Report: King County homicides, suicides decline

December 20, 2011

By Warren Kagarise

NEW — 10 a.m. Dec. 20, 2011

King County experienced the fewest homicides — 59 — in a decade last year, as suicides declined after a spike in 2009.

The information comes from the King County Medical Examiner’s Office. In the agency’s annual report, officials analyze suspicious, sudden, unexpected and violent deaths in King County, plus trends in drug overdose deaths, homicides and traffic fatalities. The agency released the 2010 report Monday.

Overall, King County experienced fewer homicides, suicides, accidental deaths and deaths from natural causes last year than in 2009. (The report includes only deaths under medical examiner’s office jurisdiction.)

The deaths investigated by the medical examiner’s office also made 156 organ transplants possible last year.

Firearms ranked as the most frequent instrument of death in homicides and suicides.

Though drug overdoses declined from 2009 to 2010, overdoses still caused more than one-third of all accidental deaths investigated by the agency. Officials also recorded a substantial decrease in methadone- and oxycodone-related deaths from 2009 to 2010.

Investigators said methadone contributed to 77 deaths last year, compared to 129 in 2009. The drug ranked as the primary cause of death in 67 deaths from last year, compared to 85 in 2009. Oxycodone contributed to 77 deaths last year, compared to 105 in 2009.

Following a decline from 2008 to 2009, traffic deaths increased last year to 150 from 141 during the previous year.

“Understanding how and why people died in King County allows us to target our public health efforts to prevent early deaths,” Dr. David Fleming, Public Health – Seattle & King County director and health officer, said in a statement. “Take traffic fatalities, for example. We know that alcohol and drug impairment, speed and not wearing seatbelts contribute to traffic fatalities. So we work with partners throughout King County to help alleviate those causes and hopefully save lives.”

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