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Rantz Fact Check: Mayor Durkan says Seattle crime is down. Is it?

(Photo by Stephen Maturen/Getty Images)

On the heels of gang-related shootings and emphasis patrols — where police will have a greater presence in certain neighborhoods — Mayor Jenny Durkan claims crime in Seattle is down.

Is that true? Absolutely. Citywide, crime is down from last year. But the claim from Durkan is a bit misleading.

The claim

At a North Seattle town hall on May 6, Durkan opened her remarks to the audience that “Overall crime is down in Seattle.”

Not everyone in the audience believed her.

“It’s hard for me as a Seattle native to hear that crime has dropped in my city when I see crime on a daily basis,” Licton Springs resident Amber Matthai told KOMO.

The facts

Anecdotes and perception of individuals aside, Seattle crime is down. I asked Durkan’s office what metrics they used and a spokesperson said they were comparing May 6, 2019 data with the same period of time last year.

Seattle-crime

As you can see in the graph they sent above, crime reports are down a significant chunk. Additionally, Durkan’s office admits that the city saw an increase in crime from 2017 to 2018 of 2.3 percent, but that matches the city’s population growth.

Durkan is right to say crime is down, when looking at the same period last year. But there’s some issues with her data choice and it’s why people are reacting with incredulity, depending on where they live.

There are neighborhoods that have, in fact, seen an increase in crime. Ballard, for example, and as noted by Durkan’s office, has seen an increase in property crime. When you look at 2017 to 2018 data, you see a slight uptick in burglary and robbery in District 5. There was a substantial increase in robbery in District 1, assault in Districts 1 and 7, and motor-vehicle theft in District 6. Beyond that, we’re about to hit summer months, when crime tends to go up. Indeed, it is precisely why the Mayor’s office announced emphasis patrols.

It’s also important to note that many crimes, particularly property crimes, don’t get reported. And lawless homelessness in a lot of these neighborhoods leads to the feeling of danger. When someone is at a street corner, dealing with untreated mental illness or an addiction, yelling or leering at passers-by, it has a deleterious impact on the community. You may not feel safe when walking alone at night past the person; you may not feel safe sending your kids out alone. And we don’t often call cops when this happens. This leads people to feel less safe in neighborhoods that may not be reflected in the crime data.

The conclusion

Durkan is right to say crime is down, but, that is citywide, which is a somewhat meaningless data point to people living in neighborhoods where crime is up.

It’s a statement that can come off as dismissive to valid concerns of specific neighborhoods. And while crime, overall, may be down, it’s also up in certain categories.

I can appreciate Durkan’s message, but it should probably be delivered in a way more understanding of community anger and anxiety.

Mayor Durkan’s office asked me to include the full statement – not just the KOMO quote we used – to give more context to her statement. Here it is:

“Every week I meet with the Chief of Police Carmen Best and much of her staff and see where we are on statistics. Because statistics city-wide don’t tell us what’s happening in different parts of our city -sometimes down to microneighborhoods, sometimes down to larger neighborhoods, sometimes to broad communities. They also don’t tell us the types of crimes that might be rising, and so we look at those weekly to devise strategies to say, how do we respond to that? Not just with a police response – because a police response is an important and necessary response, and sometimes it is the only response to criminal activity. But we also have to respond in other ways to make sure we are delivering what neighborhoods need to remain vibrant…. And we know both from listening to communities and the data, we know there’s areas we need to work. So we need to focus on those and we will continue to do that. We’re here to answer your questions. By being in this room, you’re showing that you care – and I want to thank you for that.”

Listen to the Jason Rantz Show weekday afternoons from 3-6 p.m. on KTTH 770 AM (or HD Radio 97.3 FM HD-Channel 3). Subscribe to the podcast here.

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