Overall crime in the city of Federal Way is down 10 percent in the first 10 months of 2017 compared with the same period last year, according to Federal Way Police officials.
From January to October 2017, there were 7,625 crimes reported in the city, compared with 8,493 in the first 10 months of 2016.
In particular, quality of life crimes – which include residential burglary, auto theft, larceny, forgery and vandalism – are all down.
“Crime numbers fluctuate for various reasons,” Federal Way Police Chief Andy Hwang said. “There’s variable factors that might influence it. As an organization, we are very pleased that this year our crime numbers are trending downward.”
In 2017, 329 residential burglaries have been reported, compared with 348 last year, a decrease of 5 percent. There were 3,531 reports of larceny in 2016 compared with 3,132 this year, an 11 percent decrease. Motor vehicle theft is down by 17 percent, with 783 reported this year and 941 last year. There were 150 reports of counterfeit/forgery in 2016 and 109 this year for a 27 percent decrease. Vandalism reports are down to 710 for 2017 from 881 last year, a 19 percent change.
“We care about the quality of life for residents, and to see that changing, that’s a good thing,” Federal Way Police Department spokeswoman Cathy Schrock said.
Hwang said the decreases aren’t by accident as the department has placed an emphasis on reducing these types of crime.
“Our people have done really good work this year to when we identify a problem location or area, there is some science to what we do we look at. What are the crime trends? What are the issues?” Hwang said. “We try to focus our energy or resources to that area. I think we have had some positive impact.”
Crime analysts constantly monitor data to recognize trends, and command staff are looking for ways to curb any heading in the wrong direction.
This year, data showed an increase in the number of vehicle thefts at the Federal Way Transit Center.
“We saw a pattern at the Transit Center where it had not been an issue for stolen cars, and all of the sudden we were like somebody must have gotten out of jail or somebody did something,” Schrock said. “We were like let’s raise up the awareness, let’s talk to King County Metro.”
With increased patrols in the area, four people were arrested, and the number of thefts went back down to around zero, Schrock said.
Using Automated License Plate Readers on three of the city’s patrol cars has also helped curb vehicle theft, Schrock said.
The system works by using cameras on a patrol car to scan license plate numbers as the officer drives by vehicles and then runs them through state and national databases. Officers are notified if the cars are registered as stolen.
“Over the past few years, we have really made a positive impact with this technology because we are finding stolen cars,” Schrock said. “Sometimes they are stolen from another city, or we are catching them driving.”
The technology, which has been in place in the city for about four years, is more effective than the old system of using bait cars to catch thieves or having officers manually run plates of vehicles they suspect might be stolen, Schrock said.
FWPD works with other agencies and organizations in the city to address crime, Hwang said.
“What we like about Federal Way is that it is a community approach,” he said. “I know when it comes to crime, the police department certainly plays an important role, but in order to have a safe and secure community, every discipline has to work together. When we think about schools, having good schools is important to the over health of the community. Social agencies, for example, we work with them, whether it is the faith community or so forth.”
There were eight murders in the first 10 months of 2016, compared with six through October of this year. There was one in November of this year, bringing the total to seven so far for 2017. In 2016, there were nine homicides.
Four of last year’s homicides, including three that occurred within 48 hours, were committed by one person, Hwang said.
“Some of the killings were random, which is very unusual,” Hwang said.
None this year have been random, and four were domestic violence related, Hwang said.
“We are seeing what we typically see,” he said. “This year it is definitely quieter.”