Journalist Adel Toay for King5.com says that violent crime has increased in Washington. According to a crime report from the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs (WASPC), violent crimes and murders increased while the number of police officers available to respond to incidents decreased in 2021.
“This is just very specific data, about crime trends, about our staffing level, about a couple of things that sort of stand out. But the numbers are all there. We’re very transparent. We wanted to get this out to everybody so that they have that information within their communities,” ~Steven Strachan, executive director of WASPC
There were 325 murders in 2021, an increase of 5.9% over 2020, following a 47% increase the year before. Strachan said this is the highest number of murders recorded since WASPC began collecting this data in 1980.
Hate crimes like Malicious Harassment in the state increased by 26.5% in 2021 with the most frequent offenses being intimidation and destruction of property.
Total crime overall is statistically down slightly, including a 78.8% decrease in identity theft and fraud from 2020, largely due to the huge spike in unemployment fraud during the pandemic. Other factors contributing to the statistical downward trend include a 60.9% decrease in drug offenses and a 73.6% decrease in drug arrests, due to a change in state laws.
“This is predominantly due to the Blake decision in 2021, which completely changed the ability to charge a criminal offense for personal possession of any drug,” said Strachan. In February 2021, the Washington State Supreme Court ruled the state’s simple drug possession crime statute was unconstitutional and voided it.
THE LOSS OF POLICE OFFICERS
Washington state lost nearly 500 police officers statewide in 2021 as the state’s population grew more than the population of Everett, according to the report. The number of commissioned law enforcement officers decreased 4.4%. The per capita rate of law enforcement officers fell to 1.38 per 1,000 statewide.
“When the staffing is down, the numbers are up,” said Strachan.
Strachan said it is the lowest per capita rate of officers the state has seen since WASPC began tracking this data in 1980, and it’s the lowest in the nation. The national average per capita rate for officers is 2.33 officers per 1,000, according to the FBI.
“Right now, a lot of agencies are treading water. Not every single one. Not every single agency is in a staffing crisis. Many are. These things are problems with solutions, and that is to support good policing and to recognize that public safety is important.”~Steven Strachan, executive director of WASPC
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