Crime down in Federal Way for fourth year

But some residents don’t feel safe following recent uptick in violent crime — including four fatal shootings.

For the fourth year running, crime is down in Federal Way.

The Federal Way Police Department released their annual crime statistics from 2019, showing that while certain areas of crime have increased, overall crime has gone down.

But with the recent uptick in violent crime — including four fatal shootings in Federal Way during a three-week span between Dec. 19, 2019 to Jan. 6, 2020 — residents are questioning the city’s “crime is down” refrain.

Federal Way Police Chief Andy Hwang told the Mirror while he is pleased to report the city’s overall crime rate is down again from 2018, the department is still working to decrease crime even further.

According to a presentation Hwang plans to give at the next Parks, Recreation, Human Services and Public Safety Committee meeting Feb. 6, the city’s overall crime went down 9% between 2018-2019.

Last year, the department said one of their goals was to try and reduce the number of robberies, which saw a 35% spike from 170 to 230 robberies from 2017-2018.

Their emphasis paid off.

The city had a 33% decrease in robberies from 2018-2019, dropping from 233 to 156.

Other crimes also saw a significant decrease.

Forcible sex offenses also decreased from 130 reports to 67 reports, a 48% drop. In addition, motor vehicle theft decreased by 22% and narcotics offenses saw a 46% decline.

When it comes to increases in crime, though, Hwang said, “In our experience, 70 to 80 percent of the time it’s drug-related.”

He said for the most part, it’s during drug transactions when things are more likely to go wrong and increased crime happens.

Another significant factor in increased crime, and in particular increased murder, is domestic violence, the police chief noted.

Some of the tracked crimes in Federal Way saw a spike since 2018.

For example, murder increased 200% from one in 2018 to three in 2019, which are the three murders that happened in December just before the new year.

Kidnapping also rose by 71%, though Hwang said this is usually related to domestic disputes, and every person that has been a victim of kidnapping in 2019 were returned safely and without incident.

The National Incident-Based Reporting System, which FWPD uses, tracks a total of 27 crimes whereas the old system, Uniform Crime Reporting, only tracks nine.

Hwang said NIBRS is a more effective system for tracking crime because it shows the larger overall picture and not just a small chunk of crime.

As part of the highlights and strategies for the department, Hwang said they have a “strategic approach to constantly assess and adjust our policing model to maximize public safety.”

The department also conducts regular warrant sweeps with the Department of Corrections to go after the worst criminal offenders in the city.

Again the police department urged residents to call 911 if they see anything suspicious or potentially criminal.

Mayor addresses crime at town hall

Federal Way Mayor Jim Ferrell answered a myriad of questions about the city during his recent virtual town hall in January, but most of the participants asked hard questions about what the city was doing about public safety in light of the recent uptick in violent criminal activity.

“Crime is not down, why do you keep saying it is?” Asked one resident. “What are you doing to better this city, truly better it?”

Ferrell acknowledged that several other participants had also asked similar questions.

“It’s important to know that we want to give people the best possible information that we can,” Ferrell said, noting the best way to quantify the issues is to look at the exact crime numbers.

“The raw numbers are down in regards to key indicator crimes,” Ferrell said.

All of the crime recorded in the city over the last two years, Ferrell said, has dropped 9%.

However, Rick Luna commented: “We don’t want the numbers. We want the sirens to quit blaring down our streets.”

Ferrell explained, “The key [crime] indicators — robbery, aggravated assault, residential burglary — those are quality of life crimes,” he said, citing that for the most part, those crimes are down.

Lamont Styles, an activist and community member, asked Ferrell, “What are your plans to reduce violence, especially concerning youth, besides adding more police officers?”

Ferrell acknowledged that someone else had also asked about what the city was doing with the Youth Violence Prevention Coalition recommendations to help reduce youth involvement in crime.

Ferrell talked about a study that was done by the state Legislature last year at the city’s request about engaging youth before they fall into illegal activity.

“I think you’re absolutely right,” he said. “Before young students and young people start going down that path, that they have engagement.”