Most crimes were up in Kent in 2020 compared to 2019, including a 54% increase in shootings and a 39% jump in aggravated assaults.
“We are up in nearly every category and significantly up in some of the more concerning crimes,” Kent Police Chief Rafael Padilla said during a public safety report Jan. 19 to the Kent City Council.
The number of shootings jumped from 76 in 2019 to 117 in 2020, a hike of 54%. A shooting is verified if someone fired a shot and hit a building or person, or if someone reported shots fired and shell casings were found at the scene, meaning someone had fired bullets and left the casings behind.
There were four homicides by gunfire in 2020, the same number as in 2019. Padilla said the city had eight homicides last year, with half of those by gunshot wounds.
Thirty-three people were injured by gunshots in 2020 compared to 17 in 2019. Gunshots caused property damage in 32 incidents in 2020 compared to 24 in 2019. Shots fired (no target hit) were at 48 in 2020 compared to 30 in 2019.
The total number of shootings in 2020 was 117 compared to 76 in 2019, 105 in 2018 and 124 in 2017.
Padilla said there has been an increase in vehicles hit by gunfire, which he said could be due to people using guns to settle road rage conflicts.
“A lot of it is trends we are seeing in the criminal justice system,” Padilla said about the shootings. “We are seeing an unnerving trend where that demographic is 18 to 25 years old. More and more are using firearms to commit violence.”
Padilla said the number of shootings increased last year in Seattle and South King County cities.
“We are seeing double digit increases throughout the region,” he said.
Aggravated assaults, which jumped 39% from 74 in 2019 to 103 in 2020, include incidents where the injuries were serious enough to be considered a felony offense, Padilla said. That is a crime rate of 0.78 per 1,000 population. That number doesn’t include domestic violence cases. He said the number of domestic violence cases were similar in 2020 to 2019.
Robberies were down 26%, with 249 reported in 2019 and 184 in 2020, which is a crime rate of 1.40 cases per 1,000 in population.
“That has a lot to do with COVID-19,” Padilla said about the drop. “When there are less people out, there is less opportunity.”
Residential burglaries dropped 7%, from 321 cases in 2019 to 298 cases in 2020.
“That has a lot to do with COVID-19 because less homes are unoccupied,” Padilla said.
Vehicle thefts up
Vehicle thefts jumped 15% from 949 to 1,090, a crime rate of 8.32 per 1,000 residents. Vehicle prowls were up 16% from 1,380 to 1,601.
Padilla blamed part of that increase on changes in the King County jail system due to COVID-19 and keeping the jail population reduced. He said the county considers vehicle theft a property crime, so suspects are not held in jail, and in some cases they are simply booked and released.
Several thousand criminal cases also have been delayed in court due to COVID-19.
“Criminals are taking advantage of that because they know it will be a year or two before they go to court,” Padilla said. “It’s open season.”
The chief said part of the problem is whether there is enough accountability for property crimes. He said they see a lot of repeat offenders when it comes to vehicle theft.
Kent crime stats
Crime: 2019|2020 Change
Robbery: 249|184 down 26%
Vehicle prowl: 1,380|1,601 up 16%
Vehicle theft: 949|1,090 up 15%
Residential burglary: 321|298 down 7%
Commercial burglary: 285|498 up 29%
Aggravated assaults: 74|103 up 39%
Shootings: 76|117 up 54%
Source: Kent Police Department