Kirkland Police Chief Olsen on Crime Statistics

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Kirkland Police Chief Eric Olsen responds to this article regarding crime statistics. 

Rob,

I was interested to read your posting regarding Kirkland being ranked 50 out of 50 Washington Cities by SafeWise. The City Council had received a notice from SafeWise about Kirkland’s standing.

You make a good point by asking if Kirkland should be satisfied with being ranked last (# 50) as a safe city.  You also make the point that you are supportive of public safety in Kirkland, and I know firsthand that you  are supportive of the Police Department  and the job we do.  

As I read your opinion and based on my intimate knowledge of historical crime data, I know that SafeWise’s calculations are not accurate.   I’ve compiled a list of neighboring cities’ overall crime rates for 2012, the most recent year for which data is available from the State.  Crime rate data includes both violent and property crime and is obtained from the National Incident Based Reporting System (NIBRS) which is designed to allow for an “apples to apples” comparison between different regions.  The data was gathered from the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs (WASPC)  website which is publicly available at www.WASPC.org.  Please note that the city of Bellevue is not on the list below due to that city not yet participating in the NIBRS reporting system.    

For 2012, Kirkland reported 49.1 crimes per one thousand residents.  This was slightly higher than crime rates for Issaquah and Redmond, and lower than Monroe, Renton, Seattle and the state-wide average. 

According to the website for SafeWise (the company that published the ranking discussed in the article), they “combined independent research with the 2012 FBI Crime Report” to determine their “safe cities” list.  They do not describe what their “independent research” entailed nor did not they contact us in preparing their findings.

I reviewed the rankings of cities on the SafeWise website and was not able to find a direct correlation to actual crime rates.  Looking at local agencies, I see that Brier ranked #13 on their list and had a 2012 crime rate of 27.3 which is indeed very low.  Mill Creek ranked #17, and they reported 41.6 crimes per 1,000 residents, which is not too far off from Kirkland’s crime rate of 49.1.  Redmond ranked 21st on the list and is very close to Kirkland in crime rate with 46.2.  I found it particularly interesting that Bothell ranked 28th on the list and yet Bothell actually reported a higher crime rate than Kirkland for 2012.  It doesn’t seem to make sense why would a city with a higher crime rate  rank so much lower on a “safe cities” list.  Again, without access to their methodology, it’s impossible to say why Kirkland was ranked 50th. 

 

Below are the actual 2012 crime rates for Kirkland and surrounding areas. 

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 The Eastside cities usually have similar crime rates from year to year.  Typically, you will  find much higher crime rates in the south King county cities (Renton, Kent, Auburn, etc.,) and the north end cities (Lynnwood, Everett).  Seattle typically has a much higher crime rate than the Eastside.  Kirkland and other Eastside agencies’ crime rates fall far below the statewide average as well.   

 

 

 

Here is the above information represented in a bar chart:

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I would also question the statements describing Redmond, Bellevue and Kirkland as being a certain percent “more dangerous” or “less dangerous” a place to live.  I have no idea where these percent calculations might have come from (the article doesn’t say), but they seem wildly off-base.  For example, compare Kirkland’s crime rate of 49.1 crimes per 1,000 persons to Redmond’s crime rate of 46.2 crimes per 1,000. The difference is 2.9 crimes per 1,000 persons or .29% - less than a one-third of 1% increase.  Yet, somehow the article concludes that Redmond is “16.2% less dangerous to live in than Kirkland”.  I am trying to reach SafeWise to gain a better understanding of how they calculated their data.

Kirkland is a safe city.  Kirkland residents continually reflect their sense of safety when asked about it in community surveys. 

I hope this is helpful.  If you need further information, please let me know.

Chief Eric Olsen
Kirkland Police Department