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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
News >  Crime/Public Safety

‘A community problem’: Taking a look at the 29 homicides in Spokane County in 2022

Homicides rose last year in Spokane County as the level of killings, which spiked during the COVID-19 pandemic, showed no hint of easing. There were 29 people killed in 2022, up from the 24 homicides recorded in the county in 2021.

The Spokesman-Review compiles data on homicides countywide by combining records from the Spokane County Medical Examiner’s Office and local law enforcement agencies. The list excludes vehicular homicides and accidental deaths.

According to FBI homicide data, which includes more categories of killings, the most homicides in Spokane County in the five years previous to the pandemic was 17 in 2015.

There were 19 homicides within the Spokane city limits in 2022, the same as in 2020 but up from 14 in 2021, according to Spokane Police Department data. Three of the homicides remain unsolved, two of which came in the final weeks of December. Three other people were killed that month. Five people were also killed in the month of July.

There are typically fewer homicides in Spokane County outside of the city. There were 10 homicides in the county outside the city of Spokane in 2022, the same number that was recorded in 2021. One of those killings occurred in Spokane Valley on Interstate 90 and was investigated by the Washington State Patrol.

All of last year’s homicides outside the city of Spokane are considered solved, according to the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office, the lead agency in most parts of Spokane County outside of the city of Spokane.

There isn’t a single root cause of the increase in homicides over the last three years, but Julie Humphreys, a Spokane Police Department spokesperson said criminals are “more emboldened today” and that “people are much quicker to respond with violence.”

“This is an overriding trend in Spokane and across the state,” she said.

Homicides in Washington rose in 2020, in line with national trends, according to FBI data.

“It’s not just Washington,” said Martina Morris, a recently retired University of Washington professor of statistics and sociology. “Homicide numbers jumped starting in 2019 around the country.”

The homicide rate in Washington was about half the national average but the numbers match a similar rise that began in 2019, Morris said.

Overall, crime in Spokane has generally been trending down between 2019 and 2021, according to FBI data.

In 2019, the national homicide rate was 5.1 per 100,000 people, and Washington’s was 2.7 per 100,000.

In 2021, the rate was 6.5 per 100,000 nationally and 3.9 per 100,000 in Washington.

Is Spokane less safe than it was?

“No,” Humphreys said. “The vast majority of murders are not random. There is an element of a relationship of the parties involved.”

That relationship is often between domestic partners, but there is also increasingly a gang or drug nexus, Humphreys said.

There are no specific areas that are more dangerous or prone to homicide, because it is largely an unpredictable crime, she said.

“Homicides are a community problem, not a police problem. It will take the community and others to really make a dent in this,” Humphreys said. “We can arrest people after the fact but we have to get to the root cause of why people are choosing to take someone’s life.”

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