Hill’s biggest crime problems compared to the rest of Seattle: Booze and drugs? Yup, Car prowls? No

This is the first in a series of CHS updates on Capitol Hill’s crime trends. With a string of street robbery activity through the summer, we’re hoping to help provide deeper perspective on the Hill’s crimes and to understand better what is happening on the streets around us. One thing we are not doing is trying to analyze whether things like Q-Patrol are or are not needed. With attacks like this always a possibility as long as there is evil on the planet, there is always a need for good people to lend a hand.

Our next look at the latest numbers is probably the least conventional approach we’ll take to examine the statistics. To start, we’re not really even going to consider trends or monthly fluctuations. Instead, we’ve culled the dataset collected by SeattleCrime.com of Seattle Police Department dispatches for Capitol Hill and the entire city. This three-month sample records every reported crime for our neighborhoods and the rest of the city of Seattle. Examining Capitol Hill crime category totals in relation to the full city data can show which types of crimes get reported on Capitol Hill at unusually high or low levels. Here’s a look at the broad category view.


The first takeaway in this is that drug crimes and peace crimes like noise disturbances are over-represented on the Hill. We have the highest percentages of the city’s totals for those two broad categories. Meanwhile, violent crimes like assault and street robberies, are ever so slightly under-represented — our average crime level compared to the city is 6.1%. By the way, fire and medical aren’t crime categories — we’ve included roll-ups of Seattle Fire 911 dispatches because, well, we were curious to see what they showed. Turns out we have far fewer medical callouts than you might expect. Given our relatively youthful population compared to other parts of the city, this isn’t a big surprise but the gap is bigger than you might expect. We also can’t really explain the small representation of the Capitol Hill area in reported sex-related crimes in the period. Perhaps we’re just not as likely to call 911 when we witness lewd behavior.

Digging to the next level of the dataset and looking at the specific crimes that make up each category will shine more light on some of the more immediate questions about the seeming increase in violent crimes like street robberies this summer. Here’s a look at Capitol Hill’s representation in city crime totals by specific crime.

Capitol Hill’s biggest crime problem compared to the rest of Seattle? Crimes involving animals including cruelty and things like failure to control. It’s a small citywide category and our 3-month sample might have outdoor bias that will get worked down over time as more people are cruel to their animals, etc. indoors elsewhere in the city but, in the meantime, the Cal Anderson canine crews are helping to contribute to nearly 30% of the city’s animal related crime. We’re also incredibly busy reporting suspicious persons, it seems. The only hypothesis we can come up with for this one is that neighborhoods with residential components close to the city center are more likely to produce a large amount of suspicious persons reports. We’d have to isolate the numbers for an area like Belltown to (maybe) learn more.

As for the rest of the categories, we’re also producing a bigger chunk than expected of everything from fraud on up in the bar chart above, this includes both unarmed and armed robbery. We’re actually below the overall 6.1% value on muggings (strong arm robbery), however. As dangerous as Capitol Hill’s streets might seem, muggings are a relatively smaller problem, according to this dataset. But just in case you were considering relaxing, that 7.9% datapoint for the percentage of robberies involving weapons that Capitol Hill is responsible for should keep you on your toes.

Another set of surprisingly low line items are Capitol Hill’ burglary totals for both residential and commercial break-ins. We “only” report 5.3% of the city’s residential burglaries and an even smaller 3.9% of the city’s commercial rip-offs. According to the SPD dispatch data, the Hill is also under-represented when it comes to shoplifting with our businesses only producing 2.6% of the city’s reports on sticky finger action.

That example and others like car prowls coming in at only 4% might give you a new perspective on the pains — and dangers — of living in the city’s core. Many of our problems are not as unique to Capitol Hill as it might seem — especially when you come outside to find a pile of broken glass on the ground outside your car or your bicycle’s lock clipped.

Here’s one more way to look at the data. Identifying what is ‘special’ about Capitol Hill crime categories is useful but it exaggerates our anomalies. Here’s a simpler view that reveals what types of crime are most common on the Hill on a day to day basis. The values below represent per-day averages during the 3-month sample. If you see cops responding to a callout on Capitol Hill, chances are they’re responding to a report of theft or, yes, one of those lovely car prowls. While, we’re not unusual in our issues with car prowls, we do produce a solid volume of reports given our population and the prevalence of the crime in the city. Does that make the prowling one of our big problems? We’ll stick to our position and say no — given the comparison with city data, our prowl situation isn’t that bad.

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7 thoughts on “Hill’s biggest crime problems compared to the rest of Seattle: Booze and drugs? Yup, Car prowls? No

  1. Fyi, I walk my dogs every day in the Washington Park Arboretum and I’ve noticed many many car breakins lately in the parking lot across the street and just north of the Japanese Gardens. It seems like every few days I see a new pile of window glass on the ground plus I’ve seen 2 broken car windows while I was parked in the lot… just in the past month. So don’t leave stuff in your car in plain sight because there’s definitely a spree going on down there. I doubt many of these get reported to the police. Just saying.

  2. Regarding the shoplifting: many vendors and business on Capitol Hill participate in the Retail Theft Program; where shoplifters/thieves are processed civilly. The only time those folks usually call 911 is if the shoplifter/thief is acting really goofy, or if they don’t have identification…thne the police are called to verify the person’s identity so they can be processed through retail theft.

  3. …or people decide to paint it over on their own instead of getting a fine from the city. Just because people aren’t calling 911 to report vandalism or tagging is not proof that it isn’t a problem…just that perhaps it’s not worthy a call to 911 in the vandalism victim’s eyes.

  4. That’s because no one reports tagging to the police. The police couldn’t care less about graffiti, they don’t have the man power to address real crimes as it is. At least that’s what the officer told me when I reported tagging on my property when I first moved into my house. I have a garage that gets tagged about every 2-3 months and I just paint over it and forget about it now.