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Federal Way police report lower crime rates

Despite reductions in staffing, the Federal Way Police Department reports improved levels of service that have led to some of the lowest crime rates in the city’s history.

Over the past two and a half years, the police department has lost 18 positions through layoffs, re-organization, or leaving unfilled positions vacant. Those 18 positions equate to an 11 percent reduction in the overall staff.

While that may seem to be cause for sober reflection, Police Chief Brian Wilson was fairly optimistic in a presentation to the city council Nov. 29 at a public hearing on mid-biennium budget adjustments.

Wilson reviewed a number of areas indicative of what FWPD has been able to do as it restructured staffing. The first area he looked at was index crimes in the third quarter of the year, dating back to 2005. The numbers presented by Wilson show an overall decline since 2005, with that year recording 4,759 index crimes, while this year, only 3,427 were recorded. Between 2010 and 2011, a 12 percent decrease occurred in this statistical category.

Index crimes include homicide, rape, robbery, burglary, aggravated assault, larceny, motor vehicle theft and arson.

“We actually have the lowest crime rate since our inception,” Wilson said.

One of the largest contributing factors to this reduction, especially from 2010 to 2011, Wilson said, was the work of the Special Operations Unit, a group of officers that focus on the transit center, city parks and the downtown core.

“In one year, that unit has been able to reduce crime in the downtown reporting district by 50 percent,” Wilson said. “That effort, combined with the support of our patrol, investigative and department staff, has contributed to this reduction that we’ve seen today.”

The chief then looked at the annual index crime rate, saying projections for 2011 have it down 9.5 percent from 2010. Also down is the number of calls for service, from the third quarter of 2010 to the third quarter of 2011. That number dropped from 46,452 in 2010 to 40,945 for 2011, representing a 12 percent change.

Wilson credited the city’s efforts to reduce false alarms calls, along with Valley Communication installing a new protocol regarding false alarms.

“All of these, in part, have contributed to a reduction in calls for service,” the chief said.

With the reduced calls in service, Wilson said the average response time also typically sees a drop. But, regardless, FWPD has been trending to shorter response times since 2005. In 2005, police took on average 15.37 minutes to respond to a call. In 2008, that had been shaved down to 15 minutes even, while in 2010, the average response time dropped to 13.78 minutes. For 2011, the average response time has fallen to 13.54 minutes.

Wilson said the drop from 2010 to 2011 was encouraging because the highest time for call volume is the summer months. He feels Federal Way police will hold the line in the last month of 2011 and keep that average lower than it was in 2010.

One other statistic Wilson shared was the number of commissioned officers per 1,000 citizens. Federal Way’s rate is 1.37, comparable to that of Auburn (1.41), Renton (1.32), and Bellevue (1.43). Overall, Wilson said he’s proud of the work his force has done while having to undergo layoffs and significant reorganizations.

“I can’t be more pleased with my staff, both commissioned, and non-commissioned, in how resilient, committed and effective they are,” he said. “And that culture of solving problems and addressing issues is one of the things I’m most proud of.”

 

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