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While Seattle crime is high, levels haven't reached historic peaks

The crime rate in Seattle is not good right now, but in comparison to prior decades, it's not the worst the city has seen.

SEATTLE — The Seattle Police Department (SPD) responded to two shootings in the city, one of them deadly, within hours of each other on Thursday.

The SPD said a man was killed and a woman was critically injured after a shooting in Columbia City. Within hours, police responded to another shooting on Third Avenue and Yesler Street downtown.

Such headlines of violent crime have become common in recent weeks, even months. But have they reached levels unseen in the city's past?

Thursday's violence comes on the heels of the SPD's 2022 strategic plan to address the rise in crime.

Interim Police Chief Adrian Diaz told a city council panel this week Seattle has seen more than a 95% increase in shots fired and a 171% increase in people being shot, compared to last year.

"We know our community has continued to feel this violence," said Diaz.

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Despite the recent rise, Jackie Helfgott, a professor and director at Seattle University's Crime & Justice Research Center, said Seattle has not reached historic levels seen in prior decades.

“We're not at a peak,” said Helfgott. “It takes years to see a trend line occurring to see if we're steady on the rise. We don't have a good understanding yet of the nature of types of violent crimes to understand exactly what is contributing to that.”

For years, Helfgott has conducted surveys on public perception and concerns of crime and works with Seattle police for its micro-community policing program. Among the persistent concerns is a lack of police capacity.

While there's no single answer to a solution to crime, increased police presence does play a role in reducing crime.

"There are studies that show that increased police presence will most definitely address hot spots where there's a convergence of factors that contribute to crime," explained Helfgott.

Victoria Beach, chair of the African American Community Advisory Council for the SPD, shares concerns about crime levels in the city. She said she has heard from her community that there needs to be an increase in police presence.

"We don't have enough police officers to enforce, and I think a lot of people that are doing gun violence, drive-by shootings, they know," said Beach. "The gun violence is out of control, and I just pray to God that I'm not driving through an intersection, my grandkids, my kids. That's my fear."

The SPD's strategic plan includes hiring more officers. Beach, meanwhile, said a fix is needed now.

“A lot of people don't like this, but I've been saying this from the very beginning. Bring the National Guard in," said Beach.


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