Change in Data Collection Impacts Washington’s 39% Uptick in Vehicle Theft


The Seattle Police Department said its data team found one minor detail in the FBI's method that could have changed crime trends for the city and state.

Recent FBI statistics show Washington is the state with the second highest rate of car thefts in 2022, but that data may be skewed by a change in the agency's data collection.

Earlier in October, the FBI released its 2022 crime data that revealed Washington saw a 39% increase in motor vehicle thefts in 2022. Washington went from 460.1 motor vehicle thefts per 100,000 people in 2021 to a rate of 639.3 thefts in 2022.

In comparison, the national rate of motor vehicle thefts went from 255.9 thefts per 100,000 people in 2021 to 282.7. That is a 10.4% increase.

Washington is second to only Colorado, which saw 787.7 stolen vehicles per 100,000 people, according to FBI statistics.

Washington's largest city, Seattle, saw the number of reported motor vehicle thefts increased 31.5% from 5,280 thefts in 2021 to 6,942 in 2022.

The Center Square reached out to the Seattle Police Department to inquire if any increase in crime statistics could be due to any changes in the FBI’s data collection. The department responded, saying its data team found one minor detail could have changed crime trends for the city and state.

“The FBI changed the definition of vehicles to include ride-on-toys and e-bikes which likely increased our motor vehicle theft reports, but no other changes have been made,” the Seattle Police Department wrote to The Center Square in an email.

The department first began reporting data to the FBI’s National Incident-Based Reporting System more than 13 years ago. The Seattle Police Department indicated there have not been any major changes in the department’s compliance with sharing data with the FBI's system.

The Center Square recently covered the FBI’s estimates revealing national violent crime decreasing an estimated 1.7% in 2022 compared to 2021, whereas during the same period, Washington state’s violent crime numbers rose an estimated 1.06%.

We thank The Center Square for reprint permission.

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