One year in, Tucson Police Chief Chad Kasmar talks about successes, shortfalls

Tucson Police Chief Chad Kasmar said gun violence and traffic crashes are some of the biggest problems facing the department.
Published: Feb. 6, 2023 at 7:38 PM MST|Updated: Feb. 6, 2023 at 10:27 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (13 News) - It’s been a year since Chad Kasmar stepped into the top spot.

13 News was the first to interview him in 2022 to discuss his plans for the department,

He once again gave us a candid snapshot of his first year leading the men and women in blue who keep Tucson streets safe.

Chief Investigative Report Valerie Cavazos asked Kasmar how the first year went.

“Still excited to come to work on Mondays,” he said. “(And) that is half the battle.”

When asked if he accomplished what he wanted, he was brutally honest.

“I feel it was a really productive first year, but I certainly didn’t accomplish what I set out to,” he said.

Kasmar took over just as homicides spiked at a record high in 2021.

He said gun violence had trended to a five-year high.

“So violent crime in our city has decreased about 5 percent,” he said. “That’s the good news. Homicides also decreased about that number. Also the good news, but the bad news is that we saw a 20% increase of gun crime -- non-fatal gun crime incidents.”

According to data from the TPD, there were 870 incidents.

Kasmar said he deployed evidence-based strategies in three specific key areas -- apartment buildings on Dodge Boulevard, Cambell Avenue and 22nd Street.

He said he then studied their effectiveness.

“At those sites specifically -- we’ve seen specifically a 20 to 50 percent reduction in gun crime,” he said.

When asked if he was happy with the progress, Kasmar said more needs to be done on the community level in Tucson.

“I won’t sit here and tell you and the community I’m happy while our homicide rate is higher than San Diego,” he said. “Our accessibility to guns, our sustained short fuse in this town, what used to be just a disagreement ends in gun violence.

“Those are community problems, those are conversations that need to be happening in households, guns need to be secured, that’s not a political statement or request.”

Kasmar also talked about pedestrian deaths, which have been on the rise.

He had vowed a year ago to reduce the rate of pedestrians killed, something he was passionate about.

“My goal is to work with the community to reduce traffic fatalities so no, I absolutely did not achieve it,” he admitted.

A record-high number of people died in crashes in the city last year. It was just under 100, and that includes all types of accidents. It was nearly double the count the previous year.

Kasmar said the spike in pedestrian deaths was primarily fueled by jaywalkers under the influence of primarily meth, fentanyl and alcohol.

He said to combat the increased fatalities, he placed more officers in the trouble spots all over the city using $800,000 in state funds to pay for overtime and equipment.

“The police department plays a role and I’m proud of all of our team members out in the field and our motor units who had just over 30,000 contacts, about 6,000 of those were warnings and the rest were citations,” he said. “So one of the ways we try to modify behavior is through conversation and sometimes that means enforcement.”

But it wasn’t enough to drop the rate of deaths.

Kasmar realized the conversation has to involve the community and he said he’s working to get every driver’s attention by ramping up awareness through public safety announcements.

“We look at the mapping on this,” he said. “It’s not just happening in one part of town, it’s really spread throughout the entire city.”

And covering all the trouble spots can spread his department thin, which he’s fighting to manage while facing a continued staffing shortage.