Gig Harbor Police Chief Kelly Busey presented the annual crime report for 2021 at the August 8 city council meeting.
Busey reported that crime rates in Washington state were down 3.7%, according to the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs’ recent Crime in Washington 2021 report. The crime rate in Gig Harbor is down 3.4%, he told the council, and he explained why.
Why is crime down in Gig Harbor?
Chief Busey explained three reasons why crime rates are down in Gig Harbor.
He said it was partly the result of the Blake decision, a 2021 Washington State Supreme Court ruling that declared the state’s criminal drug possession law to be unconstitutional.
Instead of jail time or citations, police give people suspected of drug possession a referral card with information about getting help. Police are now prohibited from arresting someone the first two times they come into contact with that person for drug possession, Busey said.
“Just from a numbers perspective, crimes against society are down because drug possession rates have gone down with the 2021 regulations,” Busey said.
He said his officers were contacting people daily with fentanyl that they weren’t stopping.
The ACLU of Washington supports a public health approach to substance use disorders, said Mark Cooke, policy director for the Smart Justice Campaign.
He said they supported referrals to services rather than arrests and that treating substance use disorders as a crime had not been effective. Putting someone in jail and opening their criminal record makes it harder for them to find housing or a job. Connecting a person to services that can address the underlying causes of substance use is a better long-term solution, he said.
When asked how many people given those referrals by police choose to get help, Cooke said the ACLU doesn’t have that data. He said that several European countries, including Portugal, the Netherlands and the Czech Republic, have treated drug possession as a public health problem rather than a crime, and that these countries have higher rates of drug-related disorders. lower substance use and overdose deaths than the United States.
Busey said another reason crime rates are down is the 2021 police reform laws. He said those state laws prohibit police from almost any use of force without a cause probable that a crime has been committed. Busey said the criminals learned of this and officers took the suspects out of the stores they had just shoplifted to tell them, “I know you can’t touch me.”
Police were also only allowed to chase vehicles when they had probable cause that specific violent crimes had been committed, Busey said.
Enoka Herat, an attorney who tracks policing practices with the ACLU of Washington, told The Gateway last year that police were misinterpreting the new laws.
“Nothing in the new law prevents officers from detaining people based on reasonable suspicion, and this type of misinformation is truly unfortunate,” she said.
“‘Reasonable suspicion’ is a pretty low bar,” Herat said. “When they have enough evidence to make an arrest, they can use physical force.”
Finally, Busey said crime rates have been affected by booking restrictions in prisons due to COVID-19, as authorities try to limit the size of prison populations and the spread of the virus. Police have been banned from booking suspects in jail. They were only allowed to book violent offenders, domestic violence suspects and those arrested for their second DUI, he said.
“We have people that we pull out of stolen cars, for example, where we send the suspect out on the road and get the car back,” Busey said.
They are not taking shoplifters or drug addicts to jail at this time, he said, while COVID-19 restrictions are still in place.
Why is motor vehicle theft on the rise?
There was a 70.4% increase in motor vehicle offenses in Gig Harbor.
“Motor vehicle theft is going crazy,” Busey said at the council meeting.
Busey said he fears that in 2022 the number of motor vehicle theft cases will be in the triple digits. Only 46 motor vehicle thefts were reported in Gig Harbor in 2021.
“We’re currently taking up to three cars a day this year,” Busey said.
He argued that motor vehicle thefts have increased due to a combination of officers’ inability to pursue stolen vehicles and their inability to jail motor vehicle theft suspects due to restrictions. of COVID reservation.
What do the police do against shoplifting?
The 2021 report showed that $1.5 million worth of property was stolen, about triple the value of property stolen the previous year. Busey told The Gateway criminals quickly realized when officers couldn’t arrest them, in line with the 2021 police reform laws.
To combat property theft, Gig Harbor police implemented a business verification program last spring, Busey told The Gateway.
“It was moderately successful,” Busey said.
This system allows an employee to pick up the phone, dial 911 and say they want a company check.
“Employees don’t disclose what’s going on, they don’t identify anyone, they don’t violate their company policies, but it’s a signal to the agent that something is wrong and something is going on in this store,” Busey said.
Busey said this has been effective in deterring shoplifting.
“…obvious shoplifting suspects will abandon cartloads of goods and leave businesses when they see us coming,” Busey told The Gateway.
When it comes to property crimes, Busey said theft remains the problem. There was an 11% increase in crimes of larceny and theft.
How does Gig Harbor compare to the rest of Pierce County?
Gig Harbor is just above the state average for crime rates in Washington State. The city of 11,490 had 831 violations in 2021, according to the state report.
Even though Pierce County’s crime rate per thousand showed Gig Harbor was nearly 15% higher than Bonney Lake and Edgewood, Busey said he considered Gig Harbor’s crime rate to be like theirs, lower than the state average, due to the daily influx of people increasing Gig Port population during the day.
Gig Harbor is also above the state average for case settlement rates, Busey said. They resolved 25.5% of cases. The state average is 18.9%.
The Gig Harbor Crime Report is available at cityofgigharbor.net.
Washington Crime Report 2021 is available at waspc.memberclicks.net.