Tucson, Arizona can be a rough town and one group is taking Vice President Joe Biden's advice by raising funds in an effort to provide residents in high crime areas with armed protection.
Tucson residents living in crime-ridden areas could soon receive free shotguns.
Operating on the premise an armed neighborhood is a safer neighborhood, a group led by former mayoral candidate Shaun McClusky is raising money to purchase shotguns and provide training for anyone who lives in a mid- to high-crime neighborhood and can pass a background check.
The project is part of a developing nationwide movement to see if more guns really do translate into less crime.
McClusky said he's bringing the program to Tucson because the City Council has failed to properly fund the Police Department, leaving many residents easy targets for criminals.
"We need to take back our city, and it needs to come back to the citizens and not the criminals," McClusky said. "Right now, the criminal element is winning."
Over the next couple of weeks, McClusky and others will begin spreading leaflets and posting fliers in Midvale Park, Pueblo Gardens and a yet-to-be-determined midtown neighborhood to induce residents to sign up for the program.
McClusky said the shotguns will be single-break-action guns that can hold only one shell. Pump-action shotguns have been considered, but that will depend on cost. For now, each gun will cost $205, which includes a box of ammunition. With the training and background checks included, McClusky estimates it will cost about $350 to $400 per person.
I lived in Tucson for four years. My friends next door had their house broken into three times within a year, the police failed to catch the repeat offenders. My friends on the west side of town had the same problem and while the rest of the country has seen an overall drop in violent crime over the past few years, Tucson has seen the opposite.
Crime statistics over the last three years show a few consistent trends: Convenience store robberies, car thefts, arsons, and dog bites are on the decline - however, domestic violence reports, homicides and bank robberies have increased between 2009 and 2010.
According to statistics available on Tucson Police's website, there were 64 reported homicides in 2008, 32 in 2009, and last year, there were 54.
One of the crimes that has seen a marked decline is motor vehicle thefts: 5687 reported in 2008, 3556 reported in 2009, and 3400 last year. Convenience stores have also seen fewer reported robberies over the years: 141 in 2008, 124 in 2009 and 121 in 2010.
Reported arsons have been on the decline, as well. Between all classifications of arson (residential, business, other structure, vehicle, or other), there were 301 in 2008, 215 in 2009, and just 147 in 2010. Reported dog bites have seen a slight decline over the years, from 116 in 2008 to 102 in 2010.
Calls for Aggravated Assault/Domestic Violence went from 248 in 2009 to 335 in 2010. Bank Robberies almost doubled, from 27 to 42.
Note that these statistics represent only calls received and reports made by the Tucson Police Department in the Tucson/Metro area.