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In 2018, Seattle’s estimated population had grown to 730,000 people, representing a 20% increase since 2010. With an increase in population, it would be reasonable to expect an increase in reports of crime. But, this is not what has happened in Seattle over the last nine years.
Despite a twenty percent increase in Seattle’s population since 2010, the raw number of police calls handling many types of violent crime has stayed steady, translating to a per capita decrease in the report of many violent crimes like armed robberies, drive-by shootings, homicides and kidnappings.
However, this has not been the case for sex-related crimes which have seen increases in the number of police calls.
The raw number of police calls for non-sex related violent crimes have steadily been decreasing since 2015, despite the increase in population. However, the number of rape calls have increased sixty-seven percent since 2014 and all other sex-related crimes have increased eighty-eight percent since 2010, far outpacing the city’s population increase.
Lewd conduct calls have increased seventy-six percent since 2010 and acquaintance rape calls have nearly doubled since 2014.
Between 2010 and 2018 lewd conduct calls increased more than seventy-six percent, well over three times the rate of population growth for Seattle.
When looking at what part of town these calls were for, it’s easy to see that not all parts of the city have experienced this marked increase of lewd conduct calls.
In every year examined, arrests rates for violent crime calls have far outpaced arrest rates for rape calls and other sex crime calls. In 2018, arrest rates for violent crimes were more than double the rate for non-rape sex crimes and more than 2.4 times the rate of arrest for rape calls.
In 2018, police calls for violent crimes dropped or remained steady for the third year in a row, while calls reporting rapes were at an all-time high for the period studied.
Since the #MeToo movement started towards the end of 2017, sexual assault victims have been coming forward to report these crimes. Some of these recent calls are reporting incidents that happened many years ago. And, even though rapes are notoriously underreported, this increase in calls reporting rape doesn't necessarily indicate an actual increase in these crimes.
We have also seen in high profile cases, Washington’s statute of limitations doesn’t allow for criminal prosecution after three years if a sexual assault isn’t reported within one year. Therefore, arrests could not be made in relation to these police calls. Nevertheless, victims – having been bolstered by the #MeToo movement – are still coming forward to report sexual assaults that have exceeded the statute of limitations.
Each of Seattle’s five police precincts is divided into smaller areas called beats. There are 51 beats in Seattle. In mapping individual crime types it is easy to see where calls reporting different crimes are more concentrated. The beat that is home to Harborview Medical Center, the only Level I Trauma Center serving Washington, Idaho, Alaska and Montana, is named G1. This beat shows higher concentrations of certain violent crime call types because victims will self-transport to the hospital without first calling 911. Then, in certain cases, HMC staff will notify SPD and the call’s location is established at HMC.
G1, the beat where HMC is located, had by far the most acquaintance rape calls between 2010 and 2018. This is unsurprising given that some rape victims will seek out medical attention without notifying law enforcement. These calls also clustered in the N3 and E2 beats – which are where the North and East precincts are located. It’s worth noting that these beats are also where Seattle University and North Seattle Community College are located, respectively. Interestingly, this clustering wasn’t as pronounced with other call types.
The data for this project was sourced from the city of Seattle’s Open Data portal, specifically the Call Data and Seattle Police Department Beats datasets. I downloaded more than 21,000 calls for service covering the years 2010 through 2018, focusing exclusively on five sex-based crimes and five other violent crimes:
Each call for service does not necessarily represent an actual crime, instead, they each represent a call for service where there was a request for the Seattle Police Department’s assistance in a matter.
I have reached out to the Seattle Police Department for clarification on how certain actions and details are coded in these calls. I will update this project as I learn more from the Department.
For complete details on how the data was cleaned and analyzed, please see here.
Unfortunately, I did not track this data, but I feel very comfortable stating that I was listening to Camp Cope’s two studio albums 65% of the time I was working on this project. Thank you, Camp Cope.