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Washington State’s Violent Crime Rate Approaches National Level

For many years, Washington was well below the national average for violent crimes. That has changed in recent years

For many years, Washington was a much less violent place than the national average. However, as Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) data shows, the Evergreen State is rapidly approaching the United States’ mean for violent crime.

The violent crime rate in the U.S. was 380.7 per 100,000 people in 2022, while Washington’s rate was 375.6, according to the FBI’s Crime in the Nation report released Monday. Just two years prior, the gap was much larger. Washington’s 2020 violent crime rate was 293.7, while the national mark was 398.5.

Credit: FBI

As you can see in the data from the FBI above, since at least 1985, Washington always maintained a gap between itself and the nation’s violent crime numbers. However, a steep rise in violent crime in Washington state since the pandemic has put it on track to potentially exceed the national average in 2023.

So what is behind this increase?

Homicides have accelerated in Washington from 3.9 in 2020 to 5 per 100,000 last year, while the national rate dipped slightly from 6.5 to 6.3.

According to the annual report compiled by the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs, there were 394 murders reported in Washington state in 2022, setting a new all-time record. The 394 murders eclipsed Washington’s previous record of 325, which was set in 2021. The crime report found that murders increased by nearly 17% in one year. 

While the total number of murders reached an all-time high in 2022, Washington state’s murder rate was higher in 1994 when adjusted for population, according to data compiled from the report. There were 297 murders reported across the state in 1994. 

Robbery offenses in Washington also were always below the national mark until 2021. Last year, there were roughly 20 more robberies per 100,000 people in the state than the national rate.

Aggravated assaults in the state also have spiked, going from 184.4 in 2019 to 244.7 in 2022 per 100,000. Over the same time frame, the national rate only went from 250.4 to 268.2.

The uptick trend in violent crime has coincided with a steep decline in officers in Washington.

According to the report, Washington state ranks 51st in the nation in staffing per capita with 10,666 officers in 2022. This marks the state’s 13th straight year of being last in the nation in law enforcement staffing.

In western Washington, Seattle is on pace to surpass its modern record for homicides (69) with 64 already in 2023 as part of a 25% rise in violent crime, according to FBI data from 2020-2022.  The Tacoma Police Department saw an 88% increase, while Everett saw a 25% increase in violent crime over the same period.

Source: King 5