Seattle Crime Trends A Mixed Bag Under SPD Chief O’Toole

by Neal McNamara 

(This article was previously published on and has been reprinted with permission)

Following a national trend in recent years, violent crime in Seattle has risen since Chief Kathleen O’Toole took charge of the department in June 2014, according to SPD and FBI statistics. Between 2008 and 2013, violent crime was up and down each year, but since 2014, the total number of violent crime incidents has trended upward.

Seattle’s population has grown by more than 30,000 since 2014, according to U.S. Census Bureau estimates. The violent crime rate in 2016 was about 565 per 100,000, up from the 2015 rate of 551, but down from the 2014 rate of 574. The 2016 violent crime rate was still up over that past decade: the violent crime rate in 2008 was when Seattle’s population was about 603,000 was 525 per 100,000.

The U.S. overall saw a rise in violent crimes between 2015 and 2016, according to FBI statistics. The violent crime rate in 2016 was 386 per 100,000 compared to 373 in 2015.

If recent trends keep pace, Seattle will actually see a decade low violent crime rate in 2017. Year-to-date, the violent crime rate stands about 505 per 100,000 people. At the same time, murders were up 41 percent in 2017 compared to 2016, according to department data.

Mayor Jenny Durkan announced Monday morning that O’Toole will step down as chief at the end of 2017. Deputy Chief Carmen Best will take over on Jan. 1.

Here’s how crime trends (based on number of incidents) have tracked during O’Toole’s time in Seattle. The data is from the FBI’s annual crime report and Seattle’s Crime Dashboard information system:

Violent Crime

  2014 2015 2016 2017 YTD
FBI 4,001 4,093 4,294 N/A
Seattle police 3,734 3,768 3,982 3,565

Shots Fired (from Seattle data only)

  2014 2015 2016 2017 YTD
Shots Fired 284 352 313 332
Increase/Decrease From Prior Year +54 +68 -39 +19

Property Crime

  2014 2015 2016 2017 YTD
FBI 40,649 37,754 38,433 N/A
Seattle Police 40,768 37,839 38,544 31,588

Featured image Alex Garland

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