Kitsap Crime and Justice

The Kitsap Sun staff writes about crime and criminal justice issues.
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Archive for March, 2006

Sirens and Lights, Move to the Right …

Friday, March 31st, 2006

Here’s a situation we’ve all been in many times before:

You’re driving down the road and in your rearview mirror, you see and hear the lights and sirens of an emergency vehicle, most likely an ambulance, fire truck or police car.

What do you do?

(Your first thought probably is a sigh of relief that you’re not getting a ticket.)

We’re all taught a simple mantra: “When you see sirens and lights, move to the right.”

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Driving Under the Influence: A Fine Line for Troopers

Wednesday, March 29th, 2006

In the online version of the Kitsap Sun’s Code 911 section, we reported Monday that police had found a man passed out at the wheel of his car from alcohol consumption.

The engine was running, and a blood alcohol test confirmed that he had a level of .211 — nearly three times the legal limit for driving.

A shoo-in for a driving under the influence charge, or DUI for short?

Not quite, explains Brian George, a spokesman for the Washington State Patrol.

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VC: Mentality of a Cop

Tuesday, March 28th, 2006

The screen saver that scrolls along Bremerton K-9 Officer Billy Renfro’s onboard laptop bears a simple message: “I will never stop fighting.”

Renfro, who inherited the slogan from another detective, has been on the force seven years and never complains about the city’s violent crime rate — in fact, it was originally a draw to working here.

“As a young police officer, I wanted to come to a place with more activity,” Renfro said.

And activity, he got: Bremerton’s officers respond to an average of 853 calls per year, according to the department — 100 more than the next closest county jurisdiction.

But in Renfro’s eyes, catching “bad guys” is his primary mission on the job.

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VC: A Day in the Life of an Officer, Part 4

Thursday, March 23rd, 2006

(Blogger’s Note: This is the last of four installments of “A day in the life,” which chronicles the December 19, 2005 patrol shift of Bremerton Officer David Sherman)

6 p.m.

Next, it’s off to the Central Office to type up reports. It’s one of the nagging parts of an officer’s job, but one he must do to keep good records, track criminals, and keep the department’s accountability to a tee.

There for about a half hour, CenCom then informs officers of a call of “malicious mischief” involving a half-way house in East Bremerton. Some officers have to leave some reports for later and spring to action.

We learn on the way to the call that a man has been “throwing things” in the house and yelling at other residents living the house. Once there, the reporting party is interviewed, and they say the man and the woman have already taken off.

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VC: A Day in the Life of an Officer, Part 3

Wednesday, March 22nd, 2006

(Blogger’s Note: This is the third of four installments of “A day in the life,” which chronicles the December 19, 2005 patrol shift of Bremerton Officer David Sherman)

4:30 p.m.

How Sherman patrols is completely random, he says. There really isn’t a “method to the madness,” but officers do look for areas of high crime most often, as well as heavily traveled thoroughfares.

We circle around and head back for the Warren Avenue Bridge. While crossing it, he turns on his radar detector and checks motorists going the north. One clocks 51, 16 miles an hour over the 35-posted limit.

“Whoa,” Sherman says. He checks for other oncoming traffic on the bridge. It looks as though he can flip a U-turn — an otherwise illegal maneuver only the police can make — as oncoming traffic is sparse. But traffic behind us is thick, and Sherman elects to let the speeder go, as slamming on his breaks to flip around could be dangerous to them.

“You have to weigh giving out the ticket with the safety of other drivers,” he says.

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VC: A Day in the Life of an Officer, Part 2

Tuesday, March 21st, 2006

(Blogger’s Note: This is the second of four installments of “A day in the life,” which chronicles the December 19, 2005 patrol shift of Bremerton Officer David Sherman)

3:30 p.m.

Like any job, officers can’t help but find certain crimes that bother them more than others. Sherman says he is particularly passionate about finding drivers who don’t wear seat belts or don’t have insurance, because when they get into accidents, it is likely that the person whom they hit will have to deal with many more problems due to their own negligence.

