Violent crime surged in the Phoenix area last year for the first time in several years, but it is still much lower than five years ago, reports the Arizona Republic. The uptick contradicts a 3.8 percent drop nationally in violent crime. “I’m wondering if this is a statistical quirk,’’ said criminologist Jack Levin of Northeastern University. “When you see an area where the crime rate goes down dramatically you can almost always predict an increase. There is a ground floor and you may have reached it. You shouldn’t be surprised by an increase.’’
Local police have no universally accepted theory on the increase but cite such factors as the growth of synthetic drugs and the economic downturn. Several police agencies said the 2011 statistics cannot help but look bad compared with 2010, which were among the lowest on record. "When you have historic lows that are tremendously down, at some point you are going to see a leveling out or an uptick,’’ said Sgt. Tony Landato, a Mesa police spokesman. He cited the growth in the use of synthetic drugs, which often leads to irrational behavior and more violent contact between criminals and police, as a contributing factor.