Public safety survey: Deference to Seattle law enforcement dips to lowest point in seven years

May 3, 2022, 7:01 AM
(KIRO 7 News)...
(KIRO 7 News)
(KIRO 7 News)

Faith in Seattle law enforcement is down to its lowest point in the last seven years, according to results published by Seattle University. For the first time since 2015, police legitimacy, broadly defined as a willingness to grant deference law enforcement, has dropped below a score of 50 on a 0-100 survey index.

The survey publishes annual summary results of top public safety concerns, most prominent themes, and community perceptions from 2021 for Seattle, broken up in five precincts and all the neighborhoods within for more specific data.

(Seattle University)

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Jacqueline B. Helfgott, Ph.D. and William Parkin, Ph.D. put the results together with research done by Alexander Dvorsky (East and West Precincts), Shannon Christensen (North Precinct), and JT Melbourn (South and Southwest Precincts).

Police capacity; property crime; homelessness; traffic safety; and community & public safety capacity were the top public safety concerns in that order.

Found in the survey were city averages of police legitimacy (48.9), social cohesion (53.5), social control (42.0), social disintegration (39.1), fear of crime (43.1), fear of crime in the day (38.9), and fear of crime in the night (47.3).

The East precinct had the lowest numbers across the board, charting an average score of 3.7 points below the city mean for the categories above. Police legitimacy in the East precinct was a city-low 41.9.

“The story it tells us is that fear of crime decreased for the majority of people in Seattle,” said councilmember Lisa Herbold is response to the survey. “But data shows that communities of color and people experiencing homelessness are the people most impacted by crime in Seattle and I am concerned that their voices are often drowned out in surveys like this. The issues they face are real, and their voices must be centered as we build community safety to meet their needs and addresses those challenges equitably and effectively.”

Pigeon Point is the lowest ranking neighborhood in Seattle for fear of crime, with a score of 30.7.

Everett police officer shot and killed, suspect in custody

Another survey was published by the King County Executive’s Office. Called the Reimagining Public Safety Survey, the results shared that residents want alternative options to an armed police officer when they call 911.

More than a third of the responses said they would avoid calling 911 during an emergency, largely out of fear for the safety of the person who needed help.

The survey also captured overall thoughts on Seattle’s police force. 76% of respondents said they believed police largely “act within the law,” but only 65% said cops use an “appropriate amount of force.”

The county has promised to develop pilot programs based on their survey’s findings, but aren’t scheduled to roll out until “mid 2022.”

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Public safety survey: Deference to Seattle law enforcement dips to lowest point in seven years