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)
Property Crime (reported)
Motor vehicle theft
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.”
Rate per 1,000
Rate per 1,000
Rate per 1,000
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.”