Capitol Hill 2013 crime totals — just as likely to get beat up, more likely to get robbed, burgled

The 10th/Pine scene of Capitol Hill's lone recorded 2013 homicide -- There were no charges in an incident said to have been an accidental shooting (Image: CHS)

The 10th/Pine scene of Capitol Hill’s lone recorded 2013 homicide — There were no charges in an incident said to have been an accidental shooting (Image: CHS)

A CHS analysis of the first seven months of reported crimes on Capitol Hill will fuel the debate over public safety in Seattle — and leave you scratching your head at the oddest of coincidences.

In the first seven months of 2013, the overall total for crimes in five main categories — assaults, robberies, burglaries, thefts, vehicle thefts — in the four East Precinct beats that cover most of Capitol Hill, are *exactly* the same as the tally recorded through July in 2012 — a flat-footed tie, 1,797 to 1,797.Screen Shot 2013-09-13 at 5.53.17 AM

It’s the kind of big numbers thing that will leave an editor poring through the spreadsheet to find a mistaken copy and paste or a broken formula. Our count stands.

It’s the mix of tallied crimes and the way the trends have played out through the year that will likely fuel the political debate. The trends we identified in our 2013 first quarter crime analysis strengthened into the summer — by August, Mayor Mike McGinn was throwing cash and a few creative solutions like leaving the lights on at Cal Anderson at the problem.

Now, with the help from the Seattle Times, mayoral challenger Ed Murray is accusing the current administration of allowing crime to override the city’s downtown. The Stranger has responded with a numbers battle attempting to show the measured reality of the crime situation.

The downtown chamber of commerce wants to drag Capitol Hill into the fight:

This problem is not limited to Downtown, but is occurring in other neighborhood business districts in Seattle.  Areas of Capitol Hill are experiencing similar increases in violent crime.  In fact, the Charlie 2 police beat in the East Precinct, which encompasses The Stranger’s offices and areas north of Pike Street between 15th and Broadway, experienced the highest number of reported violent crimes of any month since 2008.  This increase is more than a simple uptick in incidents.  Reported incidents of violent crime in Charlie 2  in July are nearly double the number experienced in any single month over the previous six years.

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Unfortunately, though it is examining a classic “small sample size” situation, the Downtown Seattle Association is correct. Charlie 2 appears to have fallen into a bit of a mess with a more than 32% increase in reported assaults and robberies through July masked in its overall total by drops in other categories.

You can see that, when it comes to the most serious categories of crimes, C2 is not alone in its robbery problem:

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C2, of course, is home to Cal Anderson Park. At least part of the area’s robbery-fueled “crime problem” may have been solved by the case against this trio now playing out in court.

Meanwhile, it seems irresponsible to leave a jump like a doubling of reported burglaries in the E2 sector un-noted.

But when it comes to the totals for all types of crime, things look much less desperate. Here are the trends for each of the four main East Precinct beats covering Capitol Hill — the baby blue trendline represents 2013’s totals in each of the charts. Only E1 shows an unprecedented spike — fueled, in a bit of irony, by rises in reported burglaries and vehicle thefts.Screen Shot 2013-09-13 at 5.48.50 AM

Meanwhile, the most violent of violent crime categories also show stability if not improvement. There have been two rapes reported in the areas covered through the first seven months — in 2012, the total by July had grown to seven. Both periods also recorded the same number of homicides — one. A young man died after being shot at 10th and Pine this July. The King County Prosecutor has not charged the shooter in the incident said to have been the result of an accident. In the debate over public safety, the incidents are reduced to numbers and added to the totals. Tick off another eight for 2012, three for 2013.

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21 thoughts on “Capitol Hill 2013 crime totals — just as likely to get beat up, more likely to get robbed, burgled

    • That’s funny, I always thought that was a Vancouver thing since I’ve seen it there for years but that explains it, NYC. I always wondered, why bother cleaning a windshield when it’s raining? :D

  1. We’ve officially hit silly season – that wonderful time between Labor Day and Election Day when politicos stretch reality beyond the breaking point in order to tack a swing at the other guy.

    Fact is, trying to tease out a “trend” from month-to-month or even single YoY crime stats is a fool’s errand. Month to month, and even year to year, crime rates (and the subcategory statistics within the overall rate) has a LOT of statistical noise. Do this mean there haven’t been more robberies near Cal Anderson this year than last? Of course not.

    BUT – and this is far more critical – it does NOT mean there is any evidence of an “ohmergahdwereallgonnadie” problem. You should have just stopped at the the “small sample size” statement. Because that’s the whole ballgame right there. Indeed, it IS an incredibly small sample size – and therefore proof of pretty much…nothing.

    Its the kind of statistical “evidence’ that Nate Silver (formerly of the NY Times) would skewer up like a Beni Hana chef in his sleep. The Downtown Seattle Association hasn’t proved anything – except that it will say anything on behalf of its chosen candidate.

    That said, its silly season. I expect in two weeks McGinn will have his own poppycock issue to scream about. Election day can’t come soon enough.

    • These are NOT small numbers – depending on the hypothesis and analysis method (n=30 is equivalent to infinity in many practical circumstances).

      That said, it doesn’t make sense to be parsing the numbers the way many are doing so. There are many many factors influencing the occurrence, reporting, and coding of crimes and more variables are necessary to produce a sensible analysis and interpretation.

      One thing that stands out to me: statistics will only take you so far. If there was a dramatic increase in murders but it was gang members shooting other gang members no one would much care. If there were a decrease in robberies but the targets were young women and their purses rather than drug dealers and their stashes some might yet express greater concern. That is, the specifics matter.

  2. Having lived on the Hill since the mid 70’s I have observed that these fluctuations in statistics are just that–fluctuations. This too shall pass. In a year the statistics will decline with no reason. But I believe there is a reason. One must examine similar stats from areas surrounding the Capitol Hill overlay. My theory’s that SPD is responsible. By that I mean police emphasis patrols and initiatives push crime from area to area. We have seen these upswings before, when SPD pushes crime out of downtown, or from First Hill. When crime stats rise here, the police will conduct greater patrols, and the chronic offenders will move along, for a while.

  3. Very good reporting! Much more accurate than the Stranger and Dom’s article. Of course Justin is always on top of it for this area! These statistics are real to our area and we need to do something about them – hello McGinn / Police / etc.

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  5. Regarding robberies, it seems likely that one or two groups of individuals that are robbing a number of individuals could be pushing this number up. Haven’t we heard of a series of similar robberies from similar individuals in Cal Anderson Park this year? It does seem this increase in crime is real, but rather than a broad-based approach toward policing the park, wouldn’t catching those particular individuals improve crime more efficiently?

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  7. What is further interesting is that for his response to the Downtown Association Dominic Holden has closed his article in the Slog to comments.

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