Monday, April 27, 2015

Thoughts on a Jail Part IV: WA Population Growth, Prosperity and Crime, Police and Community

Above: Population Growth of WA counties: 1990 - 2013. Click to Enlarge.
Below: Top ten cities for total growth (diff) 2010 -  2014. Sources:
County Jurisdiction X2010 X2014 rate diff
King Kirkland 48,787 82,590 40.93% 33,803
King Seattle 608,660 640,500 4.97% 31,840
King Kent 92,411 121,400 23.88% 28,989
King Burien 33,313 48,240 30.94% 14,927
King Bellevue 122,363 134,400 8.96% 12,037
Franklin Pasco 59,781 67,770 11.79% 7,989
King Bothell 17,090 24,610 30.56% 7,520
King Renton 90,927 97,130 6.39% 6,203
Clark Vancouver 161,791 167,400 3.35% 5,609

Before I start with a statistical piece on the growing population of WA, I want to tell a story; a violent story. In fact, this was the last violent episode we had to endure/know/witness as my wife and I were leaving Oakland for Bellingham.  Although it was hardly the most violent memory or story I can tell, it was a story that meant something to me years later.  We were packing that day. Preparing for a huge move and change in our lives that would eventually take us to where we are now: proud but exhausted Bellingham parents and homeowners.  In Oakland, CA there is a considerable amount of gun violence and death. Generally, Oakland's population of 400K compares in yearly homicides with those murdered in WA state which currently has a population of about 7M.  That level of crime has widespread socioeconomic effects and changes the nature of law and justice in your city and county.

Police and Community

My wife had just arrived home, having taken the 35th ave exit off highway 580.  She told me there was a cop car parked on the side of the highway and some confusion at the off ramp. I turned on the news to listen and read the papers the next day. Something tragic had happened: an officer in his cruiser had been shot.  In this crime, a young eighteen year old had procured for himself a high powered rifle, stationed himself  in a room next to the 35th Ave off ramp, and shot the first police officer he saw exiting the highway. As I recall the story, this young man did not have any serious criminal record and was not wanted on any outstanding warrants.  The source of his anger was simply his perception of how the Oakland Police Department had mistreated his older brother. He let them know this after they arrested him and proceeded to stop talking.  When I read this printed recollection to my wife, she asked me to remember that Oakland was not always a homicide capital. Both my wife and I are multi-generation Oaklanders whose parents chose to live and raise families here because they thought it was fine town. For our generation however, narcotics trafficking, increasing density and  'crack cocaine' changed the livability equation, especially for those of us from east Oakland.

To a  stranger from Bellingham, WA, my story might just seem like another tragic episode from the big city. But if you were raised in Oakland, you can't help but reflect on the social relevance of such an incident.  When crime (especially narcotics trafficking) has taken over a city for some length of human generations, when your police force has been characterized as 'militarized' long before that characterization became  common,  a terrible relationship develops between those designated to keep the peace and your community. That relationship becomes tenuous, overwrought, overcharged, and sometimes violent. By the time you've got to the point where random, bitter, aggrieved 18 year old males are shooting cops in their cruisers,  you have essentially lost the war; no many how many daily battles your heroic, expensive, well trained law enforcement sometimes win.

This outcome is not the community relationship we need to grow strong and prosperous cities in WA. In the dynamics of a city like Oakland, law enforcement is not necessarily seen by all the community as keeping the peace or solving for crime. They become seen as a police state chasing the effects of poverty, amid a charged political environment that alleges racist and classist brutality. The resulting social relations from that outcome create a tough place to live. In the 1960s, Huey Newton reputedly handed out shotguns in Oakland as a  response to police brutality. "Arm yourself or harm yourself, brother", was Newton's reputed catch phrase.  Reading about Oakland today, I have to wonder if the relationship between the police and the public is any better now than 40 years ago.  How do we avoid such an outcome as our cities and state grow in WA?  Here is my answer: At all costs, reproduce an environment of economic prosperity for your citizens. I will talk more about how this can be done in another post. But first, let us examine just how fast WA state is growing.

Looking at Growth in WA

I am going to break up WA state's 39 counties in three groups of net growth (slow, medium, fast)
The table below is the top ten for net growth between 1990 and 2013 ranked in descent by the difference in county populations between those years (e.g. column 'diff'). The column 'rate' is '1 - (pop1990/pop2013)'. The top five counties added  nearly 1.3M in those 24 years. The second five, approximately 370K.

         county   1990   2013   diff         rate
1          KING 1507319 1981900 474581 0.2394575912
2     SNOHOMISH  465642  730500 264858 0.3625708419
3        PIERCE  586203  814500 228297 0.2802909761
4         CLARK  238053  435500 197447 0.4533800230
5       SPOKANE  361364  480000 118636 0.2471583333
6      THURSTON  161238  260100  98862 0.3800922722
7       WHATCOM  127780  205800  78020 0.3791059281
8        BENTON  112560  183400  70840 0.3862595420
9        KITSAP  189731  254000  64269 0.2530275591
10       YAKIMA  188823  247250  58427 0.2363073812

Now let us look at the bottom twenty counties in total population growth for those same 24 years. Some of these counties may appear to have growth rates matching the above table. But in fact, most of these counties are still quite sparsely populated. These twenty counties have added a combined total of only 119K to WA population over those 24 years. This result means that the bottom twenty counties for net growth in WA have accounted for only 7% of the growth of the top ten counties in WA in the last 24 years. 

