Arrow-right Camera
The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Candidate fact check: Has crime really fallen under the Condon administration?

With three days to vote, the wave of campaign literature continues unabated. But how true are the claims made by these mailers and door-hangers?

Claim: Under Mayor David Condon, “crime is down 12 percent” in Spokane.

Source: A joint mailer from Condon and Evan Verduin, a candidate for the Spokane City Council’s northwest district.

Truthfulness: Confusing and misleading. When looking at numbers for the city compiled by the FBI in 2011 (the year before Condon took office) and 2014, the statement is false. However, the statement is true when using the Spokane Police Department’s numbers and comparing 2013 to 2014.

Analysis: According to numbers compiled by the FBI, overall crime was up in Spokane in 2014, the most recent year of statistical information available, compared with 2011.

In the FBI’s methodology, two broad categories of crime – violent and property – cover all other crimes, including murder, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny, motor vehicle theft and arson. Overall, Spokane saw a 17 percent increase in crime from 2011 to 2014, according to the FBI.

During that time, violent crime went down and property crime went up. Violent crime dropped from 1,305 incidents in 2011 to 1,156 incidents in 2014, about a 12 percent decrease. In 2011, there were 15,039 incidents of property crime reported in Spokane. Three years later, that number was up 20 percent to 18,062.

However, Condon said he didn’t use the FBI numbers when making his statement that “crime is down 12 percent.” Instead, he used the police department’s CompStat reports because “I know where the data comes from.” And he compared 2014 with 2013 because of a change in the FBI’s national incident-based reporting system, or NIBRS, that has yet to be implemented nationwide. There is no requirement to use the new system, and there is no certain date for complete implementation of the system, but a vast majority of states are certified to provide data in this format.

Condon also said he felt more comfortable using the police department’s numbers because the FBI categorizes crime differently. For instance, the city saw a rise in violent crime in 2013 largely because of changes in how the FBI defines rape. For the first time, the FBI report counted sodomy, sexual assault with an object and sexual assaults with male victims in the total numbers for rape. Nationwide, the change in definition was likely responsible for a 42 percent increase in rapes.

But even if rape is taken out of the equation, overall crime increased by 17 percent from 2011 to 2014, according to the FBI.

In short, crime may have dropped during the most recent year in Condon’s administration, but overall crime has increased during his years at City Hall.

Finally, since Spokane is notorious for car theft, it’s worth reviewing those stats. Motor vehicle theft incidents in Spokane went from 1,778 in 2011 to 2,242 in 2014, a 26 percent increase.

Claim: Evan Verduin, a candidate in Spokane City Council District 3, is “endorsed by an extreme organization that has called to shut Planned Parenthood down and is opposed to LGBTQ rights.”

Source: Planned Parenthood mailer in support of Verduin’s opponent, Karen Stratton.

Truthfulness: It’s true that Verduin is endorsed by a group called We Believe, We Vote, which is opposed to gay marriage and public funding for Planned Parenthood.

Analysis: We Believe, We Vote is a local, faith-based group that analyzes candidates and has endorsed the more conservative candidates in races. Its board of directors includes former Spokane City Councilwoman Nancy McLaughlin and is headed by Penny Lancaster, a local activist who led an unsuccessful effort to overturn a 2005 City Council decision to extend benefits to the domestic partners of city employees.

Lancaster has publicly pushed against gay rights for years. In 1998, she publicly opposed a city law that would’ve protected gay men and women from discrimination, saying the law was “about government endorsement of sexual behavior.” She helped bring a conference to town to “convert” gay Christians and told a reporter that extending civil rights to gay people would bring about the moral, spiritual and social destruction of Spokane. In 2008, she again pushed against a City Council effort to extend medical and other benefits to domestic partners of city employees.

On Twitter, the group has repeatedly criticized Planned Parenthood and used the hashtag #DefundPP.

Other city candidates to get the group’s endorsement include Mayor David Condon and council president candidate John Ahern. City Councilman Mike Fagan, council candidate LaVerne Biel and Verduin received the group’s highest rating. Council President Ben Stuckart and mayoral candidate Shar Lichty did not win the group’s endorsement because the group said they support “non-biblical values (i.e. expanded government, more taxes, cap & trade, special rights for sexual orientation).”

Claim: Stratton “increased the council budget by $266,825 last year and has lost sight of her priorities.”

Source: Evan Verduin mailer.

Truthfulness: Misleading.

Analysis: It’s true that the Spokane City Council’s budget increased by $266,825 from the 2014 budget to the 2015 budget. Stratton, however, did not increase the budget alone. She was part of a 6-1 vote to increase the budget, along with Councilman Mike Allen, whose deeds on the dais Verduin has said he would emulate.

A lot of that budget increase went toward the salary and benefits for the council’s policy adviser position, a position created and funded in the budget. Fagan later joined the unanimous vote to hire Brian McClatchey for the position. Another $30,000 went toward raises for council members, a move suggested by the city’s Salary Review Commission. About $40,000 in funding for the University District Development Association was transferred to the council’s budget from the mayor’s budget because Council President Ben Stuckart had concerns with how the money was being disbursed.