Seattle Travel
Are Seattle Crime Rates Rising in 2023? 

Are Seattle Crime Rates Rising in 2023? 

Post created June 20, 2023
  • In 2021 and 2022 Seattle saw a spike in crimes with about 4,000 criminal offenses per month on average.
  • However, crime levels have dropped so far in 2023.
  • One reason for the increased perception of crime is that most of Seattle’s hotel rooms are downtown, which has seen a rise in unsheltered homeless populations and a drop in foot traffic as many companies have moved to remote work.

One of the most important things to consider when visiting a new place, either for work or recreation, is safety. Whether it is traveling to visit family, exploring a new city, or moving, it is important for people to feel comfortable wherever they go, especially in larger cities.

This article will go into the crime rates of the city of Seattle, including a comparison of crimes rates of previous years, what crimes are most common and which parts of Seattle are most likely to have criminal activity, and a brief look at why Seattle has garnered a reputation for crime and if that reputation is actually truthful.

How Does Seattle’s 2023 Crime Rate Compare To Previous Years?

Violent and property crime rose in 2021 and 2022 but is down so far in 2023 (Source: Seattle Police Department)

The Seattle Police Department reports that as of April 30, 2023, overall crime rates in Seattle are lower than they have been in the last 2 years. Crime rates in 2023 are currently trending in a similar fashion to the crimes rates of 2021 with about 3,000 criminal offenses recorded per month. Crime rates in 2023 so far are about 100 to 200 criminal offenses lower than in 2021.

Although the year is only halfway done, so far it seems that crime rates in Seattle are actually going down. Offenses this year are nearly 1,000 offenses less per month than they were last year. The overall downward trend of crime rates towards the end of 2022 further indicates that this downward trend may continue through 2023.

Seattle’s 2022 Crime Rate

2022 had a total of 50,050 criminal offenses, with 44,408 of those offenses being property crime. The most common crimes were larceny-theft, mother vehicle theft, and burglary concentrated in the Queen Anne, Northgate, and Capitol Hill neighborhoods. 

Crime rates continuously floated around 4,000 to 4,500 criminal offenses per month until November, where the crime rate dropped to 3,800 offenses. The crime rate continued to drop to 3,742 in December and stayed below that thus far in 2023.

Seattle’s 2021 Crime Rate

There are about 4,000 criminal offenses in Seattle per month. (Image Credit: iStock / Daniel Tadevosyan)

2021 had a total of 47,987 criminal offenses. 42,568 of those offenses were property damage, with over half of all crimes committed in 2021 being larceny-theft. Crimes were most common in the Queen Anne, Northgate, and Capitol Hill neighborhoods.

The crime rates in 2021 had an upward trend, with the crime rate steadily rising every month in the later half of the year. There was a slight dip in offenses in November and December of 2021 by a couple hundred offenses but the crime rate continued to stay above 4,000 offenses per month well into 2022.

Seattle’s Crime Rate Over the Last Decade

In comparison to crime rates over the last decade, violent crime has been on the rise while property crime has remained about the same as it was 10 years ago. The end of 2022 had a property crime rate of 5,784 per 100,000 residents, which isn’t far off from 2013’s property crime rate of 5,956 per 100,000 residents.

Although the years have shown that Seattle is more prone to property crime than violent crime, the violent crime rate in the last decade has nonetheless been on the rise. The violent crime rate since 2013 has risen steadily each year, with the only dip in violent crime rates occurring in 2020, likely as a result of the lockdown. The end of 2022 had a record-breaking 736 violent crimes per 100,000 residents, while 2013 only had a violent crime rate of 571 per 100,000 residents. 

However, despite the rise in violent crime through the years, the amount of violent crimes is still only a fraction of property crimes. The total amount of violent crimes per year has never reached above 6,000 per year, with the highest being 5,612 total in 2022. The average is typically around 3,500 to 4,000 per year. Meanwhile, property crimes always manage to hit well above the 30,000 mark each year. 

Even back in 2013, the property crime rate was higher than the violent crime rate, coming in at 37,168 property crimes versus 3,562 violent crimes. This comparison still rings true today despite the increase in violent crime. The end of 2022 saw a total of 44,101 property crimes versus 5,612 violent crimes.

What Crimes Are Most Common In Seattle?

The most common crimes committed in Seattle are larceny-theft, burglary, and motor vehicle theft. The least common crimes committed in Seattle are rape, arson, and homicide. These trends in criminal offenses have remained the same in Seattle for the past 3 years, with total property crimes in the last 3 years eclipsing the rate of violent crimes by over 10,000 offenses.

What Parts Of Seattle Have The Highest Crime Rates?

