Kent Police Chief Rafael Padilla. COURTESY PHOTO, Kent Police

Kent Police Chief Rafael Padilla. COURTESY PHOTO, Kent Police

Kent crime numbers up again in 2022 in most categories

Rise follows historically high numbers in 2021; commercial burglaries up 45%; vehicle thefts 28%

Crime numbers were up 2022 in Kent in all but two categories after the city posted historically high numbers in 2021.

Commercial burglaries were up 45% with 965 in 2022 compared to 665 in 2021, according to Kent Police crime statistics released this month.

Aggravated assaults (not domestic violence cases) increased 37% to 165 from 120. Vehicle thefts jumped 28% to 1,969 from 1,534. Residential burglaries were up 10% to 306 from 277 and robberies increased 4% to 213 from 204.

“In 2021 we had historically high numbers, so to exceed that is not good,” Kent Police Chief Rafael Padilla said during his Jan. 17 Public Safety Report to the City Council.

Councilmember Les Thomas said he sees a lot of windows broken out on buildings when he drives home to the East Hill.

“Most of those are commercial burglaries, smash and grabs,” Padilla said. “We’ve had a series of them along the Benson, Pacific Highway and Meeker.”

The police chief told the council the increase in crime goes beyond Kent.

“If you took our numbers and overlaid them with most jurisdictions in South King county, our numbers would look like theirs,” Padilla said. “I know Tacoma has high numbers. We are focused on Kent but it is a regional issue.”

Council President Bill Boyce later echoed Padilla’s comment.

“What we are seeing here is not unique to Kent,” Boyce said. “We care about Kent and want to keep Kent save, but it’s not unique to Kent.”

Crimes that didn’t rise

Vehicle prowls were down 20% with 1,950 in 2021 falling to 1,563 in 2022 and shooting incidents remained the same at 179.

Padilla said he didn’t know why vehicle prowls were down. He said the number of shootings not going up was somewhat of a positive sign. Shootings include homicides, injuries, property damage and incidents where shots were fired but nobody was injured and no property damaged.

“It’s a flat number,” he said. “The silver lining is homicides related to firearms and injuries were down a little bit so we count those blessings.”

Kent had eight homicides by firearm in 2022 compared to 11 in 2021, four in 2020, four in 2019, six in 2018 and 10 in 2017. There were 41 injuries by firearm in 2022 compared to 46 in 2021, 33 in 2020, 17 in 2019, 23 in 2018 and 24 in 2017.

Kent had 11 homicides overall, compared to 14 in 2021, eight in 2020, four in 2019 and seven in 2018.

Of the eight homicides by firearm, Padilla said arrests were made in five cases, two have pending arrests once the suspects are found and one is unsolved but detectives have strong leads.

“Our officers do a great job with their initial response and our detectives are relentless in solving these crimes,” Padilla said.

While the 179 total shootings number was the same as 2021, the total was up from 117 in 2020, 76 in 2019, 105 in 2018 and 124 in 2017.

Positive outlook

Padilla put a positive spin looking ahead to the rest of 2023, in part because a heavy recruiting emphasis enabled the police department to be fully staffed at its budget cap of 166 officers.

“I’m optimistic going into this year,” Padilla said. “I see opportunities with tools for our officers to use to keep a lid on lower-level crimes and our staffing being able to put resources out and rebuild support issues so that we don’t just arrest but solve crimes.”

Padilla even predicted lower crime numbers in 2023 compared to 2022 and 2021.

“I’m optimistic that for the first time in two years a year from now my report should be a lot better,” he said.

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