New Data Shows Continued Increase in Phoenix’s Violent Crimes

New Data Shows an Increase in Phoenix’s Violent Crimes

The City of Phoenix has updated its quarterly crime statistics to reflect new data from the first quarter of 2021. While there has been a small decrease in the overall rate of crime in the city, the updated statistics for individual crime categories present a different perspective. The decrease in the overall crime rate is due to lower levels of property crime in Q1 2021. With everyone spending more time in their homes as a result of the COVID-19 lockdowns over the last year, the rate of property crime has drastically decreased across the nation. In its annual Uniform Crime Report (UCR) the FBI reported a 7.8% decrease in the property crime rate across the United States. 

“Among the violent crime statistics reported by the City of Phoenix, sharp increases can be seen in aggravated assault and murder.”

The decrease in the rate of property crime in Phoenix is notable, but there is serious cause for concern when examining the continued increase of violent crime in the city. Among the violent crime statistics reported by the City of Phoenix, sharp increases can be seen in aggravated assault and murder. The occurrence of aggravated assaults in Phoenix has nearly doubled since 2016, with more than 3,500 incidents in the first 2 quarters of 2021 alone. Generating even more concern is the rapidly increasing murder rate in the city. Since 2019, the occurrence of criminal homicide in Phoenix has increased more than 44%.

The increase of violent crimes in Phoenix is representative of a larger national trend. Across the country, crime rates are surging, with particularly acute increases in violent crimes. The FBI’s UCR report found that the overall rate of violent crime in the United States has increased by nearly 3% in the last year. Within this category, there has been a nearly 15% increase in the murder rate and a roughly 5% increase in aggravated assaults. In other major metropolises around the country like New York and Chicago, murder rates have been increasing at a similar rate to those in Phoenix. Chicago has seen an 18% increase in murders while New York has experienced a 13% increase during the same period.

The surge in violent crime in Phoenix and across the country can be attributed to the effects of COVID-19 lockdowns. With more people out of school, work, and lacking positive and productive outlets for their time, violence continues to take hold.

  1. https://www.fbi.gov/news/pressrel/press-releases/overview-of-preliminary-uniform-crime-report-january-june-2020

2. https://www.fbi.gov/news/pressrel/press-releases/overview-of-preliminary-uniform-crime-report-january-june-2020

3. https://www.bbc.com/news/57581270

Making Infrastructure Investments Last: Why Prescott Voted To Ban Plastic Drinking Water Pipes

By Cathey Rusing

There are few things in life that are certain, but one of them here in my hometown of Prescott, AZ is the fact that most of our buildings are built on hard rock like granite, making the resilience of our buried infrastructure even more important than it may be in other locations who don’t have to deal with such conditions.

I have become very knowledgeable about our topography because, as a member of the Prescott City Council, I have had to vote on projects that must work well in our conditions. In fact, the condition of our drinking water infrastructure is one of the reasons I actually decided to run for Council. A few weeks before declaring my candidacy, I visited a neighbor’s home that sustained significant damage from a ruptured plastic PVC water pipe. Despite past efforts to repair and preserve the pipe, it finally burst and led to substantial damage to their home.  However, they shouldn’t have been in that situation in the first place. At that point, I saw it as my duty to maintain and provide durable infrastructure for the public welfare of Prescott for generations to come.

After I was elected to the Council, I continued advocating for a better and more cost-effective solution to our water infrastructure problems. These kinds of projects can be very expensive – even with state and federal grants and low-interest loans available to municipalities and water system operators. Given the expense, and disruption that comes from upgrading our water infrastructure, it is really important that we plan for and make decisions for the long-term. 

Take my city as an example.  Today, there are more than 46,000 people living in Prescott, and we’ve grown by 16.28 percent since 2010, according to U.S. Census Bureau data. Given how great a place Prescott is to live, we should only expect future growth. That’s wonderful, but we must properly plan and think about where we might be in a generation or two to ensure that the infrastructure we invest in today will support and help us manage this future growth. 

