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Violent crime down, vehicle theft up in latest Crime in Washington report

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(The Center Square) – The annual Crime in Washington 2023 report found that overall violent crime went down, but hate crimes and vehicle thefts increased.

The report, with data from 225 law enforcement agencies across the state, was presented Tuesday by the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs.

The numbers of murders, other violent crimes and property crimes went down compared by 2022, but in many areas of the state, residents are still victimized at alarmingly high rates compared to other states.

“In 2023 we saw 376 murders, which is a 5.8% reduction than the year before,” said WASPC President Steven Strachan at Tuesday’s press conference highlighting the report.

The report shows that there were 376 murders in 2023, a decrease of 5.8% over 2022, but an 87% increase since 2019.

“Vehicle theft is up again at 54,187, with vehicles stolen in 2023, up 112% since 2019,” Strachan noted.

The report noted the Evergreen State has seen a 112% increase in vehicle thefts since 2019.

More than 20% of those arrested for vehicle theft were juveniles, an increase of 24% since 2022, per the report.

Federal Way Mayor Jim Ferrell told The Center Square his city is bucking the trend, seeing a dramatic decrease in motor vehicle theft this year.

“Year to date compared to last year, car theft is down 42%, and just comparing this June to last June that is a 59% reduction,” Ferrell said.

He added, “You’re going to see the bottom drop out of that number now that we can pursue vehicles.”

Ferrell was referencing an initiative passed by the Legislature this session that allows police wider discretion in pursuit of criminal suspects. The initiative went into effect early last month.

One of the big takeaways from the report is the low number of law enforcement officers in Washington.

WASPC says Washington again is ranked 51st out of the 50 states and District of Columbia for the number of officers per thousand residents. The per capita rate of law enforcement officers fell to 1.35 per thousand statewide, which is the lowest per capita rate recorded. The national average per capita rate is 2.31.

“This is the 13th straight year for Washington being the lowest per capita for law enforcement,” Strachan said. “If we were to get to the national average, we would need to hire 8,000 officers.”

A few other notable statistics from the report include:

The total population of Washington state is 7,951,649.Crimes Against Persons showed a decrease of 0.6% with 110,332 offenses reported; compared to 2022 offenses reported of 111,003.Crimes Against Property showed a decrease of 11.9% with 358,749 offenses reported; compared to 407,258 offenses reported in 2022.Crimes Against Society showed an increase of 22.4% with 21,045 offenses reported; compared to 17,193 offenses reported in 2022.Violent Crimes showed a decrease of 5.5% with 31,050 offenses reported; compared to 32,853 offenses reported in 2022.There were 376 murders in 2023; a decrease of 5.8% compared to 399 murders in 2022.Domestic Violence offenses made up 47.9% of all Crimes Against Persons.Hate crimes increased 6%; a total of 576 hate crime incidents were reported.

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