For the second consecutive year, Washington State has witnessed a concerning rise in violent crimes alongside a decreasing number of police officers. According to the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs (WASPC), 2022 saw a 9.8% increase in property crimes and an 8.9% rise in violent crimes, compared to 2021. Homicides reached a high, with an uptick of 16.6%, the highest number recorded since WASPC started collecting data in 1980.
Steven Strachan, the WASPC Executive Director, stressed that these trends were especially worrisome considering the decreasing officer staffing rate. In 2022, Washington State’s police officer numbers fell to an all-time low, with 1.36 officers per 1,000 residents, the lowest rate in the US, placing Washington at 51st for the 13th year running.
This decline in law enforcement capacity negatively impacts the administration of justice for victims, pushing law enforcement to be more reactive, less proactive. Furthermore, assaults on officers jumped by 42% since 2018, a concerning trend in an already strained law enforcement environment.
While drug and narcotics violation arrests saw a 33% dip in 2022, Strachan does not anticipate this decline leading to an increase in arrests in the future. Additionally, 2022 experienced a significant rise in vehicle theft, with a 34% increase, mirroring a specific increase in thefts of Hyundai and Kia vehicles in Seattle.
These rising crime rates juxtaposed with an all-time low in police staffing underscore a pressing issue in Washington State. The challenge for policy makers is to devise effective, localized strategies to combat these distinct trends and ensure public safety.