As I delved into infrastructure research, I learned about different kinds of pipe materials. One of the most important lessons is that not all pipes are created equally, and there are many variations based on how they’re made, what material is used, or even what the soil looks like where the pipe will be installed. The plastic pipes that we have running under much of Prescott may have been cheaper to initially purchase when past city leaders chose to use them, but they crack more easily, don’t last as long, and can actually lose some of their ability to handle pressure at higher temperatures in the soil or even melt if exposed to high temperatures from a fire. 

We’ve also seen pictures on social media of melted plastic trash cans and mailbox stands from the Arizona heat. Imagine the pipe carrying your drinking water melting or being deformed in that same way. A recent California wildfire melted a 7.5-mile stretch of plastic pipe that was a major conveyance for a drinking water system. We need pipes that will last for generations, be environmentally friendly, and resilient enough to handle both our rocky terrain and the challenges tossed at us from prolonged extreme drought and rising temperatures.

I know it sounds like we’re looking for a unicorn, but as I’ve learned, there a pipe material that can do just that: it’s made from a material called ductile iron. Through my research, I learned that water mains made from this material have a service life of 90 to 100 years – that’s nearly three times as long as PVC – is made from recycled steel and iron, and uses less energy to move water. 

Since I was elected, I’ve worked with my fellow Councilmembers to explore the cost benefits and return on investment we could realize as a city if we stopped using plastic pipes and switched to ductile iron. 

After a valuable Council study session, substantive discussions with my colleagues, and important input from our Public Works Director, we unanimously voted to update our General Engineering Standards in a way that will balance costs without compromising the integrity of project materials. This change will save our taxpayers millions of dollars over the long-term and give residents peace of mind that we’re using materials in infrastructure projects that are designed to last.  In fact, it also puts Prescott in good company with over two dozen communities in Arizona like Phoenix and Tempe that have made similar decisions to exclude plastic pipes from their drinking water systems. 

Infrastructure has always been vitally important to the success of Prescott. The process that we underwent to upgrade our engineering standards can be a model for other projects and even other cities in a similar situation. We did our research, put in the hard work to ensure that our drinking water will remain clean, affordable, and accessible for generations. We want Prescott to set the “gold standard” for infrastructure and hope to apply these lessons to other projects to aim for a bright future for generations to come! 

Cathey Rusing is a city councilmember in Prescott, AZ.

Twin33s: Innovation is Creating Opportunity in the Shipping Industry

By JP Padres

Congress, in collaboration with the Biden Administration, is hard at work considering legislation that will shape how our economy recovers and operates in the future. Our policymakers now have the unique opportunity to rethink decades-old regulations, particularly in the shipping industry, that no longer serve their intended purpose and implement policy changes that enhance sustainability practices in private industry.

A simple and cost-free way for the federal government to make a significant impact to reduce CO2 emissions is to allow Twin 33 freight trucks to operate. It is estimated by Americans for Modern Transportation that if Twin 33s could operate in 2018, they would have saved 274 million gallons of fuel, reduced CO2 emissions by 3.12 million tons, and resulted in 3.36 billion vehicle miles traveled in the United States. Studies also revealed that Twin 33s move the same amount of goods with 18% fewer trips, which means there is less congestion on our highways.

Over 20 states, including Arizona, already recognize the positive environmental and economic impact of this type of vehicle and allow Twin 33 delivery trucks to operate. But because it’s not legal at the federal level yet, Twin 33 delivery trucks cannot cross state borders, which reduces shipping efficiency.

Twin 33s are two thirty-three-foot trailers attached to a freight truck cab. Currently, these types of trucks are only allowed to operate with two twenty-eight-foot trailers attached, even though there are other freight vehicles allowed to drive on the highway that are larger than a Twin 33. An increase in the size of a delivery vehicle doesn’t change the weight limit because operators still have to abide by the law and allow no more than 80,000 lbs of freight on the truck. Adding a conservative five feet to each trailer is incredibly beneficial to the shipping industry because not only is it more environmentally friendly, it increases cargo capacity and reduces costs for the consumer as more and more deliveries are being made across the country.

