Since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, crime rates throughout the nation have spiked, causing a noticeable rise in shootings and violence. Nowhere has this been more apparent than in Seattle, where authorities struggle to retain enough police personnel.
After more deadly shootings in Seattle this week, the police say the city is on pace to break a 25-year high in deadly shootings, KING-TV reported.
“This is one of our highest years and we are on pace to exceed the last two years, and this has been a concerning trend,” Interim Police Chief Adrian Diaz said.
“We are passing our 25-year high that happened just two years ago,” he added.
This appears to be part of a continuing trend, as The Seattle Times reported in April that the city “continues to go backward on crime — as much as 30 years back.”
Assault, robberies and violent crime increased again this year, after already increasing in 2021.
“We’ve had over a 95% increase in more shots fired, with a 171% increase in people being shot compared to last year. And last year was one of the highest years we’ve had on record,” Diaz told City Council in the spring.
These soaring crime rates in Seattle come in the midst of the city struggling to even have enough police staff.
In July, KING-TV reported that the police department has been warning of staff shortages for two years. The city and department are having to create new hiring strategies in the face of 30-year lows in staffing.
“We cannot deliver the effective public safety, swift response times, and thorough investigations our communities deserve without a well-staffed and well-trained police department,” Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell said.
“While today SPD staffing is at crisis levels, we also have in front of us an opportunity to restore and rebuild a Seattle Police Department that lives up to our highest values and priorities. We need the right number of officers and the right kind of officers,” the mayor added.
Now Seattle is offering hiring incentives of up to $30,000 for lateral transfers and $7,500 for new recruits.
However, though the crime rates in the city look grim, Seattle is just one piece of the much bigger puzzle of crime rates spiking all across the U.S.
Crime rose in 2020 during the pandemic, aggravated by civil unrest brought by the defund-the-police and Black Lives Matter movements that followed several months later.
But the heightened rates have not gone away in the nearly two years since.
“When the U.S. homicide rate jumped nearly 30% in 2020, experts hoped it was a temporary blip — a fleeting symptom of pandemic pressures and civil unrest,” NPR reported.
“Hopes for a rapid decline in the pandemic murder spike are fading,” NPR’s report added.
While the national crime rate statistics for 2022 won’t be available for several more months, one data analyst has given NPR an informal year-to-date tally of murders in major cities.
“The total count in those cities has dipped slightly lower than last year, but it’s still well above pre-pandemic levels. And in 40% of the cities listed, homicides are trending higher,” NPR reported.
In general, like the situation in Seattle, there is a deadly combination of crime rates on the rise and police departments struggling with staff shortages.
“Police departments from Atlanta to Kansas City to Portland are coping with critical staffing shortages and struggling to fill their ranks from patrol officers to 911 operators,” CNN reported in July.
Police departments are not looking to just fill in staffing gaps, they are desperate for hundreds of new hires and are offering incentives.
In July, Atlanta was looking for 250 officers. Dallas was down about 550 officers. Portland was hoping to fill more than 100 officer positions, CNN reported.
Cities all throughout the nation are desperate for more police and are trying to recruit and convince people to join police forces to keep cities safe.
While many have tried to attribute the rise in violent crime to any number of reasons (social media, too many guns, economic fallout), the fact that police shortages and crime rate spikes have continued in the two years after the pandemic and violent civil upheaval against the police cannot be ignored.
Of course, crime is not driven by just one or two factors. There are various issues at play behind increases in violent crime.
But people cannot just ignore the fact that two years of high crimes and officer shortages have come directly on the heels of massive societal disruption from the pandemic and people taking to the streets shouting “defund the police.”
Such events have consequences, and that is what U.S. cities are now finding out the hard way.
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