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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Spin Control

Condon says recent police hiring may have lowered crime

Spokane Mayor David Condon has expressed concern with our truth-testing article published online last night and in print this morning. Some of his thoughts on the issue already were noted in the article. One of his arguments that was not mentioned is that police staffing has increased under his leadership and, therefore, it makes more sense to use figures that include 2015 numbers.

That is why, he said, he used a Police Department report from September of this year, which shows crime down 12 percent when comparing Jan. 1, 2015 though mid-Sept. 2015 with Jan. 1, 2014 though mid-September 2014.

"...You left out a significant point: FBI numbers are a year old," Condon said in an email. "This last year is critical as that is when we have the highest level of officers in place as my administration has prioritized law enforcement funding."

Fair enough, and a fair argument. But it is worth noting that those stats are not a full-year of crime numbers.

It is possible that hiring has impacted crime, but that wouldn't explain why, according to FBI statistics, that crime was higher in Spokane in 2014 than 2011, the last year of Mary Verner's administration when police staffing was down dramatically after budget cuts stemming from the recession. By 2014, police staffing already had recovered significantly.

We can't use the same system Condon is using to compare crime in his administration to crime during Verner's administration because it's a new system with data that doesn't go back that far. That is why we believe the FBI numbers are a better comparison. It would, of course, be better to have the 2015 number, but since FBI figures are January through December, they aren't available.

We already wrote an article examining police hiring. What we were checking is the statement: "Crime is down 12%." We did not label it false, but we do believe it is misleading, and we stand by that for the reasons stated in the article.

Police staffing, by the way is up. The city reports that it has 310 officers currently. That would make it the most officers on the department in more than 20 years. Here is what the FBI reports as the number of sworn officers in the Spokane Police Department for the last 20 years. The FBI report for 2015 police staffing has not been completed, but the trend in 2014 already showed an upward trend.

1995: 284

1996: 286

1997: 285

1998: 287

1999: 288

2000: 291

2001: 293

2002: 293

2003: 303

2004: 293

2005: 281

2006: 278

2007: 282

2008: 296

2009: 291

2010: 290

2011: 275

2012: 275

2013: 280

2014: 295

Note: This post was corrected to remove incorrect data from Sept. 2013 to Sept. 2014 and to correct the period of time Condon is citing when using the statistic that crime is down 12 percent.

Jonathan Brunt
Jonathan Brunt joined The Spokesman-Review in 2004. He is the government editor. He previously was a reporter who covered Spokane City Hall, Spokane County government and public safety.

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