New crime data shows optimistic outlook for downtown Seattle

Dec 1, 2022, 5:41 PM
Pike Place Market (Photo by Elena Di Vincenzo/Archivio Elena Di Vincenzo/Mondadori Portfolio via Getty Images)
(Photo by Elena Di Vincenzo/Archivio Elena Di Vincenzo/Mondadori Portfolio via Getty Images)

Seattle’s ever-rising crime statistics, paired with a depleting police force and a holiday season that is drowning in inflating prices, creates a pretty grim outlook for the city’s near future.

But after Mayor Bruce Harrell “sounded like the gung-ho football player he once was” when he announced Seattle is back for the holiday season last week, according to Seattle Times’ columnist Danny Westneat, maybe there is some truth to those words.

“If you were to go downtown, and I would actually suggest that you do, it is a big change. Big change from what we were seeing during the pandemic, and even post-pandemic, when everyone expected that there would be a switch he could flip, and all the employees would come back, and then everything would go back to normal,” said Mike Lewis, guest host of The Gee and Ursula Show. “And it turned out to not be the case. Remote work, in some form, is here to stay.”

Last Friday, the Downtown Seattle Association (DSA) hosted a few thousand people for the city’s official tree-lighting celebration near Pike Place Market, kicking off a season of holiday shopping that local businesses heavily rely on.

Gee and Ursula to host Seattle Holiday Tree Lighting Ceremony

The number of visitors downtown is still below pre-pandemic levels, according to the DSA, but in October 2022, there were 2.4 million visitors, compared to 2.5 million three years earlier, creating room for optimism.

But who would be patrolling and protecting the downtown’s growth? According to King 5, the number of trained and deployable officers in 2022 was 954 this past summer, the lowest mark in more than 30 years.

“It’s always been a staffing issue with law enforcement in Seattle, there always has been,” Lewis said. “The ratio of cops to citizens has never really matched a lot of other cities, even at its best days … but the other thing that’s happening there, that we can’t really quantify statistically, is the rise of private security in that area. If you go downtown, it’s surprising how much you see it. Not surprising based on what was going on down there, but surprising based on historical norms.”

But Seattle Police Department (SPD) statistics support Harrell’s affectionate declaration and Westneat’s ensuing column.

In SPD’s data, Seattle recently recorded the lowest amount of crime in a month since June 2021, with just 3,894 crimes logged in September 2022.

While that number would only qualify as the sixth-lowest month of crime in the previous year, Seattle has witnessed a 13% drop in crime from January through October, according to SPD statistics.

“It’s a tough road,” Lewis said on recruiting police officers to Seattle. “But if you look at what the city is going to do with its budget, it looks like that is going to be a focus moving ahead. The city council agreed that the mayor is going to get the money that he wants for the recruitment and retention program. If you want to put it down to the most basic numbers, it’s a whole bunch of money toward keeping officers we have and then getting more officers hired both from other agencies and from the academy.”

Unlike Tacoma, Seattle Police swears by crime data

Earlier this year, Harrell announced a plan to hire 500 additional officers by 2027 in an attempt to stave off a “crisis-level” police staffing situation.

“It’s almost impossible to do. There’s very few law enforcement that even have the Human Resources engine that can process that many employees, especially in a complicated job like this, where you really have to vet recruits,” Lewis said. “This is not like getting hired for many companies. This is a much more intensive process. And the qualifications are highly, highly specific.”

Listen to Gee Scott and Ursula Reutin weekday mornings from 9 a.m. – 12 p.m. on KIRO Newsradio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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New crime data shows optimistic outlook for downtown Seattle