Sharp increase in Seattle robberies, assaults; murders, rapes down
Seattle saw increases in both violent crimes and property crimes during the first half of 2009 compared to the same period in 2008. But the slight rise came after back-to-back years that saw crime dip to lows not seen since the 1960s.
Seattle Times staff reporter
Even though Seattle saw increases in both violent crimes and property crimes during the first half of 2009 compared to the same period in 2008, the slight rise came after back-to-back years that saw crime dip to lows not seen since the 1960s.
Data released Monday by the FBI showed incidents of violent crime (murder, rape, aggravated assault and robbery) in Seattle increased from 1,582 during the first six months of 2008 to 1,927 during the same period this year — a rise of nearly 22 percent, the FBI reported.
Property crimes (burglary, larceny, theft and car theft) in Seattle also rose approximately 4.5 percent during the first half of the year with 16,325 incidents, compared to 15,629 incidents during the first half of 2008.
The number of murders, rapes and auto thefts in Seattle all declined during the first six months of 2009 compared to the previous year, but robberies, aggravated assaults and thefts all increased. The number of arsons nearly doubled in 2008, while reports of burglaries in the city remained virtually unchanged.
Nationwide, violent crime dropped 4.4 percent and property crimes decreased 6.1 percent in January through June of 2009 compared to the same period in 2008, according to the FBI report.
Despite Seattle's increases, the 2009 crime rate "is still lower than what it was in 2006, even though it's up compared to the record-low crime years" of 2007 and 2008, said Seattle police spokesman Sgt. Sean Whitcomb
"In Seattle, we don't have that many incidents of violent crime. Yes, we're a big city" where police respond to "street robberies, assaults and weapons calls," Whitcomb said. "But when you look at in a larger context, Seattle is a very safe city."
He pointed out that Seattle has the sixth lowest violent-crime rate among 23 cities nationwide with populations between 500,000 and 1 million, according to a Seattle police analysis of 2008 national crime data released by the FBI in June. Seattle's population is nearly 600,000.
While murder and manslaughter dropped 10 percent nationwide during the first half of the year compared to the first half of 2008, the number of murders in Seattle were nearly halved in that same period — dropping from 15 to eight, the FBI reported.
By contrast, Milwaukee and Nashville — cities that each have roughly 4,000 more residents than Seattle — had 39 and 36 murders, respectively, during the first six months of 2009, compared to 33 and 39, respectively, during the same period in 2008, according to the FBI report.
So far this year, there have been a total of 20 murders in Seattle, Whitcomb said. There were 29 total murders last year; 24 in 2007; and 30 in 2006, according to Seattle police crime data.
Like murder, the number of forcible rapes in the city declined — from 65 during the first half of 2008 to 55 during the first half of 2009.
But robberies and aggravated assaults, a category that includes nonfatal shootings, were both up: There were 908 robberies and 956 aggravated assaults in the first six months of this year, compared to 707 robberies and 795 aggravated assaults during the same period in 2008, according to the FBI.
The number of burglaries held fairly steady, with 3,079 reported during the first half of this year, an increase of only 38 over the same period in 2008.
The number of thefts increased roughly 10 percent — from 10,788 in the first half of 2008 to 11,883 in the first half of 2009. Arsons nearly doubled in the city, increasing from 37 to 71 during the same time period, according to the FBI report.
Once again, the number of motor vehicle thefts in Seattle is on the decline: During the first half of 2008, 1,800 vehicles were stolen, compared to 1,363 in the first half of 2009, the FBI reported. That's a drop of roughly 32 percent.
Between 2006 and 2008, auto thefts in the city fell 55 percent, largely due to a strategy by police and prosecutors to go after the most prolific car thieves and prosecute them on charges that bring longer prison terms.
Information from Seattle Times archives is included in this report.
Sara Jean Green: 206-515-5654 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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