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Crime in the city: Council, prosecutor, police meet with citizens
ARLINGTON Crime in the city drew a packed house in the Arlington City Council Chambers March 19, as city officials, Arlington Police officers and Snohomish County Prosecuting Attorney Janice Ellis responded to questions and comments from area residents and business owners.
We were a small town, but now we have some big city problems, said Arlington Police Chief John Gray, who acknowledged that approximately 200 vehicles and $1.3 million in private property were stolen in 2006.
Gray explained that the Arlington Police Department is responsible for all the residences, businesses and schools within the approximately 11 square miles of the incorporated city limits, not including Trafton Elementary and outside communities.
Gray encouraged citizens to communicate with their police, requesting that neighbors report suspicious activity and invite him to talk to their neighborhoods.
The Kona Crest neighborhood was represented by several of its residents, many of whom called for more than communication.
Kudos to the police department for doing the best they can with what they have, said Kona Crest resident Steve Haysler. Ive been through the city budget and its a mind-boggling maze, but Im wondering if we might be able to buy another police officer. I like performing arts, but if youre going to raise my taxes, Id appreciate it if it went to the police department.
Hayslers sentiments were echoed by Kona Crest residents Dennis Estle, who deemed a new officer to be a higher priority than the improvements to Olympic Avenue, and Robin Gaynor, who cited examples of how perceived crime problems in their surrounding community could make certain schools seem less attractive, regardless of the quality of the schools themselves.
Someone tried to open my door while I was still inside, said Kona Crest resident Lew Garrison, in support of Gaynor and Hayslers contention that criminals have become more brazen over time. When burglars are prepared to break into an occupied house, that raises the bar tremendously. I think its the right and the duty of everyone to own a firearm to defend their home. Your life isnt worth your possessions, but at some point, well start shooting.
Such bold vehicle and property thefts are not unique to residential neighborhoods or the citys downtown, as Smokey Point Sales and Service owner Andy Bryant reported.
Between me and Greg Rairdon, weve lost about $5,000-$7,000 a month, said Bryant, speaking on behalf of his fellow auto dealer who could not attend the March 19 meeting. The Arlington Police have been wonderfully professional to work with, always respectful and timely, but Ive had 25-30 vehicles stolen in the past few years and we have vehicles getting vandalized at least once a week. A 2007 GMC on display facing I-5 wound up on blocks with its wheels and tires stolen.
Bryant had heard that the Snohomish County Prosecutors Office had neither enough time nor jail cells to pursue cases against vehicle thieves, a rumor that Ellis denied.
Id be delighted to speak to you about this, Ellis told Bryant. I do not know of any policy that says we will not prosecute car theft.
Community member Virginia Hatch inquired why Arlington had the third-highest crime rate Snohomish County, before asking whether certain crimes went unreported in the press.
Gray attributed part of the high incidence of crime to the citys number of attractive targets, from schools and hospitals to shopping centers and suburbs, many of which are relatively secluded by their rural location, while remaining accessible from high-traffic transportation corridors.
The underlying roots of many crimes are poverty and drug abuse, Gray said. And no, our police reports to The Arlington Times are not a full accounting. Itd be a burden to put together and we dont want to create a climate of fear and paranoia.
Gleneagle resident Jason Davis worried that a rising crime rate could lower property values in the area, and urged parents to supervise their teens, to reduce crimes of opportunity.
I support additional taxes for protection, said Davis, before Crown Ridge Homeowners Association President Brian Cramer asserted that the hiring rate of the police department did not appear to match the citys crime rate.
While Gray cited the lengthy screening and training process for prospective new officers as an obstacle to new hires, Arlington Mayor Margaret Larson noted that the revenues generated by the citys growth are limited in the services they can support.
When Kona Crest Homeowners Association President Vikki Paxton suggested that urban growth be curbed momentarily, Steve Peiffle explained that such a moratorium would cost the city tax revenues and generate land-use lawsuits.
Yvonne Ito, of LKI Family Services, agreed with the praise for the Arlington Police Department for making the most of existing resources, but she believes that more police officers cannot be considered an optional expense.
For a while, my kid increased the crime rate, but with help from the school district, my oldest son is back on track, said Ito, a foster mother. The problem now is, when I go in and out of my office on Fifth Street, I dont feel safe. Nobody will stay in an area if they dont feel safe there.
City Council members such as Sally Lien and Graham Smith reminded citizens that the money to hire additional officers would have to be either transferred from other city services funds or obtained by passing a bond issue, but they agreed that the Council ultimately serves to listen to the citys citizens and consider their input.
In the meantime, I appreciate nosy neighbors, said City Council member Steve Baker.