Crime has seen a significant increase during the COVID-19 pandemic in Kent, according to numbers shared by Police Chief Rafael Padilla.
“Unfortunately it’s not good news,” Padilla said as he showed the year-by-year comparison during his Public Safety report at the Nov. 17 City Council remote meeting.
Comparing January 2019 through November 2019 with crimes stats from January 2020 through November 2020, crime increased in six categories, with three categories related to vehicle prowling.
Vehicle theft, prowling and recovery each saw slim increases in total incidences and per 1,000 residents. Vehicle theft saw a 1% increase from 823 to 830 instances, vehicle prowling saw a 5% increase from 1,045 to 1,099, and vehicle recovery had a 4% increase from 586 to 612 instances.
The largest increase in incidents was shootings, which are up 53% from 2019, from 62 to 95. Of the 95 shootings, homicides were only two of those cases, but injuries were up from 13 in 2019, to 27 in 2020. The shooting crime rate increased by .25 from .47 to .72 instances per 1,000 residents. Almost half the shootings, 41, were “shots fired,” which means police determined a weapon was fired, but no people were injured and no property was damaged. In another 25 of the shootings, only property was damaged.
Aggravated assaults, which are not domestic violence and involve weapons, are also up 28% from 2019, from 66 to 85. Padilla said the department does not have an exact idea of where the increase in shootings and assaults come from. The aggravated assault crime rate increased from .50 to .64 instances per 1,000 residents.
The third-most increased crime category was in commercial burglaries, up 20% from 337 to 404. Padilla said they believe that is a result of more stores being vacant or closed for longer during the pandemic, which creates a prime opportunity. The commercial burglary rate increased by .51 per 1,000 residents.
Residential burglaries and on-the-street robberies are the only categories that are down, and Padilla attributes that again to life in the pandemic, where fewer people are out and about, and are spending more time at home. Both saw crime rates decrease by around .4 per 1,000 residents, and robbery is down 26% (from 204 cases in 2019 to 150 cases in 2020) while residential burglaries are down 17% (from 293 cases in 2019 to 243 cases in 2020).
Padilla also claimed that longer court wait times, as well as police being restricted to mandatory arrests during COVID-19, has resulted in increased crime stats and a “pretty big mess.”
Overall, the crime rate increase per 1,000 residents was largest in vehicle prowling, from 7.97 to 8.28 incidents per 1,000 people, and commercial burglaries, from 2.57 to 3.08 incidents per 1,000 people in Kent.