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Despite Crime Rise, Fear In Seattle Has Declined Since 2018

Seattle University's annual public safety survey showed that last year, fear of crime among people who live and work in Seattle was at its lowest level since the survey was first published in 2015, the Seattle Times reports. On a scale from 0 to 100, the overall fear of crime was 43.1. That is an average of two ratings: Fear of crime during the day (38.9) and fear of crime at night (47.3). Fear of crime in Seattle has been on a steady decline since it hit a high of 49 in 2018. The previous low was 44 in 2016. The new low number is surprising because reports of crime were up in 2021. There were 47,773 reported crimes last year, a 10 percent increase from 2020, and up nearly 13 percent from 2019. The number of both violent crime and property crime increased.

“You would expect fear of crime to go up,” said Jacqueline Helfgott, who led the survey. She notes some other trends that may have helped ease fear of crime. In a series of questions that relate to feelings of social and physical disorder in an individual’s neighborhood, there was a five-point improvement from 2020 to 2021. Those questions concern things like disorderly conduct, public drug and alcohol consumption, graffiti and litter. That improvement may help explain the decrease in the fear of crime, Helfgott says. “Much of the fear of crime is just a perception of how safe people feel about their environment,” she said, “and there’s definitely research to support that the more social cohesion there is for people in a community, the more they feel they have some control over what’s happening to them, and the more that decreases fear of crime.” While fear of crime has gone down, violent crime was one of the top five themes citywide. “There’s been no other year where violent crime made it up to the top themes, and certainly no other year where violent crime was a top theme … in so many neighborhoods,” Helfgott said.


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