Violent crime rose nearly 30 percent last year in Spokane County, while the county’s arson rate increased by 66 percent, according to a new report. Both categories of crimes also jumped in the city, the report said.
The statistics were released Monday by the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs. The report says violent crime went up 9.7 percent in 2007 in the city of Spokane. Arson was up 33 percent in the city and 66 percent in Spokane County, according to the Washington Uniform Crime Reporting 2007 preliminary annual report.
“The statistics don’t surprise us,” said Spokane Police spokeswoman Officer Jennifer DeRuwe. “The chief’s goal is to make Spokane the safest city of its size in America. These statistics shed light on where some of our resources are needed.”
Violent crime figures include murder, rape, robbery, aggravated assault and arson. In the city of Spokane, aggravated assault was up nearly 15 percent, murder was up 20 percent and arson shot up 33 percent over the previous year.
While the murder statistics seem alarming, they reflect an increase from 10 deaths in 2006 to 12 in 2007. However, there were 104 more aggravated assaults in 2007, according to the report.
The increase in arsons can be attributed to a couple of factors, said Spokane Assistant Fire Chief Brian Schaeffer.
“Part of it might be that we are reporting it better than we ever have before. Reports are automated now, so it’s easier to keep track. Also, there were some anomalies last year.”
In 2007, Spokane saw one of its most costly commercial fires at Whitley Fuel Depot. And the West Central neighborhood had 17 fires that investigators say were intentionally started, including four in one night.
Violent crime decreased 2 percent overall statewide, according to the report. Murder dropped the most, with a 5.9 percent decline. Arson was down 9.7 percent.
The good news is that property crimes dropped. The city’s property crime rate was down 4 percent, and car theft fell almost 17 percent. Statewide, car thefts decreased 17.9 percent.
In Spokane County, property crime was down more than 5 percent. But the county’s car theft rate remained steady. Only one fewer car was stolen in 2007, according to the report.