Arson Arrests, SPD Staffing Drops, Crime Also (Sort Of) Down

Today in Fuzz: Cops catch dumpster arsonist downtown, SPD staffing dropping, crime also down (sort of)

1) A man suspected of setting fire to several dumpsters in downtown early this morning is cooling his heels in jail.

Just before 5:00 am this morning, police received a report of a man setting fire to a plastic recycling bin in an alley between 3rd and 4th Ave. on Blanchard St.

Not long after, officers found the man setting fire to another dumpster between 5th and 6th Ave. and chased him down.

Police booked the man into the King County Jail for arson.

2) I crunched some numbers this afternoon and found that Seattle Police Department staffing has already dipped nearly three percent since last year. The department is down to 1307 sworn officers (that includes detectives and other non-patrol positions) from 1345 last year.

The department hasn’t hired any new officers since mid-2010, and SPD is no longer filling positions left vacant through retirements and transfers.

3) The good news is, violent crime dropped nationwide by 6 percent last year!

From the AP:

Violent crime dropped 6 percent in 2010, marking the fourth straight year-to-year decline, while property crime was down for the eighth straight year, falling 2.7 percent, the FBI said Monday, referring to crimes reported to authorities.

Nationwide, there were an estimated 1.2 million violent crimes in 2010 and an estimated 9 million property crimes.

The rate for murder and non-negligent manslaughter fell to 4.8 per 100,000 population, less than half what it was two decades ago. The last time that rate was lower was in 1963, according to FBI crime data.

An aging population, better policing and continued high rates of imprisonment for criminals are helping to drive down crime rates, criminologists say.

Robbery fell 10 percent, rape dropped 5 percent, and murder, non-negligent manslaughter and aggravated assault fell more than 4 percent.

Each category of property crime offenses decreased in 2010. The largest decline, 7.4 percent, was for motor vehicle thefts. Burglaries decreased 2 percent and larceny-thefts declined 2.4 percent.

This year,  local violent crime is only down one percent. In 2011, rapes are down seven percent through July, and robberies are down eight percent, while aggravated assaults are up five percent and homicides are up a whopping 29 percent.

While it’s kinda hard to prevent homicide, that hefty increase is a bit alarming.