2022 Crime in Washington Report: ‘The news is not good’

The 2022 Crime in Washington Report reveals a troubling trend of rising crime, with an 8.9% increase in violent crime, a 34.1% surge in vehicle thefts, and murders reaching an all-time high of 394, prompting concerns about public safety and a dire shortage of law enforcement officers in the state.
The 2022 Crime in Washington Report reveals a troubling trend of rising crime, with an 8.9% increase in violent crime, a 34.1% surge in vehicle thefts, and murders reaching an all-time high of 394, prompting concerns about public safety and a dire shortage of law enforcement officers in the state. File photo.

In Clark County, it’s no secret that staffing levels at local agencies have struggled to stay afloat

Leah Anaya
For Clark County Today

A nearly 600-page report was released earlier in July from the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs (WASPC) outlining a disturbing trend that is unsurprising to many area residents: crime is on the rise in Washington State. 

The 2022 Crime in Washington Report was released on July 10, 2023, along with a 30-minute video explanation by WASPC Executive Director Steve Strachan. This marked the 43rd year for the annual Uniformed Crime Report.

The 2022 Crime in Washington Report reveals a troubling trend of rising crime, with an 8.9% increase in violent crime, a 34.1% surge in vehicle thefts, and murders reaching an all-time high of 394, prompting concerns about public safety and a dire shortage of law enforcement officers in the state.

The four elements focused on in the report are criminal offenses, arrests, law enforcement officers assaulted and killed, and the number of full-time law enforcement employees. 

“The news is not good,” Strachan posted. 

According to the report, statewide, violent crime has risen 8.9%, with robberies up 18% and murder hitting an all-time high at 394 in 2022, which is an increase of 16.6%. Crime in general has increased 8.5%, with vehicle thefts jumping up by 34.1%. A total of 12,063 more cars were stolen in 2022 over 2021. The stats are adjusted to population growth, which has also risen.

“People are more concerned about [crime] because it’s starting to affect people in a very real way in their real life,” Strachan said. He pointed out with murders specifically, though the numbers were increased by 16.6% in 2022 over 2021, that percentage skyrockets to a 96% increase in 2022 over 2019, pre-pandemic (201 in Washington State in 2019 versus 394 in 2022). Strachan stressed that while some may want to throw up their hands and fall back on a “national trend” of violent crime, that’s not what national data is showing. Instead, he said, policymakers and individual communities need to face these issues head on.

While crime soared, law enforcement staffing continued to plummet. The state lost nearly 500 officers and deputies (written as “officers” hereafter) in 2021, causing a 4.4% decrease and bringing the number of police per 1,000 residents (or, per capita) down to 1.38. This number was the lowest on record and also the lowest in the entire nation. Unfortunately, 2022 beat that record and fell by another 70 officers to 1.36 officers per capita. With the national average sitting at 2.31 officers per capita, this marked the 13th year in a row that Washington State was the lowest ranking per capita for law enforcement officers.

If the state hit the national average, it would see an increase of approximately 7,000 officers.

Here in Clark County, it’s no secret that staffing levels at local agencies have struggled to stay afloat. At the Clark County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO), for example, there are 0.5 deputies per capita, while the crime rate sits at 34.7 per capita. Additionally, CCSO saw a 17.7% increase in overall crime. With 8,298 crimes having been reported, there is a miniscule 17.6% clearance rate for those cases.

CCSO Spokesperson Chris Skidmore said in an interview that there is a “wane in interest” in policing overall. He said it used to be that there could be hundreds of applicants for 10 vacancies an agency might have, but now there may only be 30-50 applicants for the same number. CCSO has dealt with low staffing levels for several years, which makes it more difficult, Skidmore said, for deputies to have the time to investigate property crimes, which the report showed makes up well over half of the 2022 numbers.

The Vancouver Police Department saw a 13% increase in overall crime, and that agency had an 11.1% clearance rate with 1.07 officers per capita.

Across the state, there has been a 20% increase in assaults against police over the previous year, with a total of 2,375 reported. This number reflects an increase of 407 assaults in 2021. The report said that two officers were also killed in the line of duty during 2022, although the Officer Down Memorial page reported four. The discrepancy there may be the cause of death: one officer was killed during a motorcycle collision rather than an assault. Three were killed by gunfire, but one of those, Vancouver Police Officer Donald Sahota, was inadvertently killed by another officer during a violent encounter with a suspect.

Regarding officer assaults, Strachan said, “That is a number that is wholly unacceptable. We have to find a way to change that. It shakes me to the core that [the number of officers assaulted] really makes up almost a quarter of the officers in our state.”

Is Washington too soft on crime?*
397 votes


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