Looks like the new Seattle Police Chief will have a lot on his plate this year.

Crime rates in Seattle soared last year, according to the Seattle Police Department’s recently released 2009 performance report. Violent crimes were up 12 percent in 2009 (3,861) as compared with 2008 (3,447), reversing two years of decline. Property crimes increased 7 percent (35,090) over 2008 (32,820), ending a three year decline.

But SPD Deputy Chief Clark Kimerer reassured Seattle City Councilmembers at a recent Seattle Public Safety & Education Committee meeting that although these crimes had spiked last year, the city’s 10-year average remains “strongly favorable in terms of crime trends.”

“On one hand we have seen increases which are a focal point of a lot of our initiatives right now, but they still stand as part of a continuum in decreasing crime—it is pretty breathtaking,” Kimerer said. “All that being said, our focus is on crime at hand.”

The report shows that the increase in violent crime was largely driven by robberies and aggravated assaults. Robberies with firearms were up 24 percent in 2009 from the previous year. However, there was a 10 percent decline in aggravated assaults involving firearms. A recent spate of violence in Belltown saw the SPD launch a more aggressive night patrol watch this week. The department also rolled out My Neighborhood Map which aims to give nearly real time crime information to anyone logging in within at least 12 hours of the crime. Visitors to the website can expect to have redacted crime reports within 48 hours. SPD, however, will not report on sex crimes or juvenile crimes. Kimerer warned that that system was not very user friendly at this point. SPD also began a pilot version of its Neighborhood View Point project this month, which involves brief one-on-one interviews of residents by officers to understand what the most pressing public safety issues were.

More after the jump

SPD’s Mimi Walsh, who has been tracking both robberies and aggravated assaults with firearms for a number of years, says she's discovered a co-relation between the two. “The trend seems to be that they move in the opposite direction," she said.

Kimerer attributed the rise in property crimes to burglary, commercial break-ins and larcenies. Although auto thefts are down as they have been for the last few years, they are slowly starting to creep up. Kimerer pointed out however, that to date in 2010, both violent crime and property crime had declined in some categories although vehicle crime is up significantly. “The number of folks we put away two years ago are at the end of their 24 month incarceration—we are starting to see the same individuals appear again, not up to the point that we can prosecute, but we do know it’s a character driven enterprise and those characters are coming back," he said.

2010 has so far been favorable for SPD, with a 40 percent drop in homicides and an overall 60 percent decline in violent crime. Pedestrian traffic fatalities were back to 2006 levels (12) which is a matter of concern. “If we look at national levels we are still a pretty safe city,” Kimerer said. Serious assaults are up by 35 percent. Kimerer admitted that serious assaults were not something the SPD “has been very successful in teasing out.” Violent crimes in city parks were up in 2009 (185) but not to the level of the previous two years.

In 2009, the SPD responded to 911 emergency calls with an average response time of 6.5 minutes or less 99 percent of the time. This year, the department had a response time of six minutes or less 99.6 percent of the time, a feat Kimerer said was quite significant for a city the size of Seattle.