Skip to main content
Advertising

Originally published Monday, November 17, 2014 at 6:24 PM

  • Share:
             
  • Comments
  • Print

Editorial: What to do about the state’s No. 1 property crime ranking

We’re No. 1! ... in property crime rate. A smash-and-grab crime wave in Washington demands changes on the street, and in law.


Seattle Times Editorial

advertising

WASHINGTON last week won a ranking no state wants: It now leads the nation in property-crime rates.

Property crime elsewhere in the country dropped, but new FBI crime statistics show that Washington leapt from third in 2012 to first in 2013 thanks in part to a 6 percent jump in car thefts. The trend demands changes on the ground and in state sentencing policy.

The news probably is not a surprise to Seattle area residents. Property crime rates for the Seattle-Bellevue-Tacoma area are more than double rates in and around Boston, nearly one-third higher than the Denver metro area and more than a quarter higher than Portland and its suburbs.

The data underscore aggravating stories about mishandled property crimes, including one by Seattle Times columnist Danny Westneat, who got little police help when he tracked a stolen iPhone using a GPS tracker. The Times published a remarkably similar story on Saturday from a 26-year-old woman: iPad theft, GPS tracking, no help from police.

A new regime at the Seattle Police Department says it has heard the collective aaargghh! Under Chief Kathleen O’Toole’s direction, the department created a position to help officers work through the technological and legal issues of chasing stolen devices via embedded GPS locators. It is also reviewing how nonemergency calls are handled and how it deploys its resources.

Those are all good first steps. Ideally, O’Toole also will bring what has been missing: a departmentwide recognition that “low-level crimes” — from car prowling to downtown disorder — erode a civic feeling of safety.

“People breaking into cars, these aren’t boy scouts, first time out of the box,” said Mike Wagers, O’Toole’s operations chief. “People who are doing it are probably offenders we need to engage with.”

A more vigorous response will likely require more officers. Mayor Ed Murray has pledged to boost the city’s 1,250-some uniformed officers by 100. But only adding officers to a dysfunctional department won’t fix the problem.

As Wager said, “First we need to make sure we have business processes down. We’re not going to blame this on staffing levels.”

The rising property crime rates, in Seattle and elsewhere in Washington, also demand a change in reconsideration of state sentencing laws that are an outlier nationally. The state, for budget and policy reasons, rarely requires supervision for convicted low-level thieves — even though post-detention monitoring is a proven deterrent.

A state task force convened by Gov. Jay Insee is looking into the state’s No. 1 property crime ranking. It should produce a set of recommended sentencing changes. The Legislature, like the Seattle Police, must not shrug off a smash-and-grab crime wave.

Editorial board members are editorial page editor Kate Riley, Frank A. Blethen, Ryan Blethen, Jonathan Martin, Thanh Tan, Blanca Torres, Robert J. Vickers, William K. Blethen (emeritus) and Robert C. Blethen (emeritus).



Four weeks for 99 cents of unlimited digital access to The Seattle Times. Try it now!

Relive the magic

Relive the magic

Shop for unique souvenirs highlighting great sports moments in Seattle history.

Advertising

Advertising

The Seattle Times Historical Archives

Browse our newspaper page archives from 1900-1984


Advertising
The Seattle Times

The door is closed, but it's not locked.

Take a minute to subscribe and continue to enjoy The Seattle Times for as little as 99 cents a week.

Subscription options ►

Already a subscriber?

We've got good news for you. Unlimited seattletimes.com content access is included with most subscriptions.

Subscriber login ►
The Seattle Times

To keep reading, you need a subscription upgrade.

We hope you have enjoyed your complimentary access. For unlimited seattletimes.com access, please upgrade your digital subscription.

Call customer service at 1.800.542.0820 for assistance with your upgrade or questions about your subscriber status.

The Seattle Times

To keep reading, you need a subscription.

We hope you have enjoyed your complimentary access. Subscribe now for unlimited access!

Subscription options ►

Already a subscriber?

We've got good news for you. Unlimited seattletimes.com content access is included with most subscriptions.

Activate Subscriber Account ►