Capitol Hill has higher levels of property crime than other Seattle neighborhoods (SEASTOCK/iStock Photo)

According to the crime dashboard of the Seattle Police Department, the neighborhoods in Seattle with the highest crime rates in the last 2 years are Queen Anne, Northgate, and Capitol Hill. The Queen Anne and Northgate neighborhoods are the most likely areas for violent crimes like assaults or robberies to occur in Seattle, whereas Capitol Hill is the most likely area for property crimes.

Currently, the neighborhoods with the highest crime rates are Queen Anne, Northgate, and the University District. The University District is similar to Capitol Hill in that most crimes there are property crimes. 

How Does Seattle’s Crime Rate Compare To Other Major Cities In America?

Seattle’s overall crime rate is considered somewhat higher than other similar-sized cities and metropolitan areas. Most of this is attributed to Seattle’s high property crime rate, which is higher than other major cities like New York City and Chicago by almost double the amount.

However, Seattle’s violent crime rate is well below the national average. The national average for violent crime over the last decade has been on average about 360 crimes committed per 100,000 people. Seattle’s violent crime rate in recent years on average falls at about 321 violent crimes per 100,000 people, which is lower than other major cities like New York City and Los Angeles.

(Source: Seattle Police Department)
(Source: Seattle Police Department)

Why Does Seattle Have A Reputation For Crime?

Part of the reason why people think of crime when they think of Seattle is the history of several famous criminals that committed their crimes in the area. Serial killers like Ted Bundy, who was at one point a UW student and committed multiple murders in Washington State in the 70’s, and Gary Ridgway, also known as the Green River Killer due to the fact that his victims were often found in the Green River near SeaTac during the 80’s, have reputations that cast a dark shadow over the city.

Seattle’s reputation has been overshadowed by other famous criminals, including D.B. Cooper, who hijacked a Seattle-bound plane and famously parachuted out of said plane in 1971. His mysterious disappearance after parachuting from the plane has fascinated the country for decades, making Seattle home to the most famous unsolved hijacking case in the country.

In more recent history, the Black Lives Matter movement in 2020 led to protests throughout the country, including Seattle. The Seattle area gained nationwide attention as protestors established the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone, which was an occupation protest in Capitol Hill. Protestors created a self-declared autonomous zone where police were barred from entering. The Autonomous Zone – or CHOP – lasted less than a month, but it captured deep divisions across the country. While some applauded the protests, others saw it as the embodiment of lawlessness sweeping the country.

Seattle’s Unsheltered Homeless Population

Seattle Underpass
Areas underneath underpasses often have large encampments as they provide shelter for Seattle’s homeless population (Image Credit: Seattle Travel)

Another factor behind Seattle’s reputation is the homeless population. Seattle has one of the highest rates of homelessness in the country and has since spawned the idea that Seattle is a dangerous place.

While New York has a homeless population of 76,501 (as of 2017), just 5.1% of its homeless population is unsheltered. That contrasts with Seattle where its homeless population is 11,643, but a staggering 47.1% of its homeless population is unsheltered.

This unsheltered homeless population is largely concentrated near downtown, where most of Seattle’s hotel rooms are also concentrated. Combine a rising homeless population downtown with less foot traffic as many businesses have moved to remote, and you can see how a visitor to Seattle in 2023 would have a vastly different impression of the city versus 2013 even if crime rates are relatively similar.

Is Seattle’s Reputation For Crime Warranted?

Although the events mentioned above all did indeed happen within Seattle, Seattle’s reputation for crimes is not necessarily entirely true. Serial killers like Ted Bundy and Gary Ridgway did in fact commit their crimes within the city but were caught and prosecuted many decades ago. However, the growing popularity of true crime documentaries and film adaptations, ranging anywhere from independent YouTube videos to Netflix series, have made these crimes infamous, thus continuously casting a shadow over Seattle as a whole.

Looking at the bigger picture however, Seattle has a lower average violent crime rate in comparison to the national violent crime rate. It is most likely that Seattle’s reputation for crimes and criminals is boosted and exaggerated by a combination of the continuous depictions of famous criminals from the area, recent memories of the BLM movement, and stigma towards the homeless rather than Seattle actually being home to rampant crime and violence.

Ashleigh on ferry Island hopping.

Hi, I'm Ashleigh! Welcome to Seattle Travel, my little piece of beautiful PNW. This is home and I'm here to share all my experiences so visitors and locals alike can find the best experiences this part of the country has to offer. I started Seattle Travel in 2012 as a way to journal my experiences and over the years have been encouraged by family and friends to open up my adventures to everyone. I actively seek out the best food, activities, and day trips and give you a local perspective.  The Pacific Northwest is one of the most beautiful areas in the world and my goal is to let you explore it to the fullest. 

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