Collaboration in Civic Spheres

27 years of data: Seattle crime rate sharply declining

by Nathan Brown August 24th, 2012

Annual rates of reported crime in Seattle have continued a steady and overall, sharp decline from 1985 through 2011, paralleling a trend seen in all other King County cities and nationwide, according to local police department data provided to Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs. A spread sheet (Excel download) prepared for Public Data Ferret using the WASPC data, shows the overall per capita crime rate in Seattle (or reported crimes per 1,000 residents) went from 129.15 in 1985 to 58.06 in 2011. The spreadsheet also has annual per capita crime rate data for all other King County cities over the 27-year period.

For Seattle, the annual data show four distinct periods. From 1985 through 1992, the Seattle per capita crime rate stayed relatively high compared to later years, reaching a 26-year high in 1987 at 149.34 but declining somewhat to 119.38 by 1994. By 1999, the annual crime rate in Seattle had dropped to 92.36. By 2004 it was 81.80; and by 2011, 58.06. Typically the property crime rate was nine to ten times that of the violent crime rate each year in Seattle during that period. Data for other King County cities is also included.

In a recent data visualization at Public Data Ferret, the data for King County cities were mapped for each year, allowing a quick, color-coded comparison of highest and lowest rates, and population sizes. In contrast, the spreadsheet gives a quick overview of historical crime rate trends within each city. Using the controls, the cities can be arranged alphabetically, each in a multi-year sequence. The spreadsheet can also be toggled for viewing by year, lowest to highest rates, or highest to lowest.

Most other cities in the county experienced notable declines in annual per capita crime rate, too. Bellevue dropped from 70.4 in 1985 to 30 in 2011, and over the same span Redmond from 53.9 to 25.3 and Auburn from 84.3 to 58. Burien dropped from 86.5 in its first year of incorporation, 1994, to 54.26 in 2011 and Federal Way from 80.8 in its first year as a city, 1992, to 50.4 in 2011. Tukwila, which ranked highest in every year during the period assessed, went from a per capita crime rate of 349.36 in 1985 to 163.25 in 2011.

During the 27 years, the lowest rate in any King County city, based on a full 12 months of data, was 4.02 for Yarrow Point in 1995, and the highest was 491.29 for Tukwila in 1989.

The ongoing multi-decade decline in crime rates in Seattle and other King County cities dovetails with nationwide data. The U.S. Census Bureau reports that the overall national per capita crime rate dropped from 5,225 per 100,000 population in 1985 to 3,446 per 100,000 in 2009.

Here is a new three-part visualization showing Seattle per-capita crime rates for 1985-2011 by main subcategory (property and violent crimes) and by crime sub-types within each of the main subcategories.


Public Data Ferret is a news knowledge base program of the Seattle-based 501c3 public charity, Public Eye Northwest. Ferret In The News. Donate; subscribe (free)/volunteer.

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