Over the past year, businesses rapidly adapted to a remote work environment and transformed their operating models to fit the growing e-commerce industry. The success of e-commerce businesses heavily depended on their shipping partners’ ability to safely and quickly deliver their products to paying customers. America’s shipping industry played one of the most important roles during the pandemic. Our cargo shippers delivered critical healthcare supplies, including medications and the coronavirus vaccine, while also keeping our economy open and operating through e-commerce.

E-commerce accounted for over 21% of all retail sales last year, which was a notable increase from 16% in 2019. In total, Americans spent $861 billion online with U.S. merchants over the course of 2020, and it’s expected to continue growing. Delivery services have always been an integral part of the U.S. economy, and this fact was amplified over the past year, which is why we need to make policy changes to allow cargo shippers to operate more efficiently while also reducing carbon emissions.

Most cargo shipping companies are already striving to become more sustainable and invest in innovative operations to reduce their carbon footprint, and Congress should aid their initiative by allowing Twin 33s to operate. I encourage you to support your local congress person or senator to move to allow drivers in Arizona to cross state lines by making these delivery trucks legal at the federal level.

JP Padres is an International Trade and Logistics Consultant, and Tucson Ward 3 City Council Candidate

Phoenix is on the brink of a public safety crisis

By Chris Rutherford

Phoenix is on the brink of a public safety crisis. As one of the fastest-growing cities in America, Phoenix faces the unique challenge of expanding its core infrastructure to match the rapidly expanding population. One of the key areas our city has struggled to keep pace in is the staffing of law enforcement officers. While the city’s population has exploded over the last decade, the growth of the police force has remained stagnant, placing the city well behind law enforcement staffing recommendations.

 

Staffing guidelines suggest there should be a ratio of three police officers for every 1,000 citizens. The city of Phoenix currently has an active force of roughly 3,000 sworn police officers. With a population of 1,733,630, our city has an officer to citizen ratio of 1.7 officers per 1,000 citizens, down from 2.4 in 2010. As the ratio between officers and citizens continues to decline, crime is on the rise in Phoenix. Between 2019 and 2020, Phoenix saw a 175% increase in domestic violence murder which trended with the rest of the violent crime increases throughout the city. These staggering numbers raise alarms when you consider the reality that our police are tasked with protecting us from these hastily increasing threats while operating at just half of their staffing capacity. Now more than ever, it is critical that we ensure Phoenix’s police force is adequately staffed and provided with the necessary resources to protect our community from the increasing occurrences of crime.

These numbers become even more concerning when comparing Phoenix’s police force to its total population and the population of other comparably sized cities. One startling example is the city of Philadelphia. Philadelphia’s population is just 9% smaller than that of Phoenix, but their police force is more than 225% larger.

Adding to the cause for concern is the fact that our police force is facing a further staffing crisis in the years to come. 31% of the officers we currently have in Phoenix will be eligible for retirement from the force within the next year1. This number will balloon to 46% over the next five years, leaving our city more vulnerable than ever while the population continues to increase. As the population continues to grow and the size of the police force continues to shrink, our overworked police officers will be forced to take on even more duties to account for the staffing shortages. 

Phoenicians are taking note of these issues and their effect on the community. Our citizens have a largely positive relationship with their law enforcement officers. Over 60% of Phoenix residents that have interacted with the police have had a positive experience and 73% believe that Phoenix police do a better job protecting us than other major cities. Factoring in the stressful circumstances our officers find themselves in due to staffing shortages, Phoenix PD has developed a strong reputation among the community. 

While their overall sentiment is positive, many citizens are concerned about the continued strength of the police force. 63% of people in Phoenix believe that there should be more police officers to reflect the rapidly expanding population of the city. On top of this, five out of every six citizens believe that our city would be better protected with more police officers. 

