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Crime: Notes & Sources


Aggravated assault is the most common of the major violent crimes.  An assault is ‘aggravated’ if it involves the use of a weapon or other means likely to result in serious injury or death.

Confidence interval (also called "error bar") is the range of values that includes the true value 95% of the time. If the confidence intervals of two groups do not overlap, the difference between groups is statistically significant (meaning that chance or random variation is unlikely to explain the difference).   

The Federal Poverty Threshold was adopted in 1964 as an “absolute measure” by which progress in the War on Poverty could be assessed. It is updated annually by the Census Bureau, and is used to calculate official population statistics on the number of Americans in poverty. Its usefulness has diminished over the past half century, as it almost certainly underestimates poverty in the United States. Some specific shortcomings include:

  • Lack of adjustment for regional costs
  • Calculation based totally on the cost of food, ignoring significant contributions from housing, transportation, utilities, health care, and child care
  • Reliance on pre-tax earnings, excluding the effects of tax adjustments, food stamps, housing benefits, and other transfers

Hate Crime: Washington State’s Hate Crime Malicious Harassment Act defines hate crime as criminal offenses that show  evidence that the crime was motivated by  the offender's bias against the victim's race, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, disability or gender.  Ascertaining bias is difficult.  It is reported when the investigation reveals enough evidence to lead a reasonable person to conclude that the offender's actions were motivated, in whole or in part, by bias. The 11 offenses collected in the Hate Crime reporting program are the 8 Index offenses (murder, forcible rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny-theft, motor vehicle theft, and arson) plus simple assault, intimidation, and vandalism.

  • Intimidation: Words alone do not constitute an offense unless the context or circumstances surrounding the words indicate the words are a threat. Threatening words do not constitute an offense if it is apparent to the victim that the person does not have the ability to carry out the threat.  Intimidation is defined as ‘To unlawfully place another person in reasonable fear of bodily harm through the use of threatening words and/or other conduct, but without displaying a weapon or subjecting the victim to actual physical attack’.
  • Counting hate crimes involves making a distinction between incidents and offenses. A hate crime incident can involve more than one offense, victim, and/or offender. One offense is counted for each victim of a crime against a person, and one offense is counted for each distinct incident of a crime against property, regardless of the numbers of victims.

The FBI Index Crime Rate, expressed as the number of crimes per 100,000 persons, tracks serious crime in the U.S.  The Index includes 4 major violent crimes (homicide, rape, robbery, and aggravated assault) and 4 major property crimes (burglary, larceny/theft, motor vehicle theft, and arson). The index crime rate is calculated as the sum of the 8 major violent and property crimes divided by the King County population, and does not distinguish among offenses of varying severity.

King County regions: The geographic boundaries of the four King County sub-regions (North, Seattle, East, and South) are defined by the aggregation of ZIP codes.

Major Property Crimes are burglary, larceny/theft, motor vehicle theft, and arson.

Major Violent Crimes are homicide, rape, robbery, and aggravated assault.

Metropolitan Statistical Area:  As defined by the U.S. Office of Management and Budget (OMB), a core area with a substantial population nucleus, together with adjacent communities with a high degree of economic and  social integration with the core. 

Neighborhood poverty levels are based on the proportion of households in a Census tract in which annual household income (as reported in the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey) falls below the federal poverty threshold.  For a family of four in 2010, the poverty threshold was $22,050; in 2012, it was $23,681.

  • High poverty: 20% or more households in the neighborhood below poverty threshold.
  • Medium poverty: 5% to 19% of households below poverty threshold.
  • Low poverty: fewer than 5% of households below poverty threshold.

Race/Ethnicity: Federal standards mandate that race and ethnicity (Hispanic origin) are distinct concepts requiring 2 separate questions when collecting data from an individual. "Hispanic origin" is meant to capture the heritage, nationality group, lineage, or country of birth of an individual (or his/her parents) before arriving in the United States. Persons of Hispanic ethnicity can be of any race. Communities Count's terms for racial/ethnic groups are derived from those used by the U.S Census Bureau in 2010.

  • Communities Count terms:  Hispanic, Non-Hispanic, White Non-Hispanic, Black, American Indian/Alaska Native (AIAN), Asian, Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander (NHPI), White, and Multiple Race (Multiple). Persons of Hispanic ethnicity can be of any race and are included in other racial categories. Racial/ethnic groups are sometimes combined when sample sizes are too small for valid statistical comparisons of more discrete groups. 
  • 2010 Census terms: Hispanic or Latino, Not Hispanic or Latino, White alone (Not Hispanic or Latino),  Black or African American, American Indian or Alaska Native, Asian, Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander, White, Some Other Race, and Two or More Races.

