Kitsap Crime and Justice

The Kitsap Sun staff writes about crime and criminal justice issues.
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Archive for June, 2008

Gas Theft May be Up (But you Wouldn’t Know it From the Stats)

Thursday, June 26th, 2008

I recently got some statistics from the state’s Department of Licensing that I thought would illuminate the trend of increasing fuel theft.

I was wrong. Well, wrong that there’s been more convictions for motor vehicle theft.

A motor vehicle theft law that went into effect around 2003 in Washington brought on stiffer penalties for stealing gas — a gross misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail and up to a six month suspension of a person’s license.

We know that gas is being stolen more often in these days of record high oil prices.

The only answer then, is this: we’re not catching gas thieves. Here are the stats so you can see for yourself:

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Here’s a Deputy Who Drives on and off Duty

Tuesday, June 24th, 2008

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Jon VanGesen (far left, in blue), a Kitsap County Sheriff’s deputy, drives a patrol car for a living — but he also drives in his spare time.

And it appears to be quite good at it.

At the 2008 Bluewater Wireless Road Course Challenge, held at the Pacific Raceways Road Course in Kent June 7, VanGesen took first in the semi-pro division.

It was VanGesen’s first road course event as a http://www.nwlegends.com/. But not the last — the win qualifies the sheriff’s deputy for the Legends Series World Road Course
Finals, to be held at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in December 2008.

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The Speedy Trial Clock — How it Works

Wednesday, June 18th, 2008

Unless you’re defined as an “unlawful enemy combatant” by the U.S. Government and are on permanent incarcerated holiday at Guantanamo Bay, every American is entitled to his or her Sixth Amendment rights when accused of a crime.

Thus is law enforcement’s dilemma — particularly when a suspect is a “flight risk,” meaning they may flee to avoid prosecution — when deciding when to cuff them and, in stuffy intellectual terms, suspend their individual liberties. Hook them too soon, and prosecutors may not have enough time to put the case together before their “speedy trial” clock runs out, but leave them be and the public risks increased victimization if they are, in fact, actually committing crime.

This wasn’t an issue in the case of Samuel Bice, the first defendant charged in the Bainbridge case of police car vandalism. But Mark Duncan, the island’s deputy police chief, told me Monday he wanted to ensure all investigatory ducks were in a row for future arrests, to ensure said “clocks” wouldn’t run out.

Barbara Dennis, deputy prosecutor who charged Bice with three counts of first-degree malicious mischief, said the trial clock wouldn’t be an issue in the case. And if — or rather when — further arrests occur, Dennis said even if prosecutors don’t bring charges once they’re arrested, they can re-file them later without worrying about the “trial clock.” Only once statute of limitations runs out — three years after the arrest in this case — would it become an issue, she said.

So what are the definitions of these “speedy” sixth amendment issues?

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Deputy Saves Fawn who Lost Its Mother in Crash

Monday, June 16th, 2008

FawnRescue.jpg

If this story doesn’t tug at your heart strings, I don’t know what will.

Mason County Sheriff’s Deputy Kelly LaFrance was patrolling Highway 3 near Grapeview a little after 9 p.m. June 1 when she came upon an accident scene.

There was a large amount of blood that trailed off into the woods and she followed it, soon coming upon a young fawn who she determined had lost its mother after she’d been hit by a car.

LaFrance ran to her car, grabbed a blanket, and scooped the fawn (pictured with LaFrance) up.

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Of Tasers, Bank Robberies, and Car Prowling

Monday, June 16th, 2008

We begin this Monday morning in the realm of crime and justice with stories about Taser effectiveness, bank robberies increasing in a sagging economy, and an arrest of car prowlers that appears to have spiraled into a bigger investigation.

First with the prowlers: two people were arrested early Friday in the south end of the county and believed to have prowled more than 40 cars, according to Kitsap County Sheriff’s Detective Chad Birkenfeld.

Sadly, this is appears to be another case of opportunity crime. The 21-year-old suspect, who worked in tandem with a 17-year-old girl, told detectives the cars that they entered were almost always unlocked.

The lesson, then, is still this simple: lock your cars, people!

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Running from the Cops? This ‘Goo’ Oughta Do it

Friday, June 13th, 2008

Police may soon have a way to avoid dangerous pursuits with the help from a little goo, according to a recent Economist article.

Around here, it’s not uncommon for a trooper or a deputy to give chase to a motorist who decides not to yield to lights and sirens. They are generally well coordinated events that result in the arrest of the person without injury to driver or law enforcement officer.

That said, they have gotten out of hand and become injurious — even deadly — in many jurisdictions, and a new company called StarChase has an idea to put an end to them.

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Still Feeling the Sting of that Latest Traffic Ticket?

Tuesday, June 10th, 2008

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You know the drill: you’re driving down (insert roadway) when all the sudden your rear view mirror lights up with red and blue.

The shock is soon overcome with one of two responses: either fear (what did I do?) or humility (I just got caught red handed).

I’m looking for a few good motorists to tell their stories about traffic tickets. This isn’t the first time we’ve had this request, however, I am planning a story in which your tale could be featured. Don’t be shy now!

Conversely, local law enforcement officials have recently told me traffic complaints outnumber all others. Therefore there are many of you out there that are happy John or Jane Q. Kitsap got said ticket, and are hoping he/she learned a lesson. I’d like to hear from those tired of speeders shooting by their homes as well.


Does this Jail Trip Come with Frequent Flyer Miles, Officer?

Tuesday, June 10th, 2008

It’s a safe bet that any cop in Kitsap County will tell you they deal day in and day out with many of the same individuals along the beat. Such repeat offenders are sometimes referred to as “frequent fliers,” in certain law enforcement circles, but whatever the name, they seem to log a lot of time in the backs of patrol cars headed south to the jail in Port Orchard.

More unorthodox forms of jurisprudence are springing up around the country to deal with these repeat offenders, USA Today reported Monday.

Here’s the trend, according to USA Today reporter Donna Leinwand:

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County Poised to Change Roadside Memorial Policy

Monday, June 9th, 2008

It’s been six years since Kitsap County created its roadside memorial policy, one that cleared the way for its light-blue signs aimed at reminding motorists where a person was killed in an alcohol-related crash.

Six years is also the same amount of time the county decreed that each sign would last. But Marsha Masters, Kitsap County’s local MADD chapter president, has been pushing to change that.

The Kitsap County Commissioners heard arguments June 2 in favor of expanding the six year time frame to 10 years. They’ve also discussed making it possible for the “sponsor” of a sign to buy a new one ($350) when it lives to 10 years old.

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The ‘Blow and Go’ — a Look Nationally at Ignition Interlock

Friday, June 6th, 2008

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Hawaii is slated to become the 47th state in the country to add an “ignition interlock” law to its books, according to a stateline.org article.

An ignition interlock device — sometimes referred to as a “blow and go” — requires its user to register their breath in a portable reader before they can start their car. Of the 47 states that have the laws — Washington’s is one of the strictest, stateline.org says — each vary as to how many DUI convictions one needs in order for the government to require them of a driver.

Stateline.org says some states, such as New Mexico, require them of first time DUI offenders. Here’s Washington’s law, courtesy of the state patrol.


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