The increasing number of crimes also came alongside statewide population growth of 93,262 people, which Strachan noted is almost equivalent to the population of the city of Kirkland. That means 2022’s murder rate of 0.05 per 1,000 Washington residents did not outpace the peak rates in 1994 or the late 1980s.
Strachan noted the high murder rate in 1994, which he attributed to a surge in gang violence, also came with higher police staffing than the state saw last year, providing more resources to investigate those killings.
“The officers per (1,000 residents) is now much lower than it was in 1994,” Strachan said. “So if we’re comparing those two periods of time, remember that the number of options available was significantly higher in 1994, with a rate of 1.62 (officers per 1,000 residents). We would now have, if we kept that rate, 12,719 sworn officers — which is over 2,000 officers more than we have right now in the state of Washington.”
Staffing reached a new statewide record low last year of 1.36 officers per 1,000 residents. Strachan said that made last year the 13th consecutive year when Washington has had the lowest staffing ratio in the nation. The national average is 2.31 officers per 1,000 residents.
The director sounded the alarm last year over 2021’s report showing nearly 500 fewer law enforcement officers than in 2020. On Monday, he said the state lost an additional 70 officers last year across the state.