7:30 am

A study by a law website indicates residents of Gilbert should feel pretty safe when walking the streets during the day or at night.

Using information tabulated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Crime Report Statistics from 2012 — the most recent figures available — the website Law Street has Gilbert ranked as the second-safest city behind Irvine, Calif., among those with a population of at least 200,000 people.

“It is a tremendous recognition for our community,” said Mayor John Lewis. “You just can’t find a greater recognition.”

Per the website, the rankings are derived from the FBI’s figures and split between four major violent crime categories: murders, aggravated assaults, robberies and forcible rape. The total number of incidents reported to the FBI are then divided by the city’s population, and that figure is then multiplied by 100,000 to create a ratio of violent incidents per 100,000 people. Law Street used the murder incidents as part of the overall figure and separated those incidents into their own category.

Gilbert, whose population is listed as 214,264, ended up with a violent crime rate of 95.68 per 100,000 people and a murder rate of 2.33 per 100,000 people. The former figure put Gilbert 40 behind Irvine, which has topped other safety lists as well, but more than 30 ahead of third-place Plano, Texas.

Although it isn’t part of the official tally, Law Street notes Gilbert’s low totals come despite having one officer for every 965 residents: a remarkably low ratio for a municipality of its size. Lewis attributed the ratio to the Gilbert Police Department’s ability to monitor the town efficiently, partially through a data-driven approach.

Gilbert Police Chief Tim Dorn said the ranking also came from the department’s ability to hire and retain good people, and echoed Lewis’ sentiment about how officials have developed a strong relationship with community leaders.

Even with that reputation, Dorn said the department and residents can’t become complacent about safety issues. For residents, that comes in the form of locking car doors and closing garages at night; doing neither tends to attract people looking for an easy burglary opportunity.

A factor that could contribute to the ranking is the people who live in Gilbert. Law Street notes the town has a median household income of $80,090 — approximately $30,000 more than the average Arizona household according to the U.S. Census Bureau — and an unemployment rate of 5.3 percent.

Contributing to the demographics are businesses in town like Orbital and Banner Health that require advanced college degrees.

“The demographics of Gilbert are outstanding, and that would be another factor,” Lewis said.

The demographics could continue to shift due in part to Gilbert’s safe reputation, with Law Street’s write up of Gilbert’s ranking stating the town’s status as a safe municipality has led to “significant population growth.” Lewis cited the safety reputation as one reason for the growth along with a well-regarded education system, and said the combination creates a “bright light for the community.”

The population growth, in turn, has had a positive effect on the police department, as the influx of people has allowed for a larger budget for the department. With more tools to limit the amount of crime in the town, the department has expanded that safe reputation to make Gilbert even more attractive to potential residents and even businesses.

“It’s all full circle, and that’s why it’s so important,” Dorn said.

At some point though, Dorn said the department will need to add officers in order to maintain the sterling reputation. That’s not as easy as it sounds, as Dorn said it takes 18 months to fully prepare a new officer for active duty, and between four and six months to ready an experienced officer for field duty.

• Contact writer: (480) 898-5647 or emungenast@evtrib.com

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