A closer look at crime in downtown Spokane

A video posted by a Spokane mayoral candidate sparked a discussion about safety in downtown Spokane.

On Friday, Nadine Woodward shared the video, which shows an altercation between a security guard and a homeless man at the downtown Spokane public library. In the post she said a “librarian told me they tell parents to keep their young children close because it isn’t safe.”

The library said the incident was “not a representation of what happens here on a regular basis.”

But the post garnered major attention online and sparked responses from community members, leaders and from mayoral candidates Ben Stuckart and Shawn Poole. You can find their responses here.

KXLY asked viewers on Thursday night whether they felt safe in downtown Spokane and responses varies.

Some commenters said they loved downtown and felt safe in Spokane. Others said the same, but said they had noticed an increase in the homeless population.

Many of the commenters who said they felt unsafe pointed to that homeless population in general as a reason for their concerns. Some pointed more specifically to personal experiences with crime downtown.

Spokane Police Sergeant Terry Preuninger said safety can be a challenge to measure but personal experiences play a role.

“If I’m downtown and I see a violent crime or I see something in front of me that’s going to have a huge impact on me as a person and my safety and how safe I feel when I’m down there regardless of any larger level set of statistics,” Preuninger said.

The statistics show that, overall, violent crimes and property crimes are down for year-to-date comparisons of 2018 and 2019 in the downtown Spokane precinct.

The information is available through CompStat, which uses the National Incident Based Reporting System standard for crime reports.

Between January 1 and May 25 of 2018, 93 violent crimes were reported. For the same time frame in 2019, 78 violent crimes were reported- a 16.13% decrease.

Overall property crimes decreased by 17.64% during the same time frames.

Of the various offenses the report tracks, two have seen increases in the YTD comparisons: commercial burglaries and robbery of a person.

Sgt. Preuninger said those numbers can mean several different things.

“It could mean several things. It could mean the police officers are doing a fantastic job and they are truly having an impact and reducing crime. I could mean crime has stayed the same, but less crime is being reported,” he said.

KXLY also requested the service calls made to the downtown Spokane public library.

Between November 29 of 2018 and May 27 of this year, 200 service calls were logged. Preuninger says that some of them could be repeat calls, and not all of them necessarily originated within the library.

Of the 200, the most frequently occurring call is for medical.

There were 18 calls for a suspicious person or circumstance, 17 for disorderly person, 13 for welfare checks, 9 for person bothering, and 7 for assault and for trespassing- among other incidents.

Preuninger says the categories span a wide range of incident severity- for example, a call for an animal- of which there is one logged at the library in the last six months- could refer to an an aggressive dog or a deer hit by a car.

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