REPORT: Kennewick crime decreased in 2021 despite aggravated assault spike

KENNEWICK, Wash. — While the statewide crime rate rose in 2021, newly-released data shows that overall crime decreased in Kennewick last year.

The Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs’ (WASPC) 2021 crime report released on July 20 shows an uptick in violent crime and murder in the state.

The annual report is filled with crime and arrest data compiled from law enforcement agencies across Washington.

Lt. Ryan Kelly with the Kennewick Police Department (KPD) said he believes many factors came into play regarding the 2021 numbers, but that the COVID-19 pandemic and staffing shortages were two of the biggest contributors.

“Some of the COVID-19 restrictions have affected many different things. It affected staffing, it affected the jail’s ability to house people,” Lt. Kelly said. “One thing we notice is that crime is up statewide.”

While the report shows that overall crime decreased by about 4%, Lt. Kelly said there is still work that needs to be done in Kennewick.

“Robbery, aggravated assault, simple assault, theft, and motor vehicle theft. Those are kind of the main ones that we noticed increased that’s out of the norm,” Lt. Kelly said. “We recognize that there is an increase in crime in our area but the data is consistent with Washington state and the United States in general. We recognize it and we are always looking at ways to best deploy our resources to combat those crimes.”

He noted it’s also important to remember the context of the numbers.

“[Aggravated assault] we had 187 in 2021. In 2020 we had 141. 2019, 154. So while it is 33%, it’s not a huge number,” Lt. Kelly said.

As the COVID-19 restrictions and the staffing shortages start to ease up, Lt. Kelly said the numbers should hopefully come down.

“I think we’re going to have a lot more resources to be able to combat these crime trends,” Lt. Kelly said. “Understand that we look at these numbers and we look at ways to target our patrols and target our investigations so that we can combat these specific areas that are rising.”

According to the report, overall violent crime increased by over 12% in 2021. Murders increased by 5.9% since 2020, bringing the total number to 325.

There were just under 600 hate crimes—and those are only the ones that got reported.

But other illegal activities, like identity theft and fraud, and drug offenses, saw a decrease in the state. The former saw a near 80% drop and the latter experienced a 61% drop.

Read the full report here.