Mall fight was random and isolated; W. Chandler still safe place, PD says

These three young men are suspected of fighting with six others recently at Chandler Fashion Center. The young man in the yellow hoodie is suspected of stabbing three people during the brawl. Anyone with information is asked to call the Chandler Police Department at 480-782-4130.  –Chandler PD photo

When a fight broke out March 12 involving nine young men, including three who were stabbed, at Chandler Fashion Center, it was shocking and horrific for a community not accustomed to this sort of crime.

This is not-in-my-backyard crime.

Was it gang related? No, the Chandler Police Department said.

Did the opposing groups – six on one side, three on the other, including the young man with the knife – know each other? No, Chandler PD said again.

Is it an indication that this type of violent crime, which is more common in other areas of the Valley if you watch TV news, finally is invading Chandler? Or is this a random, isolated incident that drew heavy news-media coverage?

Sgt. Jason McClimans of Chandler PD said that a recent brawl and stabbing involving nine young men at Chandler Fashion Center was random, and that it is safe to shop at the mall and to live in West Chandler. –Chandler PD photo

Sgt. Jason McClimans, a 20-year veteran of the Chandler Police Department, said that those shopping at the mall, 3111 W. Chandler Blvd., just northwest of the Loop 101/Loop 202 interchange, should know that this was random and isolated.

It is safe to shop at the mall and safe to live in West Chandler, he said.

“At our Chandler Fashion Center, seven days a week we have an officer assigned to that mall specifically, as what we refer to as their beat,” McClimans said. “Also on the weekends, on Friday and Saturday nights, the mall hires what we refer to as an extra-duty security officer, which is one of our officers.”

McClimans also noted that across Chandler, including the Desert Breeze Precinct, which serves West Chandler where the mall is located, there has been a 40 percent decrease over the past 10 years in aggravated assault, robbery, sexual assault, homicide, arson, auto theft, auto burglary and general theft. The FBI Uniform Crime Report describes these as Part 1 crimes.

Chandler has experienced rapid population growth.  –Chandler PD graphic

Chandler has experienced rapid population growth, adding roughly 100,000 residents over the past 20 years. Yet statistics from the FBI Uniform Crime Report show that crime actually has declined sharply during that period, from about 11,000 Part 1 crimes in 2000 to fewer than 6,000 in 2020, even as the population increased.

Although Chandler population has increased drastically quickly, the number of crimes in the city has declined during the period of rapid growth. –Chandler PD graphic

“On top of that,” McClimans said, “our response times to Priority 1 calls, which are these Part 1 crimes, those that we need to get there extremely quickly, has decreased in the last two years by almost three minutes, so we are getting to these calls for service to help our residents quicker.”

In West Chandler, which encompasses nine neighborhoods between Interstate 10 and Loop 101 and north of Loop 202 to the Tempe city line, crime seems to be right in the middle of the chart compared to the entire city. Some areas of Chandler have lower crime rates and some have higher. The presence of the mall and other commercial property tends to drive the numbers higher than in residential neighborhoods, crime maps of the area show.

CRIME RATES IN WEST CHANDLER NEIGHBORHOODS

The highest crime rate in West Chandler occurs near heavy commercial development on Chandler Boulevard near Loop 101 and along Interstate 10. Residential neighborhoods experience relatively low crime.  — Neighborhood Scout graphic

Among West Chandler neighborhoods in the very low crime category are Glenview Estates and Corona Village. In the moderate crime range are Alta Mira, Village of Gila Springs, the 56th Street/Chandler Blvd. area and Pepperwood. In the high-crime range are Hightown, where Chandler Fashion Center is located, West Chandler and Prada del Sol.

“Why that is to be expected around the mall is you have a lot of commercial property and businesses. So there’s shoplifting, thefts, vehicle burglaries, financial crimes. We have an influx of calls for service because of that,” McClimans said. “Ninety percent of Part 1 crimes in Chandler are theft cases.”

He pointed out that those are nonviolent crimes.

