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Sequim police keep pace with rising crime

The city's crime has grown along with the city but so far the police department has met the task, said Police Chief Robert Spinks.

"Crime has increased but our ability to arrest and jail criminals has exponentially outpaced the growth of crime," he said about the department's 2008 annual report.

The department's felony arrests are up 30 percent from 2007 and misdemeanor arrests are up 17 percent, Spinks said.

But the reported 108-percent increase in violent crime is a little misleading, he said.

The city's number of "uniform crime report" crimes increased from 12 to 25, which is a 108-percent increase but a small number of additional crimes, Spinks said.

Those crimes include homicide and non-negligent manslaughter, robbery, rape, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny/theft, vehicle theft and arson.

Spinks said a better measure is counting the number of Part One crimes (homicide, burglary, robbery, rape, vehicle theft, aggravated assault and larceny) plus felonies, which shows only a 13.5-percent increase.

Spinks said the big decrease in domestic violence arrests could be due to a lot of factors.

Maybe they have arrested the repeat offenders often enough, or better investigations are leading to longer sentences for offenders that act as a deterrent, or the crime has gone underground, he said.

"We could be doing better. The sky's not falling but people need to be cognizant that the area is continuing to grow up," Spinks said.

"Disturbances are down and car prowls, too. The robbery trend is worrisome if it keeps up; that's not unusual given the city's growth.

"There's been significant growth in felony arrests, 119 to 407 or 241 percent. That is significant; you can't manufacture arrests."

If the city's crime rate were calculated using the city's own estimate of 7,000 population instead of the state's 5,715 estimate, Sequim would be the safest city in the state, Spinks said.

But the state's count doesn't include residents of nursing homes and similar facilities, snowbirds or persons living in recreational vehicles or on boats, he said.

The department's ability to maintain this level of law enforcement will be tested in the coming years as the city's budget gets tighter and tighter.

The department's call load has increased 71 percent to an all-time high, Spinks said.

Yet the police department is the only city department to lose staff, going from 21 officers to 19 and losing part of a support staff position, he said.

"The reason my desk looks like a disaster is because I haven't had (administrative assistant) Marci Protze out there since December," Spinks said.

The department paid $113,000 for 2,450 jail days in 2007 and will pay an estimated $195,000 in 2009, he said.

Losing $100,000 in overtime required switching a detective and a traffic control officer back to patrol.

"Yeah, that overtime loss hurt," he said.

"It's frustrating because traffic is our No. 1 complaint and we've made positive inroads," Spinks said.

The city's traffic enforcement efforts have won two awards from the Washington State Traffic Safety Commission and have been high-

lighted in a nationally distributed DVD, "Saving Lives One Stop at a Time."

"It's award-winning and nationally known, and now I have to cut it," Spinks said.

One bright spot has been the contributions of the department's volunteers.

"We served 50 warrants last year, which was a five-year high," Spinks said.

"We also close cases at twice the national average, and I don't want to see that drop."

Reach Brian Gawley at bgawley@sequimgazette.com.



SPD 2008 highlights

_ 14,361 incidents were handled in 2008, compared with 13,467 in 2007, a 7-percent increase.

_ Arrests increased to 1,342 in 2008, an increase of 16 percent over the 2007 total of 1,154 arrests.

_ Felony arrests increased by 30 percent to 406 in 2008.

_ Misdemeanor arrests increased by 12 percent to 786 in 2008.

_ Juvenile arrests increased by 7 percent to 150 in 2008.

_ Serious crime increased by 8 percent, mainly felonies such as burglary, assault and theft.

_ Domestic violence incidents decreased from a high of 71 in 2007 to a four-year low of 46 in 2008.

_ The department's 20 volunteers contributed an estimated $85,722 in labor to the city.

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