Violent crimes and murders have risen, while drug and fraud numbers have fallen, along with the number of commissioned officers in 2021, according to a report released last week by the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police. Chiefs (WASPC).
WASPC is made up of more than 900 members from agencies across the state, including elected county sheriffs and 240 police chiefs, as well as representatives from the Washington State Patrol, the Department of Corrections of Washington and representatives of several federal agencies.
“The function of WASPC is to provide specific materials and services to all state law enforcement agencies, member and non-member,” according to a press release.
The annual Washington Crime Report tracks crime and arrest data from law enforcement agencies across Washington. The Crime in Washington 2021 report is compiled with data from 232 state, county, municipal and tribal agencies and is designed to provide residents, elected officials and law enforcement with data-driven insights into crime in their communities, according to a press release from WASPC.
The full Crime in Washington 2021 report is available online at https://waspc.memberclicks.net/assets/2021%20CIW.pdf.
For reference, Washington State’s total population in 2021 was 7,772,506, up from 7,656,066 in 2020, an increase of 116,440 residents, according to WASPC.
Increases from 2020
- The report shows there were 325 murders in 2021, a 5.9% increase from 2020, following a 47% increase the previous year, according to WASPC.
“This is the highest number of murders recorded since WASPC began collecting this data in 1980,” the association said in a press release.
- Overall, violent crime increased by 12.3%. According to the WASPC, robberies increased by 10% and aggravated assaults increased by 15.4%.
- A total of 592 hate crime incidents were reported in 2021, a 26% increase from 2020, according to WASPC.
- Motor vehicle thefts increased by 27.3% in 2021, and motor vehicle parts thefts increased by 100%.
Decreases from 2020
- Identity theft decreased from 36,358 in 2020 to 7,704 in 2021, a reduction of 78.8%. This decline was linked to the spike in fraudulent claims related to the 2020 pandemic to the state, according to WASPC.
- There was a 60.9% drop in drug-related offenses and a 73.6% drop in drug-related arrests. WASPC contributed to this decline in the state Supreme Court’s decision in State v. Blake. In that case, judges struck down Washington state’s drug possession law because it punished offenders whether or not they knew they had drugs on them. The ruling was retroactive, meaning drug charges dating back to the 1970s can now be reassessed.
The state Legislature approved an Alternative Drug Possession Act, which went into effect in June 2021, that criminalizes possession of a controlled substance as a felony — not a Class C felony like c was the case under the original law – and prioritizes behavioral health prevention, treatment and related services for people using or possessing controlled substances, counterfeit substances and legendary drugs.
The legislation “significantly changed the ability to charge a criminal offense for personal possession of any drug, including heroin, fentanyl and methamphetamine,” according to WASPC.
The total number of commissioned officers statewide in 2021 was 10,736, a net loss of 495 from 11,231 in 2020, according to WASPC. This represents an overall reduction of 4.4% in the workforce statewide. With the increase in population, the number of officers per thousand inhabitants increased from 1.47 to 1.38 officers per thousand in 2021, according to the WASPC.
“This is the lowest rate of officers per capita since WASPC began tracking this data in 1980, and it is the lowest rate in the country,” according to WASPC, which said the national rate average per capita is 2.33 officers per thousand.
There were a total of 1,968 assaults on law enforcement officers in Washington in 2021, according to WASPC.