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Washington crime report: Hate crimes, youth offenses rise; officer staffing still low

Data from the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs (WASPC) 2023 Washington crime report revealed crimes against people, crimes against property, and violent crimes have each decreased overall while crimes against society — including hate crimes and car thefts — have gone up since last year.

The report comes as Washington has the least amount of commissioned officers in the country per capita, according to FBI data compiled by the WASPC. The state of Washington ranked 51st out of the 50 states and the District of Columbia for the number of officers per thousand residents.

WASPC Executive Director Steve Strachan said during a press session Tuesday that Washington has approximately 10,700 law enforcement officers. If the state were to reach the national average of 2.31 officers per capita, it would need to hire 8,000 more officers.

Washington crime report shows hate crimes have increased

Washington’s crimes statistically against society have gone up.

Crimes against society include animal cruelty, drug/narcotic violations, drug equipment violations, pornography/obscene material, prostitution, weapon law violations, and gambling offenses. The data showed one of these types of offenses is committed every 24.5 minutes. According to the same data, drug violations are occurring every 47.7 minutes.

For drug/narcotic violations, the majority of violations are possession (67.2%) and consumption (18.6%).

Hate crimes increased by 6%, according to WASPC data with African Americans, Jewish, disabled people, transgender people and people in the LGBTQ+ community the most affected by the increase in hate crimes. Strachan said that within hate crimes, aggravated assault — where the victim suffers injuries — went up 11%.

“These are severe assaults and we had 79 of those last year related to hate crimes in the state of Washington,” he said. “That is a number that should be very concerning to us.”

State vehicle theft surges

Car theft remains one of the region’s most persistent problems, with the total amount of car thefts increasing by 5.4% from 2022 to 2023.

Strachan said that 54,187 vehicles were stolen in 2023, more than 6,700 more than in 2022. Car thefts have increased by 112% since 2019.

People have blamed the rise in thefts on the Washington state pursuit law and the ‘Kia Boyz’ trend.

Crimes against people: A person is murdered every day

Crimes against people — including murder, manslaughter, rape, assault, and human trafficking among others — occurred every 4.7 minutes in 2023, while crime against property occurred every 90 seconds. In comparison, Strachan noted that violent crime fell 5.5% overall. However, the numbers are far from 2019 levels.

“We’re seeing some promising numbers in crime rates and crime numbers in the state of Washington, but we are nowhere near pre-pandemic levels,” Strachan said.

While crimes against people have gone down slightly — 0.6% to be exact according to the published data — people are being murdered every day within the state. To be more specific, there is one murder every 23.3 hours. 2023 showed some slight progress with 376 reported murders compared to 399 the year before.

To compare, Oregon’s murder rate saw less than half of Washington’s with 177 murders in 2023, according to the State of Oregon’s website. However, in California, there were 1,485 arrests for homicides in 2022, as reported by the State of California.

Of the crimes against people, white people saw the most activity. In 2023, 227 white people were murdered, 87 Black, 26 Asian, 12 American Indian/Alaskan Native, 3 Native Hawaiin/Pacific Islander, and 21 labeled as unknown race. The offense with the largest victim pool was simple assault, of which 36,864 white people were simply assaulted, 5,867 Black people,  1,913 Asian, 892 American Indian/Alaskan Native, 363 Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander and 5,031 labeled as unknown race.

According to Washington’s Office of Financial Management in 2022, 72% of Washington’s population was white, 4.5% was Black, 10% was Asian, 2% was American Indian/Alaskan Native, 1% was Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander and 10% was two or more races.

More young people are committing crimes in Washington

Looking at arrest data, the top crimes for juveniles in Washington in 2023 were liquor law violations, drunkness, robbery, and vehicle theft. Strachan believes more juveniles are living a life of crime.

“More than 20% of arrestees for motor vehicle theft in 2023 were juveniles,” he said. “And we’ve seen an increase just from 2022 to 2023 of 24% in juveniles arrested.”

Of those who committed crimes last year, 100,880 were men, 34,635 were women and 116 had an unknown gender. The crime with the most reported arrests was for DUI. More than 17,000 male drivers were cited for a DUI in 2023, compared to 5,800 women.

Looking further at overall data, arrests by race, relationships

The race who was the most arrested was white with 105,848 arrests in 2023, 20,126 arrests were Black, 5,164 were Asian, 4,503 were American Indian/Alaskan Native, and 6,835 were unknown.

The most common relationships of offenders with victims were boyfriend/girlfriend and acquaintances, showing the person most likely to hurt you is someone you already know. However, a stranger was the third most common, and many relationships were unreported.

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