20     KITTITAS   26725   41900  15175 0.3621718377
21      DOUGLAS   26205   39280  13075 0.3328665988
22      STEVENS   30948   43800  12852 0.2934246575
23  WALLA WALLA   48439   59500  11061 0.1858991597
24    JEFFERSON   20406   30275   9869 0.3259785301
25 GRAYS HARBOR   64175   73200   9025 0.1232923497
26     OKANOGAN   33350   41500   8150 0.1963855422
27      WHITMAN   38775   46000   7225 0.1570652174
28     SAN JUAN   10035   16000   5965 0.3728125000
29        ADAMS   13603   19200   5597 0.2915104167
30 PEND OREILLE    8915   13150   4235 0.3220532319
31       ASOTIN   17605   21800   4195 0.1924311927
32    KLICKITAT   16616   20700   4084 0.1972946860
33     SKAMANIA    8289   11300   3011 0.2664601770
34      PACIFIC   18882   21000   2118 0.1008571429
35      LINCOLN    8864   10675   1811 0.1696487119
36        FERRY    6295    7650   1355 0.1771241830
37    WAHKIAKUM    3327    4020    693 0.1723880597
38     COLUMBIA    4024    4100     76 0.0185365854
39     GARFIELD    2248    2250      2 0.0008888889

Even San Juan County's attraction and growth as a retirement destination has only meant a growth of 6K over those 24 years or (on average) 250 new additional residents for each year. In truth, the bottom twenty counties in WA for net growth will probably continue to gain population slowly and retain very rural characteristics. Let us check out the middle nine counties for net growth located between the top ten and the bottom twenty:

11     FRANKLIN   37473   84800  47327 0.5581014151
12       SKAGIT   79555  118600  39045 0.3292158516
13        GRANT   54758   91800  37042 0.4035076253
14        MASON   38341   61800  23459 0.3795954693
15       CHELAN   52250   73600  21350 0.2900815217
16      COWLITZ   82119  103300  21181 0.2050435624
17       ISLAND   60195   79700  19505 0.2447302384
18        LEWIS   59358   76200  16842 0.2210236220
19      CLALLAM   56204   72350  16146 0.2231651693

This middle group is a mixed bag. These are essentially rural counties with small but significant populations that are continuing to show high growth rates. However, dense urban meccas are not quite part of the profile for these counties yet. Counties like Franklin or Skagit may well be attracting retirees. To help us visualize population distribution through WA counties, let us look at some charts. These charts break up WA counties into subsets that show more of the smaller populations as the Y axis scale diminishes. The far left graph is composed of all 39 counties with population curves from 1990 to 2013. The middle graph removes the top five most populous counties. The graph on the far right removes top nine most populous (greater than 200K population) counties. Click to enlarge:

These graphs make it easy to see that King County is dominating WA with 2M residents. Both Pierce and Snohomish will reach 1M each at some point. Spokane and Clark combined will reach 1M residents very quickly. The existing 4.5M in these  counties with urban areas will most probably continue strong growth trends in the future. As impressive as these top five counties are, the second five (Kitsap, Thurston, Yakima, Whatcom, Benton) have a higher growth rates than the top five: 32% over 24 years. At their current growth rates all of those second five counties may well host 300K or more inside the next 24 years. Combined, they currently host 1.6M.  This gives our future here in WA five strong urban counties and at least five growing rural counties destined to host small to medium sized urban areas. Let us look a little closer at that group of counties destined to create medium sized urban areas in the near future:

How fast will these medium sized counties grow and how will the prosperity of their citizens grow? These are critical questions that need to be answered  in order to develop economic and law enforcement policy in a growing rural WA.

More Recent Data: 2010 - 2014

More recent data is available from OFM covering the years 2010 - 2014. Although the more recent data confirms growth in all parts of WA, my biggest takeaway is the continued growth of King County.  The top image in red is top 30 county growth by volume between 2010 - 2014. Left side is inclusive of King County. The image in blue below is top 30 county growth by volume between 2010 - 2014. Left side is inclusive of King County. Click to enlarge these panoramas.

End Notes

R Code for this post is here.
OFM (Office of Financial Management for WA) links (Data for this post.) (Data for this post.)

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