Jul 11, 2023 - News

Murders rose in Washington state in 2022, report says

Illustration of crime tape forming an upward arrow.

Illustration: Maura Losch/Axios

The murder rate in Washington state rose about 15% from 2021 to 2022, approaching levels not seen since the mid-1990s, according to a new crime report released Monday. But the rate of murders still trailed the historic high set in 1994.

Driving the news: The annual crime report from the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs (WASPC) found that 394 people were murdered statewide in 2022.

  • That's up from 338 in 2021.
  • It's also higher than the 297 murders recorded statewide in 1994, which for years held the record for the highest number of annual murders — until it was surpassed in 2020.

Yes, but: Accounting for the state's change in population, the rate of murders per 1,000 people remained lower last year than it was back then.

  • The murder rate in Washington was about 0.050 per 1,000 people in 2022, compared to about 0.056 per 1,000 in 1994.

Plus: Car thefts, robberies and aggravated assaults also rose last year compared to 2021, according to the new report.

What they're saying: Steve Strachan, WASPC's executive director, told reporters Monday that the rise in murders from 2021 to 2022 is especially concerning given that the number of working law enforcement officers has declined in recent years.

  • He noted that in 1994, when the murder rate was at its highest, the state had a higher ratio of officers to residents than it does today.
  • That means today's police departments have "less ability to provide justice for victims," he said, including fewer resources for investigating crimes.

Of note: One possible bright spot in the report was a decline in the number of reported hate crimes.

  • In 2021, 592 hate crime incidents were reported statewide. In 2022, the number was 544.

The big picture: State Rep. Roger Goodman (D-Kirkland), who chairs the House Community Safety, Justice, & Reentry Committee, told Axios that the pandemic brought on a rise in crime nationwide, not just in Washington state — including in places that have higher levels of police staffing.

What's next: Goodman said he plans to hold a committee hearing in the fall examining statewide crime trends, which he hopes will include more data from 2023.


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