Ross: Seattle crime rates are the unfortunate focus of campaigns

Oct 11, 2022, 8:54 AM | Updated: Oct 17, 2022, 10:03 am
crime rates...
(Photo by Karen Ducey/Getty Images)
(Photo by Karen Ducey/Getty Images)

First I want to disclose my bias up front – my first news job was as a police reporter in Atlanta in 1973. Atlanta back then was the murder capital of America.

I remember one weekend when 12 people were killed, bad enough that Mayor Sam Massell called the media into his office, and once the cameras were rolling, he looked straight into them and said – and I’m paraphrasing – “If you’re thinking of shooting somebody, please put down the gun.”

That’s how desperate things were.

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In 1974, my second year on the job, the editor of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution was kidnapped. That same year Martin Luther King Jr.’s mother was assassinated as she sat playing the organ at the Ebeneezer Baptist Church. One of the reasons we left Atlanta was that it didn’t seem like a safe place to raise a family.

And maybe some of you are thinking the same thing now about Seattle.

But, to me, it’s not even close.

Now – If you’ve been a crime victim, no matter what city you’re in, the crime rate might as well be 100%.

I remember how I felt when my parents came home to find the house burglarized, and my grandmother was locked in her bathroom by some kid who went through her house. If it were up to me that kid would still be in jail today.

That’s how you feel when it happens to your family.

But right now in 2022, when it comes to the scariest crimes, as in people killing people – Seattle’s per capita murder rate* isn’t even in the top ten … or the top 20 … or the top 50. It’s 77th, with 3.74 killings per 100,000 people each year.

About the same as Portland, or Riverside, Calif., or – surprisingly – New York City!

Atlanta’s murder rate is four times that today. So I’m still glad we moved here.

So why does it feel like crime is out of control? Because there’s a political campaign on, and fear works!

I believe that our role as broadcasters is not just to hammer away at the crime rate – but to track what happens to the suspects. If found guilty, are they locked up? And are they kept locked up until they’ve been either treated, reformed, or sufficiently humbled by their punishment not to do it again? And if it means hiring more police, why haven’t we?

Personally, I’d like to see downtown restaurants offer free meals to martial arts instructors.

But no one should be trying to terrorize people into abandoning downtown. We surrendered the streets before – in 2020, and we know where that leads.

*Editors Note: The murder rates by comparison of Seattle against other cities is as of the latest national per capita crime statistics available for all cities as of 2019, based on population estimates, and it remains to be seen what Seattle’s rank will be when the 2022 statistics are available.

Listen to Seattle’s Morning News with Dave Ross and Colleen O’Brien weekday mornings from 5 – 9 a.m. on KIRO Newsradio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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Ross: Seattle crime rates are the unfortunate focus of campaigns