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As more Seattle Police officers are moved onto streets, 2020 crime stats show citywide dip — even near the ‘Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone’

The COVID-19 crisis and restrictions have had a chilling effect on one key factor to quality of life across Capitol Hill, the Central District, and Seattle — crime in the city has dropped, according to the Seattle Police Department’s own statistics.

Interim Chief Adrian Diaz’s first action in his new job was announcing a move of more officers to patrol to speed up 911 response across the city after a summer of complaints over slow arrivals and unavailability of officers due to staffing issues related to the summer’s ongoing protests and demonstrations. Starting today, some 100 officers were slated to be reassigned from speciality units to bolster the city’s 911 patrols.

They’ll likely be welcomed by residents and business owners frustrated by slow 911 wait times. But the numbers don’t match the complaints. Crime across all categories tracked by SPD was down nearly 12% across the city through August in comparison to the last two years of data.

Tables showing all crime category totals — Sea Stat plus every other category SPD tracks — for the city and in the East Precinct

In the East Precinct including Capitol Hill and the Central District, despite the massive influx of protesters, demonstrators, and campers during months of unrest and the CHOP occupied protest, crime is down 4% through August so far in 2020. In June during the height of CHOP, crime — including everything from animal cruelty to street robberies — dropped a whopping 14% from recent years across the precinct.

Why the disconnect between what happened and some of the messages around SPD’s patrol and staffing issues? SPD’s Sea Stat crime analytics are focused on a subset of the city’s crime categories ranging across the major issues like burglary, auto theft, assaults, and robberies. That Sea Stat prism tells a different story — in part.

In Seattle in 2020, Sea Stat crimes are down — but only 8% compared to the 12% total for the all-category count. And in the East Precinct, the Sea Stat view reveals one of SPD’s concerns — Sea Stat’s core crimes climbed 12% through August in the East Precinct, according to SPD’s reporting.

Seattle: SPD’s Sea Stat trend for all crime categories

East Precinct: SPD’s Sea Stat trend for all crime categories

But you shouldn’t blame the protests and you can’t blame CHOP. Monthly trends of the Sea Stat numbers show that the climb in reported key crimes in the East Precinct was underway from the start of the year and actually returned closer to recent normal levels starting in June — again, when CHOP was at its height.

Monthly Sea Stat numbers show a spike in those East Precinct crimes was underway to start the year

As for “normal” levels of crime, there are lots of ways to slice it. But, remember, most analysis agrees that the country’s crime rate continues to drop.

Another aspect of CHOP and complaints about the protests has been concern about property damage like vandalism and graffiti. Those numbers are, indeed, on the rise across the East Precinct. Mapping the 2020 data, however, shows an interesting aspect. The most frequent area for complaints so far in 2020 was lower on the Hill near downtown — not in the East Precinct beat covering Cal Anderson and near the East Precinct.

Meanwhile, that central core of the Hill clearly shows the highest 2020 concentration of crimes categorized as “violent” including homicides — five so far in 2020 compared to six all of last year — and assaults. But property crime reports are actually spread fully across Capitol Hill and the Central District. And while the neighborhood’s richest enclaves may worry the most about burglary, any anxiety about break-ins in 2020 should be concentrated along the Hill’s northeaster edge above I-5.

Starting today under Chief Diaz’s direction, there will be more police on Seattle’s streets. Many will applaud the move with hopes of a decrease in crime and street disorder. Mayor Jenny Durkan is also laying out changes for the force after the City Council’s push on SPD budget cuts and increased spending on social programs in the 2020 city budget. Durkan announced this week she’ll  “move forward on bargaining out of order layoffs of 70 Seattle Police Department (SPD) sworn officers,  suspend all the work of the Navigation Team charged with clearing encampments through the end of the year, and “move forward on funding community-based programs that provide alternatives to policing.” With those changes, many will worry about a rise in crime.

What is more likely, the numbers show, is that Seattle’s crime trends involve much larger, harder to control forces like infection rates, social contact, and employment. There is little even the best trained police officer on beat control can do about that.

“Extortion” reports in 2020

NOTE: For all counts, we removed one category from analysis. Seattle saw a huge spike in May of reported fraud/bad check reports in May across the city. We’ll follow up on the anomaly but are not including the large spike in reports in our reporting because the volume of incidents confounds analysis of other trends.


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ds
ds
1 month ago

People are reporting less crime though. My mom waited 3 days for SPD to respond to a fraud call, then finally gave up on filing a report. All over social media you see people saying why call, the police don’t come. The staffing shortage (which all of the city council save Sawant acknowledged, some of them repeatedly, when running for office on their promises of more cops) has left some neighborhoods just not calling. It’s like it was when I lived in the CD in the 90’s – you’d just ignore gunfire at night because it was so common and the police took hours to arrive if at all. And it was worse before we even had an East precinct. So people becoming numb to crime is not the same as crime being down. Domestic violence is way up, for example. And that’s just what’s reported – plenty more is going unreported as that’s the nature of domestic violence.

