Both violent and property crimes increased in Vancouver from 2017 to 2018, according to annual FBI data.
The 2018 Crime in the United States report released Monday shows that Vancouver saw a 25.6 percent increase in violent crimes from year to year.
The same yearly comparison — which criminologists caution can be problematic, in part due to how data is presented through the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting, or UCR, program — cannot be made for Clark County, because it was not included in this year’s report.
“In UCR data, robbery and aggravated assault are some of the crimes driving the increase in violent crime,” Vancouver Police Department spokeswoman Kim Kapp said in an email.
The largest increases in Vancouver are the categories of robbery and assault, which climbed 27.1 percent and 39.2 percent, respectively, the FBI data shows.
According to Crime in Washington 2018, a statewide crime report prepared by the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs, the Vancouver Police Department reported that aggravated assaults increased 49 percent from 2017 to 2018. It also reported that robberies increased 32.2 percent in the same time period.
“There’s definitely something going on with aggravated assault, because the increase shows up in that more robust (state) report,” said Clayton Mosher, a professor in Washington State University Vancouver’s sociology department who focuses on criminology. “The police department needs to drill down on those cases and find out where they’re coming from. Is it certain areas of the city? Are they mostly women and domestic violence? The (state) report shows about half of them are domestic violence.”
Kapp said the police department is keeping its eye on the increased assault numbers and does not have a specific explanation for them. She said several things that can impact numbers should be considered:
• better reporting methods brought on by an emphasis on trauma-informed policing;
• greater details captured via investigation of domestic violence cases, which may have resulted in simple assaults being elevated to aggravated assaults (both are recorded in the state crime report);
• increase in the population experiencing homelessness, which can lead to an increased exposure to assault;
• nearing the end of the decade since the last census, which may result in population figures being low compared to actual numbers.
The increase in robberies is less significant, Mosher said. The total reported robberies for Vancouver increased to 155 from 122, the FBI data shows.
Typically, the city has a low number of robberies, Kapp said. A significant number of the reported robberies are shoplifting incidents turned robberies when suspects resist or assault store employees, she said. According to the police department’s numbers, so far this year about 30 percent of the robberies are shoplifting related.
Property crimes increased 7 percent, according to the FBI report. Burglaries increased 5.3 percent, motor vehicle thefts increased 1.2 percent and larceny/thefts increased 9 percent.
Murders and non-negligent manslaughters decreased 66.7 percent, but that’s because there are so few of them in Vancouver. In 2017, nine such crimes were reported to the FBI by local law enforcement agencies; last year, three were reported.
Kapp said the police department collects National Incident Based Reporting System (NIBRS)data, which is more detailed than the information presented through the Uniform Crime Reporting program.
The FBI categorizes crimes hierarchically, which can give the wrong impression for some numbers. For instance, a carjacking would be tagged in the reporting methods as a robbery, not a vehicle theft. This sometimes leads to crimes being undercounted. The cataloged crimes are also only those that were reported to law enforcement.
The Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs publishes its report and also gives all of the data to the FBI, which then converts the National Incident Based Reporting System numbers into the annual summary report that uses the hierarchy rule.
In 2006, Washington was certified by the FBI to officially collect and submit National Incident Based Reporting System data. That’s what the Vancouver Police Department does, Kapp previously told The Columbian. The FBI has made nationwide implementation of that reporting system a top priority — all law enforcement will submit National Incident Based Reporting System-only data by 2021. Mosher said the change could increase the numbers for smaller communities due to changes in the way they’re counted.
Kapp said crime statistics fluctuate in all crime categories. The police department reviews data monthly to determine any trends that may help police allocate resources to certain areas or put out information on prevention strategies, depending on the crime trends occurring, she said.
It’s unknown why Clark County wasn’t included in the FBI’s annual report. County numbers would generally be included in the table for “offenses known to law enforcement by metropolitan and nonmetropolitan counties.” Sgt. Brent Waddell said there is no special reason the sheriff’s office was left off the FBI report; he guessed it could be because the FBI received the data too late.
Waddell said there were 208 aggravated assaults in 2018, an increase of one; an increase of 9 percent in robberies (59 to 65); and a 7 percent drop in thefts.
The decreases could be attributed to strategic annexations by the city of Vancouver and fewer sheriff’s office staff.
“We’re down in deputies, so we’re doing less proactive police work,” Waddell said. “But it’s not one factor. It’s the annexations, staffing, having a higher number of young deputies with less experience. They all play a role.”
Smaller cities, smaller numbers
Smaller communities are also included in the FBI’s report. However, a large percentage change can often be attributed to a small number of crimes being reported in the less-populous towns. All of the percentages are comparing 2017 to 2018.
Battle Ground had a total of 32 violent crimes reported by law enforcement last year, which was five fewer reports than 2017. Like many other rural county communities, the largest numbers of reported crimes had to do with property. Property crimes increased 40 percent from 2017 — that includes an 80 percent jump in burglaries.
In Ridgefield, violent crimes increased from seven to eight, according to the FBI. Property crimes totaled 90 in 2018, up from 75 the previous year.
Camas reported a total of 19 violent crimes in 2018, up from 13 the previous year. Property crimes remain the biggest issue there. But property crimes decreased significantly from year to year — by 41.4 percent, according to the FBI. Burglaries dropped from a total of 70 to 35.
Violent crimes reported in Washougal totaled 25 last year, down from 38, or 52 percent, from the year before. Property crimes increased 28.1 percent, from 196 to 251 reports. Thefts increased to 193 from 151, or 27.8 percent.
La Center reported a total of two violent crimes both years; all were in the aggravated assault category. The property crime category decreased to 17 from 38, most of which were thefts.
Nationally, violent and property crimes fell in 2018 from the previous year, according to the FBI. Violent crime declined 3.3 percent between 2017 and 2018. Property crime decreased 6.3 percent during the same time period.