Comparing the average annual rates between 2008-2010 and 2015-2017, overall crime has dipped citywide. But there are differences from neighborhood to neighborhood.
Is your neighborhood a more dangerous place than it used to be?
A lot of Seattle folks seem to feel that way. At least that’s the impression I got from a flood of reader emails I received after my last column, in which I looked at the perceptions of crime in city neighborhoods, and compared that with the actual crime rates.
So I thought this would be a good time to dive into the Seattle Police Department’s data and find out if crime really is worse than it used to be around the city.
As it turns out, crime has gotten a little better in most of Seattle. I looked at the change in crime rates for 57 city neighborhoods, and in the majority — 31 of them — the crime rate has gone down.
I compared two three-year periods of crime data: 2015 through 2017, and 2008 through 2010. Then I calculated the rate of crime for those two periods using population numbers from the Washington Office of Financial Management.
To be clear, the raw number of crimes in Seattle went up. Between these two periods, the number of crimes reported increased by 13 percent. But the city’s population grew even faster, by almost 19 percent. That made the overall crime rate in Seattle dip — from 60 crimes per 1,000 residents at the start of the decade down to about 58 per 1,000 in the most recent data.
The decline is due to a lower rate of property crime. The violent crime rate, however, went up 11 percent in this period. Even so, Seattle has a relatively low violent crime rate compared to other major U.S. cities, while our property crime rate remains among the highest.
While 31 city neighborhoods have enjoyed a declining crime rate, 25 have not been so fortunate.
One pattern that emerges clearly from the data is that nearly all of North Seattle has seen increased crime rates, with the Lake City and Fremont neighborhoods being the sole exceptions. In a number of these neighborhoods, the rate of violent crime spiked.
Even with the increases, crime rates in most of North Seattle are at or below the city average. The only North Seattle neighborhood with a crime rate that ranks among the 15 highest in the city is Northgate.
It’s South Delridge in West Seattle, though, that saw the biggest jump in its crime rate, up by 56 percent. Most of that was from a rise in property crime — theft, in particular. South Delridge now has the sixth-highest crime rate in the city, at 110 per 1,000 people annually.
Northgate had the second biggest increase in crime rate, but it was primarily driven by a spike in violent crime — the rates of aggravated assault, robbery and rape all went up. West Seattle’s Roxhill/Westwood/Arbor Heights area ranks third, also due mainly to rising violent crime.
Rounding out the five neighborhoods with the biggest increases in crime rates are two of Seattle’s most affluent areas: Magnolia and Madison Park, in that order. Even with the increases, both neighborhoods remain among the safest in the city, with crime rates at less than 35 per 1,000 residents.
In one area — Harbor Island — the crime rate was unchanged between the 2008-2010 and 2015-2017 periods.
South Seattle is almost the mirror image of North Seattle, with nearly every neighborhood seeing crime rates decline. The one exception is Judkins Park/North Beacon Hill. Research has shown that falling crime rates go hand-in-hand with gentrification, which has rapidly changed South Seattle’s Rainier Valley in this decade.
But the neighborhood that has seen the biggest decline in crime rate, with both violent and property crime plummeting, is South Lake Union. This is the fastest-growing neighborhood in Seattle, and despite the huge influx of new residents, the number of crimes reported has barely increased. That’s caused the crime rate to nosedive by 55 percent. Even with the decline, the neighborhood still has the 11th highest crime rate in Seattle.
Other neighborhoods with the biggest drops in crime are South Seattle’s Brighton/Dunlap and West Seattle’s Pigeon Point.
Interestingly, nearly all the downtown neighborhoods had double-digit declines in overall crime rate, mostly driven by lower property-crime rates. In Pioneer Square, the property-crime rate is down 49 percent from the 2008-2010 period. In Belltown, violent crime declined by 42 percent, even more than its 23 percent drop in property crime.
In the Chinatown International District, though, the rates of both violent crime and property crime went up.
Even with the declines, the downtown neighborhoods still have some of Seattle’s highest crime rates. Pioneer Square’s violent-crime rate increased by 13 percent, and is now 59 per 1,000 residents — the highest in the city.
The commercial Duwamish area of West Seattle, which does not have many residents, saw its violent-crime rate more than triple between the two time periods — but it’s not quite as alarming as it sounds. From 2008 to 2010, there were 2 violent crimes. From 2015 to 2017, that number jumped to 11.
When discussing crime rates, it’s important to keep in mind that a large percentage of crimes are never reported to the police.
Research has shown that several factors can influence the likelihood of a victim filing a report. One of them is demographics: Older white people, particularly married women, are most likely to report crimes, while younger people and people of color are less likely. Victims are also most likely to call the police when the crime results in injuries.
There’s no evidence that any Seattle neighborhood has a higher or lower rate of reporting crime.