“We always do our best in all parts of our city to make sure that our residents live in a safe community,” McClimans said. “‘Live, work and thrive,’ that’s our mission statement. Keep everybody safe. People are moving to Chandler because it is a nice community. We have businesses and large corporations moving here.

“We’re always looking to reduce crime in Chandler, and we could not do it without the partnerships of our residents, local community leaders and, of course, our businesses. They are our eyes and ears, and we need for them to give us a call if they see suspicious activity, to identify individuals who are causing crimes or causing problems to get them off the street.”

In Chandler overall, the chance of becoming a victim of violent or property crime is 1 in 44, according to crime reports. Most crimes in West Chandler are residential and commercial burglary, auto theft and general theft. Most occur after dark. There has been roughly one aggravated assault per month during the past year in West Chandler.

“At nighttime, we have 15 to 20 officers working,” McClimans said. “I wish we could be on everybody’s street at one time to make sure crime is at zero percent, but that’s something that can’t happen. So, call us if you see something suspicious so we can get in the neighborhood and take enforcement action if it’s deemed necessary. If you see something, say something. Call us.”

He also recommends following the department’s “Lock it or lose it” campaign to deter overnight vehicle burglary and theft, and a 9 p.m. routine of going outside to check on things.

“Individuals drive down streets or walk down streets and easily open unlocked doors and take valuable items out of vehicles parked on the street or parked in driveways,” McClimans said. “We are seeing an increase of that in Chandler. Remove valuables, lock vehicles.”

The most-common crimes in Chandler are nonviolent: theft and burglary from homes and autos. –Chandler PD graphic

The Chandler Police Department, in an attempt to connect law enforcement with the community to improve public safety, has an online, interactive Community Crime Map at chandlerpd.com/data/crime-maps that allows residents and visitors to input an address and view crime activity for their requested area.

“We try to get everybody involved,” McClimans said. “We want to make sure that information is available to them, whether for work purposes or somebody curious about moving to Chandler. We believe that Chandler is a safe community.”

The department employs 334 sworn officers and 171 civilians, serving a population of nearly 270,000 residents. McClimans said that during his tenure only a handful of officers have left before their retirement dates. There currently are seven openings in the department and recruitment is under way to fill them.

Regarding the mall fight, the department’s investigation is ongoing. Seven of the nine involved have been found and interviewed. No arrests have been made.

Three young men suspected of involvement in a March 12 brawl at Chandler Fashion Center, including the man believed to have stabbed three people, drove off in this gray sedan spotted in a surveillance video. –Chandler PD photo

McClimans confirmed that at about 5:30 p.m. on March 12, two groups of young men, believed to be ages 18 to 22, exchanged words on the lower northwest level inside the mall, which escalated into a fist fight.

One of the young men, wearing a yellow hooded sweatshirt, gray sweat pants, sandals and a white face mask, took out a knife and stabbed three men, McClimans said.

“This was not a knife fight like you would see on television or in a movie,” McClimans said. “There was just one person who was armed with a knife. We haven’t gotten down to the exact words that were exchanged that led to the fight because we have not been able to locate everybody involved.”

After the brawl, three participants, including the man with the knife, ran outside to a gray four-door sedan and drove off, according to McClimans. One of them was wearing a red, hooded sweatshirt, red shorts, black sandals and a white face mask. The other was wearing a white-and-dark-blue striped shirt, dark face mask and red, beanie-type hat.

Others, including the three who were stabbed, ran through the mall seeking help.

Anyone with information is asked to call the Chandler Police Department at 480-782-4130.

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CHANDLER POLICE DEPARTMENT

Desert Breeze Substation in West Chandler

251 N. Desert Breeze Blvd.

Emergency: 911

Information: 480-782-4800

Public Hours: Monday-Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Closed holidays.

Downtown Main Headquarters

250 E. Chicago St.

Emergency: 911

Information: 480-782-4000

Public Hours: 24 hours, every day. Open holidays.

— Source: Chandler Police Department

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