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Police Chief: Crime Stats Don't Tell Whole Story

Gig Harbor was recently named the 10th worst city in the state for crime rates, but Police Chief Mike Davis said Gig Harbor is not a crime-ridden town.

In the past few weeks, Gig Harbor has been getting regional and even national attention, including the Smithonian Magazine’s top 20 best small towns in the U.S.

But the city was recently tagged as the 10th worst city in the Washington state for crimes at 70.6 per 1,000 residents, according to Seattlepi.com.

In a brief description, the publication reported that Gig Harbor had a 14 percent increase in overall crime rate in 2011. While there was no mention of the city’s property crime, the publication reported that the violent crime rate remained low with 2.5 per 1,000 residents in Gig Harbor.

Not so fast, says the city's top cop. The numbers don't tell the whole story.

Chief Mike Davis is speaking out to set the record straight.

“Gig Harbor is not a crime-ridden town. It’s still a great town,” he told Patch.

He argued that a city’s crime rate should be judged based on both violent and property crime.

The statistics were pulled from the final 2011 Uniform Crime Report (UCR) published earlier this month. The UCR is compiled throughout the country to compare levels of crime between different jurisdictions.

The department’s main rate increases include a 22.4 percent jump in burglaries, a 46.2 percent increase in motor vehicle thefts and a 6.9 percent rise in larceny (mostly thefts from vehicles), according to the UCR.

In contrast, there were slight decreases in violent crimes.

Violent Crime (reported)

2010

2011

Change

Murder

0

0

0%

Rape

3

1

-66.7%

Aggravated Assault

10

7

-30%

 

Property Crime (reported)

2010

2011

Change

Arson

2

1

-50%

Burglary

76

93

22.4%

Larceny

335

358

6.9%

Motor vehicle theft

26

38

46.2%

Davis said due to the small number of violent crimes committed in Gig Harbor, the inflated percentage may not necessarily be a true representation of the actual crime rate. For example, the chart shows 50 percent decrease in reported arson cases, but in terms of quantity, there were two reported arsons in 2010 and only one in 2011.

Davis also argued that crime is a function of the population: more people equal more crime.

He said the slight discrepancies in the population may artificially increase the city’s crime rate. The population on UCR indicates 7,200 people in Gig Harbor. In reality, the City of Gig Harbor reported a little more than 7,500 residents living inside city limits in 2009. In addition, he estimated that more than 20,000 people spend time inside the city limits each day for business, recreation and also crime.

In a recent Kitsap Sun article, the Kitsap County law enforcement officials blamed high unemployment rates for a jump in property crimes. While Davis agreed with the notion, he said the economy isn’t the only factor contributing to the problem in Gig Harbor.

He said this community has always had a history of high property crime rate.

“Property crime is our crime du jour,” he said. “We have a very affluent population that can at times fail to take measures to protect their property from being stolen.”

 

Total Crime

Violent Crime

Property Crime

Total

Rate per 1,000

Total

Rate per 1,000

Total

Rate per 1,000

2008

365

52.8

13

1.9

352

50.9

2009

417

58.2

17

2.4

400

55.8

2010

465

61.8

26

3.5

439

58.4

2011

508

70.6

18

2.5

490

68.1

% Change

2010-2011

9.2%

14.1%

-30.8%

-27.7%

11.6%

16.6%

In 2009, Gig Harbor ranked third in Pierce County out of 20 jurisdictions for the number of property crimes per 1,000 residents. In 2011, the city came in second behind the Puyallup Police Department.

Davis also said the changes in the demographic layout of the Gig Harbor peninsula has contributed to the problem.

“Our community has transitioned from a rural community to a very busy and vibrant commercial center during the last several years," he said. "We are constantly telling our (citizens) to lock their homes, vehicles and secure expensive property in their trunks when parking."

"Many of our citizens still live with the mindset that crimes happen to other people, not them.”

Wilola May 30, 2012 at 05:36 PM
We feel safe as far as our property is concerned. What concerns us the most is the traffic and the chronic speeders within this small community. We just moved to town and we noticed the speed through town was 25 mph for the most part, especially through the waterfront area and so this morning we are driving the speed limit and we had people flipping me off, trying to pass me and then when I stopped to let a pedestrian cross in the crosswalk at Anthony's Restaurant the car behind me was honking their horn, as if I was not suppose to do that. Then after the pedestrian crossed I took a left at Peacock Hill and the female driver behind me gunned her car flying right by me and flipped us off too. What is up with that Gig Harbor? Where is the traffic enforcement? We have lived here since April and every time we enter that waterfront area we encounter these chronic speeders that are impatient and feel they are entitled to road rage with those who want to drive the speed limit. I know that we are not the only ones experiencing this. All I know is that I am not going to get a ticket speeding through town just because others want us to. If someone is in such a hurry, then why go through an area that has a 25 mph speed limit? Is it really worth your time and money to get into an accident? Makes no sense. Gig Harbor needs to address this issue along with property crime.
James Higgins July 30, 2012 at 01:18 PM
James H. These are Detroit numbers, which they can try to spin. Unfortunately, there have been no EFFECTIVE measures taken to stop it. This should trouble every resident as it just rises each year. Next stop, third world crime status???

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