Report: Seattle's violent crime rate reached 14-year high in 2021, mayor responds

In its 2021 year-end crime report, Seattle Police reported that violent crime in the city has increased by 20% compared to 2020-- which is a 14-year high. 

Responding to record crime numbers in the City of Seattle, newly-elected Mayor Bruce Harrell held a press conference saying the city ‘won’t tolerate’ increases in violent crime, especially when someone uses a gun.

"I’ve also directed Chief Diaz to focus on the relatively few individuals causing the most harm on these places with a special focus on those using guns," Harrell said during a press conference on Friday.

According to SPD, shootings and shots fired calls increased 40% (+175) from 2020 to 2021, violent crime increased 20% and homeless-related shootings increased 122%. 

Harrell was flanked by Interim Chief Adrian Diaz, Fire Chief Harold Scoggins and many members of Harrell’s new executive staff including his three new deputy mayors.

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He said Seattle Police are already targeting key areas of concentrated crime, like 12th Avenue South and Jackson Street in Seattle’s Little Saigon neighborhood.  The intersection is well-known as an open drug market where people also sell goods they just stole.

He said during the first 21 days in January, which were Harrell’s first 21 days as Mayor, SPD had 23 felony arrests and 14 misdemeanor arrests at that intersection. He said there were also 24 recoveries of stolen property and 10 drug seizures.

SPD has periodically shut down the market, according to local business owners, but it keeps coming back.

"If they want to shut it down, they can shut it down. They have warrants and everything like that, you know" said Wiley, a regular at the corner who only wanted to give his first name.  "They do it when they are bored, when they don't have anything else to do. They do it when they are bored, that's what I think".

Because of jail restrictions, the county jail is not booking people who have been arrested for most misdemeanors, like selling stolen goods at places like 12th and Jackson. 

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FOX 13 News asked the mayor if there’s a gap in his plan that doesn’t account for repeat offenders who return to the street right after they are arrested.

"No, not in our plan. Not in our plan," he said.  "So what I will do is stay in my space. The city attorney and the King County prosecutor, their job is to prosecute. The judges, their job is to sentence. I have to protect the city. I understand that, but I have to stay in my lane and work with those elected people." 

The Seattle Fire Department is changing its tactics too. Last year, the department responded to 400 "scenes of violence" calls where someone may have been shot, attacked or injured at a homeless camp.

Starting this week, Scoggins said firefighters are deploying our ballistic vests and ballistic helmets and staging four blocks away when they show up at a scene of violence.  

"That’s a change," he said.  "Oftentimes, we've ended up in places that are unsafe for our firefighters, where people have been assaulted, stabbings or shootings, so we are being very intentional on how we connect with the Seattle police department before we enter these scenes." 

Read the complete findings from the 2021 year-end crime report below or click here

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