Feb 9, 2023 - News

Crime ticked upward in Seattle in 2022

Illustration of a number sign made out of crime scene tape.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

Year-end data from the Seattle Police Department shows the city's rate of crime rose slightly last year — but the number of homicides still trailed the 26-year record set in 2020.

State of play: The yearly crime stats are often cited as evidence that Seattle is getting increasingly dangerous, but the picture from 2022 was a bit more nuanced.

Driving the news: The violent crime rate in the city increased by about 1% year over year, according to the year-end report the Seattle Police Department released Tuesday.

  • The rate takes into account changes in population.
  • Violent crime is a catch-all category that includes robberies, assaults, rapes and homicides.
  • The rate of property crime also rose by roughly 1%.

By the numbers: The total number of homicides last year — 52 — is down from the 53 recorded in 2020.

  • But it's still more than double the number from 2016, when the police reported only 20 homicides for the year.
  • It's also 10 more homicides than the city saw in 2021, per police data.

Plus: Police noted vehicle thefts in 2022 were far higher than the average over the previous five years.

The big picture: Nationwide, homicides spiked during the first year of the pandemic, with the national murder rate rising 30% in 2020 over 2019, according to FBI statistics.

What they're saying: "Every major city across the nation is experiencing this uptick in crime," Sgt. John O'Neil, a Seattle Police Department spokesperson, told Axios.

  • At the same time, O'Neil said having fewer officers on the streets doesn't help. At the start of 2020, the Seattle Police Department had 1,290 officers in service. By mid-2022, that number had fallen to 956, according to a city presentation from August.
  • Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell is aiming to hire hundreds more police officers over the next two years, in part by offering bonuses of up to $30,000 for new hires.
  • The mayor also is trying to repeal a state law that blocks cities from enacting local gun control measures, so that Seattle could pass "commonsense gun safety laws" to respond to rising shootings, Harrell spokesperson Jamie Housen told Axios.

Context: Many other cities with populations comparable to Seattle (population 733,919 in 2021) had far more homicides in 2022.

The bottom line: Overall, U.S. homicide rates are still lower than they were in the 1990s, and Seattle's number of homicides trailed similar cities in 2022.

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