As Phoenix continues to expand, the issue of crime will only become more apparent and the consequences more dire. Without a plan to increase the strength of our police force and replace officers who will be retiring over the coming years, we could find ourselves in the midst of a public safety crisis. It’s time for us to bring together our elected officials, law enforcement representatives, stakeholder groups, and the community to develop long-term solutions to protect our city and support our police officers. 

About the Author: Chris Rutherford is a Phoenician and son of fallen Phoenix Police Officer Paul Rutherford.

  1. City of Phoenix. Quarterly Budget Update and Performance Statistics. 3/31/2021

Connected Commerce Council President Calls New Google Lawsuit “Nuts”

Several State AGs filed a lawsuit against Google this week. The plaintiffs hope a judge will enjoin this suit with the one previously submitted by the Department of Justice in October.

The announcement of the lawsuit and its scope weren’t unexpected to the tech community but many are questioning its timing, saying that the potential harm to small businesses and consumers is too great, and it’s legal premise is flawed.

Connected Commerce Council (3C) President Jake Ward issued the statement below highlighting some of those concerns. The Connected Commerce Council is a small business advocacy group which is worried about the impacts of the litigation on small businesses.

“Small businesses are hurting, and instead of helping them, these Attorneys General are trying to force middlemen between small businesses and their customers. In every market, middlemen drive up costs, drive down value and drive small businesses further from their customers. Intervening on behalf of billion-dollar publicly-traded intermediaries insults small businesses and harms consumers. To do so now is nuts.

“Small businesses have asked policymakers for help during the pandemic, and have made it clear that they need stability, access to capital, and access to digital tools. No one has asked policymakers to prioritize the interests of intermediaries. Not consumers, not small businesses, and not their employees. It won’t go unnoticed that when small businesses needed help, their attention was elsewhere.”

And, Adam Cohen, director of economic policy at Google said the claims, “have been closely examined and rejected by regulators and courts around the world, including the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, competition authorities in Brazil, Canada and Taiwan, and courts in the United Kingdom and Germany, who all agreed that our changes are designed to improve your search results. It’s also well established that the most important driver for our search results is the specific query—not your personal data.”

The lawsuit against Google is expected to be one of the most expensive antitrust lawsuits in history.

Pushing Pharmaceutical Innovation Forward

By: Jen Hilderbrand

As a mother,  this year has been really difficult for my family as I’m sure it has been for millions of others. School closures, cancelled youth sports, and countless other kid friendly activities being called off or indefinitely delayed due to COVID-19 has put a real strain on both my husband and I and our children. 

These challenges are why I have been so encouraged to see positive vaccine news coming from America’s pharmaceutical industry. With three promising vaccine candidates on the way and 2020 coming to an end, I have hope that we will be able to get back to some semblance of normal in 2021. 

However, the pandemic has also put a spotlight on our health care industry once again, specifically highlighting the critical nature of continued scientific innovation. Most of us did not realize the billions of dollars, years of trial and error, and the immense intellectual resources  required to develop a new medication. 

But, thanks to 2020, we all know what it takes, and my hope is that this new knowledge will cause consumers and legislators alike to prioritize future research and development. 

It is clear, in order to build the most sustainable and healthy America possible we need to invest in new treatments and cures. This means passing new policies that cut regulatory red tape at the FDA and avoiding government price setting policies that stand to undercut funding for research. 

I hope others, especially our legislators, will remember the importance of pushing pharmaceutical innovation forward once we move past COVID-19.

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Holding Big Insurance Accountable

By Steve Schooley

As a 71-year-old retired firefighter, access to affordable and effective medication is a big priority for me. As such, this past election season, I voted for candidates who I believe are capable of making some commonsense reforms to our health care system, and I expect them to deliver.

As the 2021 legislative session quickly approaches and we start to see a light at the end of the COVID-19 tunnel, I want to see Arizona’s legislators lead on holding health insurance companies accountable. As a senior, I am sick and tired of paying more for coverage year over year and getting less and less coverage from my provider. It seems as if every time there is a new Congress we hear a lot of talk out of Washington about “holding big pharma accountable” but where is that same vigor when it comes to insurance companies?

