Deadly trend: Tucson’s homicide rate continues to climb

KMSB News 9-10 p.m. recurring
Updated: Jun. 16, 2021 at 11:29 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) -Tucson is experiencing a sharp increase in homicides. This deadly trend is also being seen in major cities across the country.

“We have had approximately 35 homicides year-to-date,” said Lt. Corey Doggett, who is the commander of the Tucson Police Department’s (TPD) Violent Crimes Unit. “That’s 11 more than the same time last year.”

Lt. Doggett says last year’s numbers were also up from 2019.

“We could surpass 80 to 100 [homicides in 2021] if the trend continues,” he said.

According to the executive director of Homicide Survivors, James Gierke, these violent crimes have far reaching impacts.

“On average, each homicide affects 10 direct family members,” Gierke said.

His nonprofit organization offers legal, financial and emotional support services.

“To date, we’ve seen an increase of over 80% in requests for our services,” Gierke said.

That’s 280 new clients since January 1, 2021. It’s why Homicide Survivors is in desperate need of donations.

So, what’s causing Tucson’s spike in cases?

“It’s a difficult question to answer because the motivations that lead to a person committing a homicide are obviously not always explained through an investigation, even through an arrest,” Lt. Doggett said.

Lt. Doggett believes population density may be a factor. However, he says it’s hard to tell if the pandemic has played a role in the homicide rate.

Gierke says the pandemic has, without a doubt, caused further harm to grieving families.

“Access to resources has been impacted,” said Gierke. “Because of COVID, the courts have been shut down. So, there is a significant backlog in cases. Before COVID, it would be maybe on average 2 years for a homicide to be prosecuted. Right now, we have no idea what those time frames might be.”

The rise in cases coupled with short staffing has meant reallocating resources. Officers from robbery and assault divisions are now helping with homicides. Tucson police have also stepped up patrols in high-crime areas.

“They are trying to focus in on those as well as the – I use the term “bad actors” – to try to identify those people to prevent the escalation of violence,” Lt. Doggett said.

TPD is above the national homicide “clearance rate” (essentially, murders that have been solved) at more than 80%.

“I love Tucson and I believe it’s a safe city,” said Lt. Doggett. “But we do have bad actors.”

He says the community is key in closing cases. Installing surveillance cameras on homes and businesses is one way to help.

“If we can have our community – even if it’s not directly with us, if it’s 88-CRIME - give an anonymous tip, that kind of information is invaluable,” Lt. Doggett said.

Here is a list of unsolved homicides this year:

As of June 16, an arrest has not been made in the fatal shooting at West Ohio Street on May 31. TPD is asking the public for help identifying the suspect. LINK:

As of June 16, no charges have been laid in the fatal shooting at 5950 South Park Avenue on May 16. Andres Joseph Mori, 36, was shot after getting into a physical confrontation with neighbors. LINK:

As of June 16, we are waiting for an arrest to be made in a homicide at Kennedy Park on April 13. Police are asking for information on the case. LINK:

As of June 16, TPD considers the double fatal shooting on South Forgeus on March 10 an “open case.” Anyone with information is asked to come forward. LINK:

The Pima County Sheriff’s Department (PCSD) has seen a decrease in homicides, with 7 so far this year compared to 9 the same time last year.

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