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Rantz: As violent Seattle crime ticks up, city doesn’t update data

Seattle police. (KIRO 7)

Despite a recent mass shooting, Seattle leaders assure us that we’re safe. They cite data showing a decrease in overall crime. But these same leaders haven’t updated their Seattle Crime Dashboard since May 2019.

City leaders celebrated the Seattle Crime Dashboard when it went live. City leaders love to tout the fact that they make smart policing moves based on data! And, since they’re transparent, any of us would be able to see monthly crime data across the whole city or in individual neighborhoods.

Only, the online dashboard has been down for nine months as the City deals with a Records Management System update. In the tech capital of Washington, apparently we can’t figure out how to install a new system that reports Seattle crime data? (Though, it seems obvious why Amazon might not want to help.)

The stats

In an embarrassing press conference after a recent mass shooting, where the focus was on generic gun violence than gang shootings, Mayor Jenny Durkan said we saw about 28 homicides in 2019. She brags that it’s much lower than what some other cities experience.

But it’s not much lower than what we’ve seen in Seattle. 28 homicides brings us back to where we were in 2017, and down just four from what we saw in 2018. That’s not a decrease thanks to Seattle policies. That’s a city lucky that our gang-bangers aren’t particularly good shots.

We very easily could have seen more than one death during the recent mass shooting. Indeed, as of mid-December 2019, we’ve seen a year-over-year increase in shots fired.

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And some of the other crime data isn’t favorable. While Durkan and Best cherry pick data that helps their narrative, as of mid-December 2019, we’ve seen a 20% increase in rape. Over the weekend, near the site of the mass shooting, a man was seen masturbating in public. Cops hassled him to leave, but he wasn’t arrested. That stat won’t get reported.

There’s a supposed 5 percent decrease in property crime, according to Chief Carmen Best. Yay. But respectfully, Chief Best is wrong. There’s a 5 percent decrease in reported property crime. Just because people choose not to report the frequent crime, doesn’t mean the crime isn’t happening.

“It seems like frustration turns to apathy and this is the result,” one Seattle officer told me.

Cherry-picking crime data without giving honest context to explain the numbers isn’t very instructive. It also happens that the month the Seattle Crime Dashboard stopped reporting data, the crime trends of 2019 started to catch up with 2018. It appears that the downward trend in reported crimes happened earlier in the year, making it especially disingenuous for Durkan and Best to cite data after the mass shooting.

Data matters

Data does, of course, matter even when they don’t tell us the story of what people are experiencing. But the data isn’t even being provided. Whether it’s Durkan or Best or some Councilmember, telling us the data directly after a mass shooting — or any major crime — isn’t the best way to make your point. In fact, it comes off as condescending. It seems to diminish the seriousness of the crime.

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It would be better if we can actually look at the raw data ourselves so we can come up with our own conclusions, rather than let a politician spin a tale that helps keep them in power. The Seattle Crime Dashboard is the easiest way to do that. So how long will the Seattle Crime Dashboard be offline? No clue. Q13 correspondent Brandi Kruse reports Seattle Police said it would be back up in 2019. We’re now into the second month of 2020.

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. Follow @JasonRantz on Twitter.

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