At the end of the day, I don’t care whose fault high it is my costs are too high, all I care about is that my costs go down and I continue to have access to the best available medications. To me, it seems like the easiest fix is to make sure insurance actually works for patients like me when we need it most.

Senators Sinema and Kelly Should Support Liability Protections for Businesses

By. Dr. Ed Ackerley

While the presidential transition is taking up most news headlines, everyday Arizonans are struggling to make ends meet and keep their businesses afloat. While the positions being filled by the next administration are important, elected officials have a duty to their constituents to continue working to address the problems we are currently experiencing. 

One of the biggest issues we are facing in the state is the economic devastation resulting from the coronavirus pandemic. Arizona’s current unemployment rate is hovering at around 8%, above the national average. And as temporary business closures are declining, we are seeing a tragic rise in permanent closures. According to the latest Yelp survey data, Arizona ranks 4th in the nation for permanent business closures.

While these statistics are obviously alarming, statistics cannot truly encompass the tragedy of small business owners who have spent years, or decades, building a successful business only to have it ripped out from underneath them in six months because of something totally outside of their control. 

This is why it is critical for our elected officials to do everything in their power to protect and support small businesses. One way Congress can help small businesses is by passing reasonable liability protections from unfounded COVID-related lawsuits in the upcoming coronavirus relief package. This policy is of particular importance for essential businesses that have remained open throughout the pandemic to continue providing critical goods and services to our communities.

Right now, businesses, particularly those that have stayed open, are at increased risk of being sued by patrons claiming they contracted the virus at a particular establishment. While the virus is so widespread that it would be difficult for a defendant to prove their case in court, the legal fees required to fight back against unwarranted lawsuits could put a small business out of business for good. Lawyers have already increased their advertising encouraging people to file coronavirus-related lawsuits, so we can expect to see even more than the 6,500 claims already filed.

And it’s not just small businesses that are in need of reasonable protections from unfair lawsuits. Without COVID Liability Protection, Arizona schools could also face possible COVID Lawsuits.

This important discussion happened on the state level earlier this year. A COVID-19 business-liability protection bill passed the Arizona House in April, but unfortunately did not pass the Senate before the legislative session ended. While it would be helpful to pass this bill on the state level, it would be much more effective to pass liability protections on the federal level, since many businesses operate in multiple states, and a patchwork of regulations increases the financial burden on already struggling businesses. 

Thankfully, there is still time for Congress to provide businesses with commonsense, liability protection from unfounded coronavirus-related lawsuits, while ensuring we can still hold bad actors accountable. Hopefully, our home state Senators Kyrsten Sinema and Mark Kelly will stand behind Arizona businesses by supporting reasonable liability protections in any coronavirus relief package that comes before the Senate.

Dr. Ed Ackerley is the President of the Tucson Business Owners group.

Despite the Economy, Google Customers are still breaking through

These days, Google has been an easy target for politicians. However, according to google’s customers, the company is providing them a great help in overcoming difficulties and keeping employees on the job. With a focus on working together, supporting growth and driving innovation, Google is committing additional resources to helping its partners adjust, and it is paying off. Google has invested heavily in its small business programs which help owners improve their ROI, expand their reach and become more competitive. As a result, companies around the country have been singing their praises. 

Below are just a few of the testimonials from Google customers…

“We were a pre-digital company when we began, but transitioned into a digital-first business. We use YouTube and Google Ads to speak directly with our customers and share our message – and Google Ads generates 11% of our web traffic and roughly 15% of our sales revenue. It’s an $11 return for every dollar spent, which is huge for a small business, and it has helped us to serve more than 55,000 customers. Our investment in technology, in particular Google tools, has been hugely helpful, and we also view it as a means to get people more active and involved in their communities.”

