Seattle Homicide Rate Increased Sharply in 2020 Amid Protests, Police Defunding

March 8, 2021 Updated: March 23, 2021

The Seattle Police Department (SPD) investigated 50 homicides last year, the most homicides in the city in 26 years.

This was an increase of 61 percent compared to the 31 cases in 2019. Law enforcement personnel cited issues such as ongoing protests as well as officials actively limiting police power.

Data from local police also shows that homicides across the country rose by 36 percent in 2020 compared to a year before.

“Obviously, the pandemic, the political climate, the civil unrest adds to that,” Jim Fuda, law enforcement director of Crime Stoppers of Puget Sound, told The Epoch Times. “You cannot blame police for that.”

Fuda started serving at the King County Sheriff’s Office in 1973 at the age of 21, making him the youngest deputy sheriff in the office at the time.

Epoch Times Photo
Jim Fuda, law enforcement director of Crime Stoppers of Puget Sound. (Photo courtesy of Jim Fuda)

Police union head Mike Solan told The Epoch Times, “I think it is a result of the energy around defunding police.”

Solan is the president of the Seattle Police Officers Guild, representing more than 1,300 police officers in the area.

From Model Agency to Defunding Target

In 2016, a federal judge cited the SPD as a national training model of police reform. Fifty agencies in the nation were called on to learn from the SPD’s practices and policies.

Recently, however, the SPD became a target for defunding. In August 2020, the Seattle City Council approved cuts of around 12 percent to the SPD budget.

A memo to the Seattle City Council states that the police department experienced extreme staffing shortages for more than 220 days in 2020.

Fuda expressed concern about the defunding.

“It increases crime and increases the fear of crime,” he said.

He said defunding leads to fewer police officers on the streets. On top of that, 240 officers have already left the police department, the most in the history of the Seattle police force.

“So there are fewer officers to respond to other than Priority 1 calls, or they’re slower to Priority 1 calls, because there simply isn’t the manpower to respond to all this going on in the city,” he said.

Priority 1 calls are for life-threatening emergencies.

The number of “priority status days,” or days when at least one precinct was in a status when officers could only handle Priority 1 and 2 calls, showed a large increase in 2019 and 2020. The new memo states, “The 2020 level of priority call handling (in days) represents a 97% increase from 2018 and a 176% increase from 2017.”

Epoch Times Photo
(Seattle Police Department)
Epoch Times Photo
(Seattle Police Department)

High Homicide Rate in Capitol Hill

According to King County’s Prosecuting Attorney’s Office (PAO), Seattle’s Capitol Hill was among the areas with the most homicides in 2020. Capitol Hill is where the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone (CHAZ) was created, and it was where members of Antifa and Black Lives Matter held extended protests during the summer.

The CHAZ was also known as the Capitol Hill Organized Protest (CHOP).

Fuda said city officials allowed the CHOP area to be taken over and become a no-cop zone.

“And you saw the homicides and assaults and rapes that happened through the summer just on Capitol Hill alone,” he said.

The Epoch Times previously spoke to the former CHOP organizer named Rooks, who said CHOP aimed to defund police by 50 percent, establish a no-cop zone like CHAZ, and get all protesters released without charges.

In June 2020, the SPD was forced to abandon its east precinct that was located in the area. Police couldn’t access the protest area for the majority of the time during the occupation.

According to police data, Capitol Hill’s crime rate was almost double the national average. Violent crime was 16 percent more than the national average, and people in the Capitol Hill area had a 1 in 14 chance of becoming a victim of a crime.

Epoch Times Photo
A scene from the protests at Seattle’s Capitol Hill in June 2020. (Echo Liu/The Epoch Times)

Impact on Public Safety

During a certain period in 2020, when calling 911 in Seattle, one would hear: “This is 911; can you call back later? Seattle doesn’t have enough officers to handle your call right now.”

Solan said defunding police hurts not only police, but also public safety.

“It’s a breakdown in society, and for me, this is very concerning,” he said. “The city’s panicking, and they realize that there would be an incredible void of police coverage.”

“More evidence of that is officers fleeing the city for areas where they feel valued by their elected officials, where they can actually serve and fulfill the role of service,” Solan said.

Epoch Times Photo
Mike Solan, president of the Seattle Police Officers Guild. (Echo Liu/The Epoch Times)

For many years, Seattle has been ranked among the top cities as “best place to live” in the United States. Solan described Seattle as a beautiful place filled with great people.

“And yet, it seems like radical activism has now taken a significant route in Seattle, which I believe is circumventing the reasonable community’s voice and impacting our public safety, [which] will eventually lead to a significant rise in crime in Seattle.”

“It’s also to decriminalize most crimes that I feel impacts public safety in such a profound way,” said Solan. “We have people in power to almost make it easier to commit crime and not be held accountable for it.”

Minneapolis was the first city to defund police, but it has since gone back on defunding measures. Solan criticized the Seattle City Council’s lack of support for the SPD after Minneapolis altered its course to increase a $7 million fund for police.

U.S. District Judge James Robart warned earlier that if the Seattle council continues with defunding action that undermines public safety, strong court action may intervene.

Lisa Herbold, a Seattle City Council member and public safety chair, argued last week in an op-ed that the city council can’t be held responsible for limiting local police capacity.

Solan said, “She’s indeed wrong in her position, and hopefully the electorate can hold her accountable.”

Herbold’s office declined a request for comment by The Epoch Times. Other Seattle City Council members didn’t respond immediately to a request for comment by NTD Television, a sister company of The Epoch Times.

Solan said that most people feel safe at home right now, “but [as] we continue down this path of not holding people accountable for their criminal actions, then crime will visit people’s doorstep sooner rather than later. And that’s not alarmist; that’s a reality.”

Note: A previous version of this article incorrectly represented what the “priority status days” chart was about. The chart depicts the days when at least one precinct was in a status where officers could only handle Priority 1 and 2 calls. The Epoch Times regrets the error.