Jul 21, 2022 - News

Report: Crime fell in Washington last year, but violent offenses rose

Frequency of crimes reported in Washington, by crime type, 2021
Data: WASPC; Chart: Baidi Wang/Axios

Violent crime surged across Washington last year, but overall criminal activity fell by nearly 4% statewide, per the latest annual report by the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs (WASPC).

By the numbers: Driven by big drops for certain non-violent offenses — especially drug and fraud — major crime across Washington fell by 3.7%, from 499,084 total offenses reported in 2020 to 480,860 last year, the report from the police executives’ group shows.

  • Overall property crimes fell (-1.8%), as did so-called "crimes against society," (-49%) a category that includes possessing illegal drugs and cruelty to animals.
  • Fraud dropped by 59% last year — primarily due to a 2020 spike in "fraudulent unemployment claims" related to the COVID pandemic, per the WASPC report.

Yes, but: Crimes against persons — a category that encompasses domestic violence — rose 4.1%, and violent crime spiked by 12.3%.

  • Murders increased nearly 6% in 2021, climbing from 307 killings statewide in 2020 to 325 last year.
  • The overall number of reported rapes (+2.5%), aggravated assaults (+16.7%) and robberies (+1.6%) also went up.

Of note: Property crimes made up most major offenses reported in Washington last year (75.1%), followed by crimes against people (21.4%) and crimes against society (3.4%).

At the same time: The number of commissioned cops fell statewide by 495, per the report.

  • That translates to a year-over-year per capita decrease in the number of officers per 1,000 residents from 1.47 in 2020 to 1.38 last year.
  • The national per capita rate of officers per 1,000 residents is 2.33, per the FBI.

What they’re saying: “This is the lowest per capita rate of officers since WASPC began tracking this data in 1980, and is the lowest rate in the nation,” WASPC executive director Steven Strachan said in a statement.

Why it matters: Yearly crime statistics provide a window into the state of public safety, which in turn can impact a variety of issues, from shaping public policy and police budgets to driving residential and business trends.

Yes, but: Some police reform advocates and other critics, including the ACLU, have countered that the Seattle Police Department, which has by far the biggest budget of any city department, hasn’t spent existing resources well.

Background: Seattle-specific crime data included in the WASPC report shows murders in the city dropped 19% last year, falling from 52 in 2020 to 42 in 2020.

  • Reported rapes also decreased 13.6%, from 414 in 2020 to 185 last year.
  • Seattle’s aggravated assaults climbed nearly 26% and robbery spiked by nearly 18%, the report shows.
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