Jason McCarthy, CEO, GORUCK, Jacksonville Beach, FL

“At Slickdeals, our mission is to help shoppers win everywhere. Google has been instrumental in helping us generate strong revenue with high quality ads, allowing us to reinvest more earnings into our technology which has saved consumers over $6 billion. Google’s ability to offer different advertising products has allowed us to optimize and balance user-experience with revenue. Google has helped provide our business with diversified revenue streams which have been critical to our growth over the past several years.”

Eugene Faynberg, VP, Ad Operations, Slickdeals

“Google isn’t just our top monetization partner, they also help provide tools and information to help Mediavine and its 8000 independent publishers build a faster and better web experiences for users. We’re confident that in working with Google, Mediavine will be able to help content creators build sustainable businesses for years to come.”

Eric Hochberger, CEO, Mediavine

“We’ve been a Google Ads customer for 8+ years, and I am so grateful for the support that Google has given me in helping me with innovative strategies for my business. Given COVID, we pivoted our operations to focus more on e-commerce, and digital tools; specifically Google Ads, have played a massive role in that. With the help of a new ad strategy, we successfully brought in more customers. I am beyond thankful for how helpful Google has been in keeping my business alive and thriving, with business up 60% steadily in the last few months. With so many marketing options and tools at my disposal, it’s important to me that my dollars yield the greatest ROI which is why I continue to invest in Google tools.”

Chris Lewis, Founder & CEO, Evergreen Applied Technologies , Evergreen, CO

It’s Time to Modernize the Workforce While Protecting Independent Workers

By: Nathan Brown

Throughout the past 10 years, the different ways in which Americans work have fundamentally changed. Thanks to technology, there are more innovative and flexible job opportunities for people to pursue outside of a traditional nine-to-five office job. 

A prime example of this transformation in how we work can be seen by the millions of people who operate in the on-demand economy, like those who choose to work in online or app-based platforms. Today, over 57 million Americans, including me, work on their own schedule, and that number will surely increase as more people realize the benefits that come with working in this sector – especially the flexibility it offers.

As a driver for Amazon myself, I value the flexibility that my work gives me. For many drivers like me, working independently allows us to balance our personal and professional life, particularly during these unprecedented times where many have to juggle multiple things like work, childcare, and virtual schooling. 

This is precisely why lawmakers, like Arizona’s U.S. Senators Kyrsten Sinema and Mark Kelly, as well as my Congressman Greg Stanton, must work to address the needs of this growing sector of the workforce. It is long overdue for policymakers to recognize that today’s labor laws and social safety nets are outdated. 

First and foremost, implementing a portable benefits program would be one meaningful way to address this issue. Establishing a portable benefits program will protect millions of independent workers and give them peace of mind in addition to expanding opportunities for people across all demographics, ethnicities, and backgrounds. In the long run, this would help brick and mortar small businesses, restaurants, and retail establishments compete in what has become an increasingly online economy that shows no sign of slowing down.

Independent workers in this space would also benefit tremendously from a portable benefits program. Having access to key items like health insurance, paid family and medical leave, and disability insurance that they can take with them no matter where they work would be a huge improvement that could attract even more people to work in this industry. 

Remaining independent while receiving these types of benefits is an overwhelming popular opinion among current workers as well, according to one poll, by a 4-to-1 margin. Given this large majority, it’s no surprise that recently in California, Proposition 22 passed with over 58% support. This proves even further that allowing independent contractors to stay independent while receiving benefits is wildly popular and is not a partisan issue – it is a pro-worker issue.

The reason that Proposition 22 was so effective and successful can be summed up simply: workers – and those who support workers – in California wanted these crucial independent contractors and app-based earners to be able to keep their flexibility and independence. This is great news for Californians, and now it’s time to focus attention and effort on this issue nationally.

Utilizing the success of Proposition 22 and federalizing the issue would be a huge step forward for workers across the country. Private companies are doing their part to elevate worker standards, and policymakers in Washington must match that enthusiasm.

Nathan Brown is gig economy worker and voter in Congressional District 9