Today, the Federal Bureau of Investigation released its semi-annual report on crime in the United States covering the six months before I became New To Seattle last summer. It’s always fun to paw through the city-by-city stats, even more so since that’s something the FBI says it doesn’t want you to do:
Comparisons lead to simplistic and/or incomplete analyses that often create misleading perceptions adversely affecting communities and their residents. Valid assessments are possible only with careful study and analysis of the range of unique conditions affecting each local law enforcement jurisdiction.
Okay, I plead guilty to not having a degree in criminology or sociology or anything that might qualify me to go on a TV talk show and pontificate about the problems of society. But that doesn’t mean I can’t peruse the numbers, maybe discern some patterns and provide my two cents. After all, like you, I helped pay for the stats.
So here’s what I did. Since Seattle has a population of 609,000 and cities are different than suburbs or rural areas, I looked at all the reporting cities with populations between 400,000 and 800,000. You know, a peer group. That puts Seattle right in the middle. I found 25 such cities, ranging from Omaha (pop. 409,000) to Austin, Tex. (790,000).
My conclusion: Seattle is a lot easier on people than property.
According to the feds, in the January-to-June reporting period, there were 1,660 violent crimes against humans. That’s the heavy stuff like murder, forcible rape, robbery and aggravated assault. But on raw numbers (the feds didn’t calculate crimes per 100,000 rates) with the most crimes as No. 1, Seattle fell in the bottom two-fifths of its peer group (15th out of 25). And no city in this sample had fewer than Seattle’s four reported murders. Certainly not Detroit, with 173, the other Washington with 55, or Memphis with 53. Not even Denver (11) or Portland, Ore. (10) .
But it’s a different story when it comes to offenses involving something that doesn’t have a beating heart. Seattle reported 15,216 property crimes–burglary, larceny, theft, motor vehicle snatchings and arson. That puts the city in the top 30% of the peer group (No. 7 of 25, if you must be exact). Of the six cities closest in population to Seattle, your possessions are considerably safer in five of them (Denver, Portland, Ore.; Nashville, Milwaukee and even the other Washington) and more at risk in only one (Oklahoma City).
Putting aside the tough economic conditions, one possible explanation for this dichotomy is my perception that the folks of Seattle are not as friendly as those in some of the many other places in which I’ve lived during the past 40 years. Here they sort of try to avoid one another. This might spill over to that segment of the population which happens to walk on the wrong side of the law. Even in that realm it requires a higher degree of human interaction to assault and rob a pedestrian than, say, burgle an empty home. The latter event entails no personal contact at all.
Anyway, that’s my analysis. The FBI can come for me now.