A record number of murders. Thousands more cars stolen. Domestic violence a factor in nearly half of the crimes against people.
And fewer police officers on the beat – the fewest per capita in the nation.
These are among the findings in the annual Crime in Washington report which paints a distressing picture of a rise in lawlessness in many communities across the state in 2022.
“Overall, where are we? The news is not good,” said Steve Strachan, executive director of the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs, which collects and publishes the data each year.
A top Democratic state lawmaker said last year’s numbers are concerning but there are signs the rise in crime is subsiding in 2023.
The nearly 600-page report compiles data submitted by 231 state, county, municipal, and tribal agencies to the Washington State Uniform Crime Reporting Program, which the association manages. Crimes are tallied statewide and by communities.
There were 394 people murdered in 2022, the most in a one-year span since the association began collecting the data in 1980. That’s up from 338 in 2021 – the previous high – and nearly double the 205 total of 2019.
A handful of cities accounted for much of the increase. Seattle, for example, recorded 54 slayings, 11 more than in 2021. Elsewhere, the largest increases occurred in Tacoma (10), Everett (8) and Auburn (6).
The surge comes as metropolitan areas elsewhere in the U.S. are reporting a drop in the number of murders and violent crimes.
“That is not what we see in the state of Washington,” Strachan said.
Statewide, of those slain, nearly one-quarter, 84, were Black, a disproportionately large number given Black people comprise less than 5% of the state’s population, according to U.S. Census figures.
Another striking statistic found firearms used in 7,216 violent crimes in 2022 compared to 5,665 in 2021 and 2,318 in 2019.
Domestic violence offenses made up 45.9% of all crimes against persons, a category that includes murder, rape, kidnapping, assault and incest. Of 61,682 domestic violence incidents reported, 14,553 were violations of court-issued protection or no contact orders.
Statewide, 47,448 motor vehicles were stolen last year, 12,000 more than in 2021. Overall, crimes against people, property and society all increased, according to the number-filled report.
“All of those numbers represent victims,” Strachan said.
Rep. Roger Goodman, D-Kirkland, chair of the Washington State Legislature’s Community Safety, Justice and Reentry Committee, said he plans to hold a public hearing this fall on state and national crime trends. By then it may be clearer if the surge experienced in Washington and around the country during the pandemic era is declining.
“There’s reason to be concerned about these numbers, in particular the incidents of violent crime with a firearm,” he said. “There’s also reason to be hopeful with what we’re seeing in the 2023 numbers. We are beginning to see the post-pandemic disruption in the rearview mirror and the spike in crime is one of them.”
In the meantime, Washington continued to have the lowest number of officers per 1,000 residents in the country, Strachan said.
There were 10,666 full-time commissioned officers last year, 70 fewer than 2021, in spite of departments conducting aggressive recruiting campaigns complete with signing bonuses and other hiring incentives.
Washington’s average of 1.12 officers per 1,000 residents shown in the report is below every other state and Washington D.C., Strachan said, adding the national per capita average is 2.31 per 1,000.
Some agencies are making progress attracting good candidates. New regional training academies will help speed up the hiring process, he said.
“But there are still too many agencies treading water,” Strachan said. “It will take years for us to turn the corner.”
Meanwhile, 2,375 assaults on officers occurred last year reflecting what Strachan said was “more people willing to confront and attack law enforcement.”
— By Jerry Cornfield, Washington State Standard
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