Ryan Packer
Ryan Packer
1 month ago
Reply to  ds

Just want to point out that the mayor just gutted the DV unit and shifted those officers to patrol.

SooperDooper
SooperDooper
1 month ago
Reply to  Ryan Packer

At the request of Seattle City Council, who responded to the screamers in the streets. Be careful what you wish for.

DS
DS
1 month ago
Reply to  Ryan Packer

The felony DV prosecutor has been taking cuts for a few years now – it’s been 3 years I think since they cut 8 prosecutors. Thus more and more felony DV cases are being reduced to misdemeanor not because they fit the bill, but because of budget constraints. David Martin (felony DV prosecutor) has discussed this publicly but no one seems to care because strangling your partner or fracturing her skull is apparently not a big deal to city or county councils.

John
John
1 month ago
Reply to  ds

There was an interesting article a year ago that might shed light on how calls are prioritized. “Priority calls (or as many officers call them, “priority ones”) generally include emergencies in-progress (or happening near the time of the 911 call), with a suspect description. If someone calls to report an issue of domestic violence, for example, the call is handled as quickly as possible. This also means officers won’t quickly respond to calls, for example, about a drug deal on a street corner or if you wake up to a car break-in.” https://mynorthwest.com/1461253/rantz-seattle-police-priority-calls-policy/

LRK
LRK
1 month ago

The fact that there’s zero nightlife, bars aren’t open, people aren’t coming from outside the area to party, and everybody is pretty much cloistered at home is exactly why there is less crime than previous years.

Lola
Lola
1 month ago
Reply to  LRK

That seems the most likely explanation for it.

Christopher A. Martin
Christopher A. Martin
1 month ago

…those numbers mean nothing when police rarely actually file real reports, as they’ve had to tell people and businesses, consistently, that “there’s nothing we can do”.

The mayor and council are absolutely horrific, and are destroying law and order in their city.

jp
jp
1 month ago

yeah good luck getting an officer on the line right now unless you are bleeding out. I personally havent contacted the police about 4 different crimes that have occurred around me in the last 2 months in ballard whats the point police arent going to come for homeless problems. two days ago a homeless lady with a screwdriver broke into my friends car and then went beserk on us when confronted. nobody is hurt and the car is okay cause we chased her away so its not an immediate crime so whatever not worth the time to file. these numbers are fake and not something to be happy about. crime is rampant. a friend of a friend was stabbed to death in belltown the other day the homeless issue is reall and getting really scary.

OldSkoolCapitolHilll
OldSkoolCapitolHilll
1 month ago
Reply to  jp

There was one stabbing in bellow town in the last three months. On Sept 23. And that was a women distraught over being evicted from her apartment earlier that month who stabbed a neighbor and a property manager.

Your un-cited anecdotes are not proof of a crime spree.

SR
SR
1 month ago

Having had a storage unit in the secured garage broken into in broad daylight yesterday, I learned that it is next to impossible to report a break-in. Check it out yourself on the on-line theft reporting system. Call in, and when they answer they will tell you to use the online reporting sytem. They are understandably interested in violent crime and use of weapons, but in the world of statistics, garbage in, garbage out. No vandalism problems at Cal Anderson. We’ve all learned not to bother. Truly good news if violent crime is down, but Cal Anderson Park is being destroyed before our eyes, it is becoming a garbage dump and a toilet, and that is an unspeakable, and unreportable crime.

All Power to the People
All Power to the People
1 month ago

“…after a summer of complaints over slow arrivals and unavailability of officers due to staffing issues related to the ACAB’s disproportionate and violent overreaction to the summer’s ongoing protests and demonstrations.” — FTFY, CHS.

warren trout
warren trout
1 month ago

Since police cause crime, I guess the crime rates will start going up with more police on the streets?

Adam
Adam
1 month ago

If you have two eyes and live on the Hill, I think you’d find this pretty hard to believe.

Jane L
Jane L
1 month ago

Great reporting! Facts! Thank you.

S
S
1 month ago

Same as what other folks are saying, it’s just not worth calling the police over anything less than assault any more.

csy
csy
1 month ago

Decrimilize crime = less crime

Horton
Horton
1 month ago

The cops are intentionally or showing up or responding to crimes as a form of protest against their budget cuts.

LBFF
LBFF
1 month ago

The increase in fraud reports are likely tied to the unemployment fraud that started in late April/early May – victims of that fraud were encouraged to file police reports

Ray
Ray
1 month ago

You abuse employees, put them into possibly deadly situations, don’t support them, don’t aggressively prosecute the criminals they risk their necks protecting you from… you are surprised they adjust to their circumstances?

Steve
Steve
13 days ago

It is my understanding from friends in Seattle that there was no real expectation that defund would actually be accomplished but only as a threat to change police tactics