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Why isn’t Capitol Hill more afraid of crime?

The 33,000 or so residents and countless more visitors on Capitol Hill have experienced a reported violent crime like homicides, rape, robbery, and assault every day on average in 2018.

In Ballard, the rate of violent crime has been about half of busy Capitol Hill’s pace.

But residents of Capitol Hill and its East Precinct neighbors — First Hill, Montlake, the Central District, Madison Park, and the nearby — express less fear than their northern neighbors who this year topped the charts with their anxiety about Seattle crime.

The results of the Public Safety Survey (PDF) conducted annually by Seattle University show that perception doesn’t necessarily match reality when it comes to policing Seattle. From the Seattle Times:

Overall, Seattleites rate their fear of crime at 45.4 out of 100. That number averages out a lower fear rating in daylight hours and a higher fear at night. The report also includes data for 59 city neighborhoods, and it shows that the level of fear varies widely among them — from lowest to highest, there’s a spread of 22 points. That’s to be expected. After all, you’re much more likely to be a victim of crime in, say, downtown’s Belltown neighborhood than you are in quiet, affluent Magnolia — crime statistics bear that out. But here’s where it gets interesting: According to Seattle University’s survey, it’s Magnolia — not Belltown — where the fear of crime is higher, and by more than 4 points.

Check out the map details at the Seattle Times here

In its analysis, the Seattle Times reports an annual crime rate of 88 crimes per 1,000 people for Capitol Hill — one of the highest rates in the city. But, in this year’s survey, Capitol Hill respondents showed less concern than average about the situation:

Capitol Hill’s neighbors also seem to have a “low fear” mentality:

The expert the Times consulted chalks the results up to “mean world syndrome” — a belief that “the world is a much more dangerous place than it actually is” driven by the consumption of, we’re sad to say, media. Reading about individual crimes, you can assume, adds up to perceptions that overwhelm any statistics and even personal experience.

But there seems to be a few holes in that theory right here on Broadway, at the corner of 10th and Pike, and along 15th Ave E. Same with the neighbors around 23rd and Union or over on First Hill.

If Ballard and the other fearful neighborhoods are suffering from “mean world” beliefs, why don’t Capitol Hill residents — and most of their neighbors — suffer from the same syndrome?

You can view the full 2017 report here (PDF) — more takeaways including some top concerns for the East Precinct neighborhood respondents, below.

You can view the latest SPD crime statistics for Capitol Hill and East Precinct on the Capitol Hill Crime Dashboard2018’s trendline is that squiggly right in the middle of the pack. Try not to freak out.

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17 thoughts on “Why isn’t Capitol Hill more afraid of crime?

  1. I think the short, simple, answer is that the definition of “crime” varies quite a lot from area to area. Graffiti in one neighborhood may be reported way more than here on our Hill. Crime vs nuisance.

  2. I’d argue it’s demographics: Magnolia’s population skews older and more suburban, Cap Hill’s skews younger and denser.

    Pardon me for painting with a broad brush, but older people in more suburban areas will tend to stay inside and watch TV more, which means more exposure to local news. More exposure to local news means more fear of crime. They see fewer people every day and more stories about crime, so some lazy mental shortcuts makes them think it’s very common.

    People in cap hill see less local news, and more people, so the reverse is true.

  3. Less serious, “nuisance” crimes (graffiti, littering, homeless camping, drug use, etc.) may not be a threat to life and limb, but they certainly affect how one feels about their neighborhood. I still like living on Capitol Hill, but less so than 20 years ago.

    • 20+ years ago I was working nights and weekends at Hollywood Video. Capitol Hill and Seattle at large have become a very risky place to be walking at night.

      • Fifteen years ago, I got attacked in front of Dicks, and had a fistfight with a high schooler. Later I found out he had a gun and basically committed suicide by cop not 10 minutes after that.

        Now I’m more worried about being accosted by a project manager who wants me to attend a story pointing meeting. Capitol Hill feels way safer than it used to to me.

  4. I’m not sure about your immediate surroundings, but compared to 20 years ago, where I am is still better…. We had a lot of open drug dealing and prostitution going on that is gone. While now we may be seeing another uptick in bad behaviors, it still pales in comparison with what we used to see I guess…

    • And it’s a growing city. Some crime goes with the territory. But I moved here from the NYC area so maybe I’m just tempered a little differently.

  5. I know that I feel safer from crime in an apartment than I do in a detached house. I wonder if neighborhood density makes people feel safer.

  6. Because there isn’t a lot of Crime here for a growing city.

    An old lady spraying cars for going to fast made your “crime” blotter so yeah.

  7. Maybe it was all in my head, but I felt safer on Capitol Hill 20 years ago than I do now. I still feel safe in my neighborhood (though maybe I shouldn’t), but Broadway, Pike, and Pine, and even 15th Ave definitely feel less safe now to me than they did 20 years ago.

  8. I moved to Capitol Hill from Anchorage about a year ago. Compared to there, Capitol Hill is basically a utopia.

  9. Cap hill is really safe unless you walk through the park at 3 a.m. or I guess are a straight male? I’d assume that most of the calls are for the urchins creeping and I think most of us can ignore their bullshit but maybe I’m wrong…

  10. For a city this size, our violent crime rate is exceedingly low and seldom random. I have an early work schedule, so I am typically walking to work at 6AM and in bed by 10PM, which means I miss the peak hours for violent crime. I also have no business in the Pike/Pine corridor during the weekend. Apart from the junkies shooting up in the alley behind my apartment, I see very little crime in this neighborhood.

    Having grown up on the East Coast around cities half this size, with twice the murder rate, Seattle feels rather safe to me.

    I, like other commenters, would hazard to assume that demographics in other neighborhoods tend to skew more suburban-minded and therefore tend to have a more timid outlook on the realities of urban life.

    • It’s also worth mentioning that Ballard is only recently dealing with a homeless encampment that almost assuredly skews their perception of crime and safety in this city.