Officers aren’t limited to their coverage areas on a given shift, however. Sherman and I will venture into downtown many times to chase calls, as well as file police reports at the central downtown office on Fourth Street. They can also take their “lunch” breaks in any area of the city.

While traveling down Warren, we find a woman driving what looks like an older model Ford Taurus, turning near 11th Street. Sherman, and all officers, must multi-task and look for as many things as possible while patroling. He notices the woman has an enormous crack on her windshield that impedes her view of the road.

He decides to stop her. Where a radio face is on most cars, Sherman has a panel of red-lit buttons. There is also a switch to turn on his overhead lights and sirens on three settings. The first turns the overhead lights on. The second keep the lights on and sound the sirens. And the third will even change traffic signals to expedite his traverse to an emergency situation.

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VC: A Day in the Life of an Officer, Part 1

Monday, March 20th, 2006

(Blogger’s Note: This is the first of four installments of “A day in the life,” which chronicles the December 19, 2005 patrol shift of Bremerton Officer David Sherman.)

Dec. 19, 2 p.m.

It’s a rainy Monday afternoon as “swing shift” officers of the Bremerton Police Department file into their west office headquarters.

Given the weather, the officers are predicting they’ll be assisting residents and reporting on many fender benders and car accidents. Generally, the criminal element is more limited on rainy days, they say, just as others might be less inclined to go for a jog or do yard work.

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Troopers vs. Officers vs. Deputies

Friday, March 17th, 2006

When you’re reading through our “Code 911” section in the Kitsap Sun, you’ve probably noticed that different law enforcement agencies respond to different kinds of emergencies and crimes, in different locations.

This bears some appropriate interpretation.

Generally speaking, there are three different law enforcement agents that go to 911 calls in the county. Let’s start on the larger level, and work our way in:

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Violent Crime: Problems and Solutions

Saturday, March 11th, 2006

In August 2005, two drug-related murders, occurring within five days of each other, shocked Bremerton’s downtown core.

A few of us at the Kitsap Sun got to thinking about Bremerton’s crime problems and what violent incidents, such as the two shooting deaths, mean to a city devoted to revitalizing its downtown, cleaning up its image, rebuilding its schools and bolstering its economic health.

We uncovered some startling statistics: for its size, Bremerton leads the state in violent crimes. The city went from 3.8 incidents per thousand population a year in 1994 to over 11 incidents in the past few years.

We also came to another realization: that by and large, Bremerton’s residents feel safe here, even knowing that fact.

So what gives?

In a two-part series starting Sunday (March 12) and continuing the following Sunday (March 19), we’ll examine Bremerton’s violent crime, first by breaking it down into its contributing factors, and then by examining how it affects the average resident here — and what they’re doing about it.

In the next week, most of my entries will be related to this topic, and denoted with a “VC” before each one.

Feel free to give your thoughts on Bremerton’s violent crime, or to just comment on the stories.


SK Fire Tests County Contingency Plan

Thursday, March 2nd, 2006

A blaze Sunday night on Stevens Road in South Kitsap tested Kitsap County’s interim fire investigation plan while the commissioners decide how best to remedy problems in the fire marshal’s office.

Sadly, the fire killed the home’s 98-year-old resident. But Cris Gears, Kitsap County administrator, told me Tuesday he and fire officials he’d talked with were pleased with the post-fire investigation.

The fire marshal’s office currently sits in limbo with only one county employee working. All others have quit or have been placed on administrative leave pending the county’s own internal investigation. From a lack of routine inspections to an inquiry of internal “fraud, waste and abuse,” there’s no way to say what the commissioners will do to the office in the coming months.

In the meantime, general fire investigation has been doled out to the county’s fire districts — Bainbridge, Poulsbo, Central Kitsap, Bremerton, and South Kitsap — and any arson investigations are being handled by the Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office.

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