New strategies for fighting crime

Saying “random patrols bring random results,” Bainbridge Police will target their efforts based on crime-pattern analysis. Stepped-up traffic enforcement will continue, as a motorist found Monday. - ROGERICK ANAS/Staff Photo
Saying “random patrols bring random results,” Bainbridge Police will target their efforts based on crime-pattern analysis. Stepped-up traffic enforcement will continue, as a motorist found Monday.
— image credit: ROGERICK ANAS/Staff Photo

Bainbridge Island’s 2002 crime profile looked quite familiar.

Violent crime: low.

Property crime: high.

But the latter numbers ballooned with several high-profile burglary sprees and a rash of vehicle thefts at the ferry terminal, atop an ongoing vandalism problem.

“We’re busier than we’ve ever been,” Bainbridge Police Chief Bill Cooper said, “but we’re not overwhelmed like some other cities are.”

To meet increasing service calls with the same resources, Cooper hopes to bring citizens themselves into the mix, with a new “community policing” initiative.

While the program continues themes Cooper has sounded since becoming chief four years ago, it will for the first time include a dedicated officer for meeting with neighborhood groups and working on crime prevention.

The program is also based on the immediate turnaround of crime reports and analysis of incidents – what types of crimes are occurring, where they are and at what time of day – to spot trends and deploy officers appropriately. That, Cooper said, will mean officers are assigned where they’re needed, not necessarily where they’re wanted.

“The ability of the officers to go out and do ‘routine patrol’ is pretty much a thing of the past,” he said.

Island crime statistics compiled by the department 2002 included:

l Property crime: High-profile burglary sprees bookended 2002. But they only accounted for perhaps 30 percent of the 133 reported incidents, up from 94 a year earlier.

The island also saw 22 vehicle thefts, up from 10. Most revolved around the Winslow terminal during a summer spree that saw vehicles stolen in other areas “traded in” for cars on Bainbridge, with some vehicles later found vandalized or destroyed in North Kitsap.

But there were successes in detection and prosecution.

After the year’s first spate of burglaries, a Bremerton woman was identified as a suspect and arrested after passing a stolen check at a local bank. She was convicted, telling prosecutors she had been trying to support herself while her husband was in jail. A Kitsap County man has been arrested in connection with the most recent spree, and awaits trial on charges of crimes in other areas.

“We’re making these catches because people are calling us,” Cooper said. “That partnership is what we want to enhance.”

The year’s single armed robbery was believed tied to the presence of drugs at a Yaquina-area home.

General theft not involving entry onto residential premises – mail theft, car prowls, shoplifting and bicycle ride-offs, among others – waned a bit in 2002, with 225 incidents reported, down from 277.

Incidents of vandalism, including graffiti and the random destruction of property, totaled 249, essentially unchanged from 2001. Most went unprosecuted, although several high school students admitted to a round of mail-box bashing and paid the owners for repairs.

l Drugs: Islanders were somewhat less discreet in their marijuana use last year, with citations for possession of that drug and related paraphernalia numbering 51, up from 31 the previous year.

Arrests for possession, sale or manufacture of other drugs hovered around 18. A dozen youths were arrested for possession or consumption of alcohol, also unchanged.

l Traffic: Police recorded 209 criminal traffic violations, many for license violations and little changed from the previous year. Drunk driving arrests numbered 64, down from 67 in 2001.

There was just one traffic fatality, a two-car collision on Blakely Avenue in October, although critical injuries in at least one other accident were attributed to recklessness and speed.

l False alarms: The department continued to spend considerable time chasing false alarms – more than 420 in 2002. The numbers are behind an ordinance now being considered by the city council, making owners register their alarm systems and imposing fines for chronic malfunctions.

l Morals: Six incidents of child molestation were reported, up from five the previous year, and one forcible rape. One case was successfully prosecuted, and the perpetrator deported to England, Detective Scott Anderson said.

An Eagledale man was arrested on federal charges of possession of child pornography.

On the positive side, the community saw no reported incidents of prostitution, public indecency, or minors frequenting taverns.

Rebuffed by the city council in a request for a new uniformed officer – a second parking officer was approved mid-year, but has yet to be hired – Bainbridge Police will make do with current resources in 2003.

That begins with phase-out of the popular “Student Resource Officer” program in intermediate and middle schools. The program has been pared to one day a week, and will be discontinued at the end of the school year.

Officer Carla Masotti is being reassigned to the new position of Community Preparedness Officer, charged with organizing neighborhood watch programs and other volunteer duties.

The program will focus not just on preventing crime, but on identifying community resources and preparing for natural or man-made disasters when emergency responders would be overwhelmed.

How the success of the program can be measured remains open for debate, Bainbridge Police Chief Bill Cooper concedes. Crime statistics can be read any number of ways, and logically, it’s impossible to say what crimes aren’t committed because, for example, residents lock their doors.

At the same time, Cooper hopes the program will decrease the number of low-priority calls for service. He said police nationwide have inadvertently created a “911 culture,” in which citizens often summon police over minor disputes, straining scarce resources.

“If the car’s parked the wrong way on the street or the music’s a little too loud, these are the things neighbors can work out for themselves,” Cooper said. “If the neighbor’s a (jerk), then you call the police.”

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