NOTE: Specific homicide rates for Pacific Islanders could not be estimated until 2004, when racial categories on death certificates were changed to distinguish them from Asians. In the 2004-2011 period, the number of homicide deaths among Pacific Islanders was so small that a valid rate could not be computed.

Seattle-Tacoma -Bellevue, WA Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA): As defined by the U.S. Office of Management and Budget (OMB), a metropolitan statistical area is a core area with a substantial population nucleus, together with adjacent communities that have a high degree of economic and social integration with the core.  (42660). The MSA includes 2 Metropolitan Divisions:  42644 (Seattle-Bellevue-Everett, in King and Snohomish Counties, with principal cities of Seattle, Bellevue, Everett, Kent, Renton, Auburn, and Redmond) and 45104 (Tacoma-Lakewood, in Pierce County, with principal cities of Tacoma and Lakewood).


Statistical significance: Unless otherwise noted, any difference mentioned in the text is statistically significant (unlikely to have occurred by chance).

Data Sources

Communities Count Survey (2011):  Respondents came from a random sample of all King County households.  Due to the limitations of surveys that rely exclusively on landline telephones, Communities Count used a mixed-mode survey involving both random-digit-dial phone contact and address-based sampling for mailed questionnaires, with an internet response option as well. Phone interviews were conducted in English, Spanish, and, upon request, a few additional languages. Possible limitations of this kind of survey include: (a) people who do not have a telephone or a permanent address are missed; (b) people who do not speak English or Spanish may not participate; (c) people who have less education and lower incomes tend to be under-represented.

Most crime data are from the Washington State Uniform Crime Reports, which are compiled annually by the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs (WASPC; Data are submitted monthly by individual law enforcement agencies in each county to the WASPC, and are consistent with FBI national crime reporting standards.  All major crimes that occurred in King County and were reported to law enforcement authorities are counted. The perpetrators and victims may not be residents of King County, as crimes are reported by the jurisdiction in which they occurred.  Although 2012 data are available, we chose not to report them here because WASPC is transitioning to a new data reporting system.  The 2012 data from King County are split between the two systems, and are not comparable, either across jurisdictions or over time.

Geographic specificity in King County: Data from the King County Sheriff's Office Annual Reports provide more geographic specificity about crimes reported to that agency in unincorporated areas of the county and in cities for which the Sheriff’s Office provides public safety services.  Annual and quarterly reports are available at Counts in the Sheriff’s Office reports do not necessarily match the counts reported to WASPC, as different standards are used for reporting some crimes.

Hate crime data: Data on hate crimes in 2011 come from the FBI report Hate Crime Statistics 2011, Table 13.  This annual report summarizes Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) data on hate crime offenses and incidents submitted by participating police departments.  ( Additional hate crime data come from the annual Crime in Washington reports published by the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs

Homicide data are derived from death certificates and are provided by the Washington State Department of Health, Center for Health Statistics.  Death certificate data are coded by the residence of the victim, rather than the place where the homicide occurred.  Consequently, not all of the homicides counted necessarily occurred within King County.  Homicide rates are age-adjusted to the 2000 U.S. population, except where reported for specific age groups. Death certificate data for 2010 were not available at time of publication, so the 2010 rate and number of homicides for King County and Washington State were derived from the WASPC Uniform Crime Report data.

Identity theft data for 2012 are from Federal Trade Commission, Identity Theft Data Clearinghouse. The complaint rates are derived from self-reported and unverified consumer complaints filed in the Consumer Sentinel Network database and published in the Data Book for January - December 2012, p. 15 (state rates) and Appendix D2 (Metropolitan Statistical Areas).  

Data from earlier years are from the same source, reported in Table 337,  

Regional city crime rates were compiled from city police department data. The crime rate for unincorporated areas is shown as a category separate from regional city rates and is included in the overall King County rate.

Other Sources

Identity theft background information from Kristin M. Finklea, Identity Theft: Trends and Issues (February 15, 2012), Congressional Research Service.

Maps of King County covering a wide range of topics can be accessed at  Maps most immediately relevant to Communities Count are under the headings of Community data & demographics, Public health, and Environment & natural resources, but other maps should be useful as well (farmers markets, transit routes, walking and biking routes, parks, traffic counts, etc.).

Metropolitan Statistical Area definitions come from Metropolitan and Micropolitan, U.S. Census Bureau at  New definitions for 2010 are discussed in a bulletin from the Office of the President, Office of Management and Budget (February 28, 2013), OMB Bulletin # 13-01 at  For more detail on Patterns of Metropolitan and Micropolitan Population Change, 2000 to 2010, go to

King County Cities: Per capita crime rates (total, property, and violent) for King County cities are available on the Social Capital Review website as follows: