Monthly Archives: April 2009

Family Asks for SK Community’s Help in Bringing Killer to Justice

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It has been one year since Linda Malcom was found murdered in her Sidney Avenue home. Port Orchard Police Chief Al Townsend has confirmed that investigators have a “person of interest” in the case, but an arrest has yet to be made.

I’ve been talking to many of family members of Malcom (pictured at left), who would like to see justice happen in the case as soon as possible. Linda’s parents, both 80, fear they may pass away before there is resolution.

Townsend vowed not to give up.

“I can assure you that as long as I’m here we will continue to keep the case active and to work toward an arrest,” he told me.

Linda’s family wanted me to publish a letter from them to the community. Here are their words:

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Lincoln’s Legacy the Theme of Kitsap’s Annual ‘Law Day’

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Kitsap’s “Law Day” festivities this Friday will focus on President Abraham Lincoln, in honor of his 200th birthday.

U.S. District Court Judge Ronald Leighton will deliver the keynote address Friday morning, heading up a program entitled, “”A Legacy of Liberty: Celebrating Lincoln’s Bicentennial,”
according to Paul Fjelstad, president of the Kitsap County Bar Association.

The festivities will kick off at 8:30 a.m. Friday in the Kitsap County Commissioners’ Chambers.

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Got a Fine? The Courts May be Willing to Negotiate

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Unpaid traffic fines and fees can create a mound of debt that some people are never able to pay off. But for the month of May, Kitsap’s courts are offering a window of opportunity to get out of the red.

More than 100 district and municipal courts in Washington — that includes Kitsap District Court, and municipal courts in Bremerton, Poulsbo, Port Orchard and Bainbridge Island — are linking up with a program to help debt-riddled drivers pay their dues and regain their licenses.

“The Bremerton Municipal Court is very aware of the financial burdens everyone is facing these days,” Judge James Docter said in a press release. “We want to do our part in helping our citizens by providing some relief to those who want to pay their outstanding obligations to the court.”

Wendy Farrell, a Washington Courts spokeswoman, says 1.5 million driver’s licenses have been prevented from being renewed in the state due to unpaid tickets. A similar court effort in 2002 got out of the system more than 10,000 cases and collected $1.9 million in revenue.

“Our ultimate goal is to have all drivers on the road validly licensed,” Docter said. “This is just one more step towards that goal.

For more information on eliminating interest on your fine, and even reducing the fine’s amount during May, click below.

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Swine Flu Tips: Be Prepared, Don’t Panic (and Wash Your Hands)

A strand of swine flu is fanning out across North America, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Fears of a pandemic are spreading too. But before we get carried away, there is some basic knowledge about this flu bug everyone should know. We have two big things going for us (us being humanity):

Number one: it is preventable. Eat healthy meals and get plenty of sleep to keep your immune system strong. But more than anything else: wash your hands. A staggering number of people don’t. A recent survey showed two-thirds of Americans admit “they might not always wash their hands properly.” I am often appalled in restrooms when I’m soaping up my hands and a man inside a stall doesn’t even look at the sinks on his way out the door.

Number two: it is treatable. The CDC says oseltamivir or zanamivir can treat it, and antiviral drugs can help your body fight it.

If you are sick, the best thing to do is stay home and rest, the CDC says. Be sure to contact your health care provider as well.

Blogger’s note: This issue, obviously, isn’t exactly a crime and justice topic. But part of my job is covering public safety issues, and this is, well, an issue of public safety. Spread the word to your friends, neighbors, and coworkers.

Here are some more useful links:

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A Week to Celebrate Crime Victims’ Rights

Today marks the start of crime victims’ rights week. The week recognizes not only the pain and trauma such victims endure, but also honors those that help them through it.

“Who do you turn to for help when these tragedies happen?” asks Kelly Pelland, the Victim/Witness Coordinator for the Kitsap County Prosecutor’s Office. “Once the police have left, and the case has been referred to the prosecutor’s office, many victims are left wondering where to go for help or direction.”

But there are organizations in the community aimed at helping victims. “I’d like to honor those advocates who spend their days (and nights) helping our community heal from the devastating losses that come with violent crime,” Pelland said.

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Behind the Story: Germs, Guns and Jails

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Spending the day with community corrections officers was quite an experience. If you’ve seen the story, you know that they wear many hats in their line of work.

Attempting to keep in line some of society’s most hardened criminals can’t be easy. And there are definitely some quirks to their line of work. Among them I found that:

  • Surprisingly, most of those monitored by corrections officials don’t come out of a state corrections prison. If felony sentences are less than a year, offenders do their time in county jails. That means DOC is less acclimated to the offender, and the offender in turn has not likely been geared toward any plan for their lives on the outside. In a state prison, there are more resources for job training and counseling than at county jails.
  • The economy’s nosedive hasn’t helped those with criminal records get jobs, leading to increased homelessness. “And the bottom line is if you don’t have a place to stay, how are you going to follow the conditions?” Marcus Miller, one of the officers I followed around, said.
  • If offenders are living without a “stable home life” — including staying at a motel — they must check in once a week.
  • They keep hand sanitizer in their car. Viruses rampantly circulate the DOC office as offenders come and go.
  • Both Miller and and his partner on the day, Denise Posey, carry guns. Though it is optional, one thing about the job isn’t: “100 percent of the time, you’re dealing with felons,” Miller said.

Despite Successful Past, Drug Court Faces Precarious Future

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In 10 years, Kitsap County Drug Court has given 285 people a new lease on life. They are folks who once allowed drugs to rule and ruin their lives — and often the lives of those around them. But their dedication, along with the voluminous support and guidance of the drug court staff, has given them tools to control addiction and become productive members of society.

Yet the drug court’s future is uncertain. The court relies on a litany of grants and various streams of funding from federal, state and local government. It’s already had its share of financial problems. And in perilous economic times like these, such a budget structure can be problematic.

Hard to believe, given the fact, as Washington Attorney General Rob McKenna said Friday, that $1 to drug court saves $10 to $12 down the road to the criminal justice system.

I’m working on a project looking at drug court’s overall impact on the community through the eyes of its graduates, as well its administrators’ plans to keep it alive for the next ten years. I’d welcome anyone’s comments.

Bainbridge Police Aim to Cease ‘Paint Night’

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Following what could only be termed as a disastrous “Paint Night 2008,” the Bainbridge Island Police Department will be cracking down in 2009.

That’s the message police lieutenant Sue Shultz delivered to the Bainbridge High School PTSA Tuesday night. “We’re going to put a cease to it,” she told me.

Last year, the perennial paint night — where students usually paint their names and graduation class onto the island’s pastoral streets — took a turn for the worse when two seniors took their paint to police cars. They also defaced signs like this one (pictured) as you head onto the island on Highway 305.

This year, students caught painting on roads and other public sites will have malicious mischief charges waiting for them, she said.

But one such tradition has her particularly worried: the annual painting of the graduating year on the water tower near the high school. She said they’re painting over the “08″ and “anyone that tries to paint 09 that gets caught will be arrested.”

Shultz, who said she’s hoping to help the high school establish a more safe tradition, also wants to reassure students that police aren’t doing such a crack down to be mean.

“The police are not out to get you,” she said. “They are here to help you. The last thing I want to do is have to tell your parents you fell from the water tower.”

What Age Groups Suffer Most from Drunken Driving

Which age range bears by far the largest amount of casualties at the hands of drunken drivers in Washington?

The answer is those who are in their twenties, who account for almost a third of such crashes, according to the federal Fatality Analysis Reporting System. In Washington, 79 people in that age range died on average each year between 2001 and 2007. (The overall average of those killed per year was 244.)

The next closest range was those in their thirties, with an average of 45, followed by those 15 to 20 years old, with an average of 40.

The numbers drop off considerably for those in their forties and fifties, with averages of 38 and 21, respectively.

Special thanks to Marsha Masters of MADD for providing this sobering data.

Earth Day Special: Washington’s Garbage is Oregon’s Gold

Blogger’s Note: This is the third entry in a series looking at the crime of littering. It is also an update in recognition of Earth Day 2009.

Here’s one way to stop a litterer: pay them.

Or rather, refund them. That’s what Oregon’s done since 1971, using a practice now followed in 12 states. Known as the “bottle bill,” the law bumps up the price of a beverage and hooks the consumer into recycling it by paying them back, in most of the states, a nickel per can or bottle. The policy aimed to not only decrease litter but increases recycling.

Washington, by contrast, was also a 1970s vanguard in a different method of combating its scattered garbage: a litter tax on about a dozen industries that generates $7 million a year for public awareness programs and clean up efforts, according to The Tax Foundation.

Which method was more effective? Judging by the sheer amount of cans and bottles I picked up along Bremerton’s Wheaton Waybelieved to account for 40 to 60 percent of litter — Oregon has a leg up on at least that brand of unsightly rubbish. A downside of the litter tax, points out The Tax Foundation’s Andrew Chamberlain, is that businesses simply pass on the tax to push up prices. “That means it will tax every consumer regardless of whether they litter, penalizing a large majority for the behavior of a tiny minority of litterers,” he wrote.

Oregon’s bottle bill, too, does increase costs. But such a policy creates economic incentive to recycle — not just bureaucracy, PR campaigns and state-sponsored cleanups. Oregon even recently added water and flavored water bottles to its list. “It’s about dang time,” an editorial in The News-Review of Roseburg said.

Bottlebill.org says the policy cuts down on litter anywhere between 34 and 64 percent.

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