Monthly Archives: September 2011

Crime in America drops for fourth straight year

Crime has fallen again

The Federal Bureau of Investigation released today its annual report on crime in America in 2010 and, in a continuing trend now four years running — and really a long downward arc since the 1990s — crime is down across the board.

Murder is down 4.2 percent. Rape is down five percent. Aggravated assault is down 4.1 percent. Burglary’s down two percent. Arson? A 7.6 percent decline.

Criminologists sometimes peg high unemployment with higher crime rates. But that didn’t happen in the sluggish growth of 2010. I welcome your theories as to what’s going on there.

Some other tidbits from the FBI:

  • Total number of crimes reported: 10,329,135 (1,246,248 violent crimes and 9,082,887 property crimes);
  • Most common violent crime: aggravated assault (62.5 percent of all violent crimes during 2010);
  • Most common property crime: larceny-theft (68.2 percent of all property crimes during 2010);
  • Top three crimes for which law enforcement reported arrests: drug abuse violations (1,638,846), driving while intoxicated (1,412,223), and larceny-theft (1,271,410);
  • Total number of arrests, excluding traffic violations: 13,120,947, including 552,077 for violent crimes and 1,643,962 for property crimes (the number of arrests doesn’t reflect the number of individuals arrested—some individuals may have been arrested more than once);
  • Most common characteristics of arrestees: 74.5 percent of arrestees were male, and 69.4 percent of arrestees were white;
  • How often firearms were used in crimes: in 67.5 percent of reported murders, 41.4 percent of reported robberies, and 20.6 percent of aggravated assaults; and
  • Total losses for victims of property crimes, excluding arsons: an estimated $15.7 billion.

Burglaries abound in Kitsap’s summer months

However late it arrived on the Kitsap peninsula this year, summer appears to have brought with it an unfortunate trend: more home burglaries. 

I’d been suspicious that our area was seeing an uptick in break-ins, but was confirmed by data from the Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office and hearing the stories of some unfortunate victims.

Tiffany Bridgeford’s home on Central Valley Road was hit May 3. The thieves took jewelry, electronics and other items. Also scary: her dog was home — she has no idea how they evaded the animal — and that they were in and out in just 45 minutes, she said.

The sheriff’s deputies who investigated told her burglaries were on the up, said Bridgeford, who sadly has been a burglary victim three times in nine years here.

Her neighbors, it would turn out, also had their home broken into last Saturday. The thieves took valuables, but — and this is the weird part — they also drank Coca Cola out of their refrigerator and smoked a cigarette in the residence.

“They felt that comfortable in our house,” said Alena Menefee Dashiell, you lives on Central Valley with her boyfriend Richard Hemingway.

The high water mark for break-ins was in August, with 81 around the unincorporated parts of the county, according to Kitsap County Sheriff’s spokesman Scott Wilson. Overall, here are the monthly totals: Jan.:  51, Feb.:  26, March:  48, April:  49, May:  67, June:  52, July:  71, Aug.:  81, Sept. (through its first third): 35.

Both Menefee Dashiell and Bridgeford are looking at ways to better safeguard their homes.

Here at the Kitsap Crime and Justice blog, we’ve offered tips before. While these are a rehash, they still are the best ways to keep burglars out:

When attempting to protect against burglaries … Wilson says its best to provide “defense in depth.”

“The key thing here is lock your doors and windows,” Wilson said. “Lock your cars. Better yet — lock your cars in your garage and lock them.”

Wilson said even if you go on vacation and lock all the doors, there are many other things you can do to help prevent theft, such as:

* Know your neighbors: Get to know the people around you so that when suspicious cars or people are in the neighborhood, you know who to look for — and who’s watching your back.

* Get an alarm: If you’re one of those people in Kitsap or North Mason’s more rural areas where neighbors can’t help scan for burglars, get a computer to help you do it.

* Have good visibility around the home: Keep trees and landscaping thin so burglars can’t scope your home without seeing them. Keep outside areas lit at night to help you do so as well.

Oh, and don’t forget to report any suspicious activity to 911. And, you can always start a neighborhood block watch. For more information, call Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office Community Resource Officer Schon Montague at (360) 692-7746.

Should permitted gun owners be allowed to carry state to state?

Washingtonians who have a license to carry a concealed gun know well that packing heat in any other state requires an education of that state’s unique laws.  

A bill introduced in Congress could change that, according to the Wall Street Journal:

“Congressional lawmakers yesterday heard testimony on a federal bill that would give Americans who hold permits to carry firearms in their home states the right to carry their weapons across state lines,” wrote Nathan Koppel on the WSJ’s law blog.

“The sponsors of the legislation, dubbed the National Right-to-Carry Reciprocity Act, maintain that people’s Second Amendment rights should encompass the right to carry their firearms outside their home states,” he added.

Here’s the legalese of the law would allow:

Notwithstanding any provision of the law of any State or political subdivision thereof, related to the carrying or transportation of firearms, a person who is not prohibited by Federal law from possessing, transporting, shipping, or receiving a firearm, and who is carrying a government-issued photographic identification document and a valid license or permit which is issued pursuant to the law of a State and which permits the person to carry a concealed firearm, may carry a concealed handgun (other than a machinegun or destructive device) that has been shipped or transported in interstate or foreign commerce, in any State, other than the State of residence of the person, that–

‘(1) has a statute that allows residents of the State to obtain licenses or permits to carry concealed firearms; or

‘(2) does not prohibit the carrying of concealed firearms by residents of the State for lawful purposes.

About one in 27 people in Washington carry a concealed gun. Would you support such a new law,  readers? And why or why not?

Chiropractor’s neck adjustment leads to lawsuit

A Kitsap County woman is suing a local chiropractor after a neck adjustment she claims herniated discs in her spine, according to documents filed in Kitsap County Superior Court. 

The woman, who filed the suit in February, is a lawyer and filed it herself. She said in court documents that on Feb. 25, 2008, she was getting treatment for pain in her thigh.

While lying face down, she received an adjustment in which her “head was violently turned,” and she “experienced severe excruciating pain and heard loud cracks,” she claimed.

“Oh my god, what did you do?” she reportedly exclaimed.

The woman said she’s had continuous pain and that she can’t type with her right arm nor work for more than one to two hours. She’s seeking compensation for income lost as a result of not being able to work, medical bills and other damages.

Counsel for the defendants aren’t having it, however.

In court documents filed in June, they’re calling the plaintiff’s claims “frivolous,” and “without reasonable cause.” They say she came into the chiropractor experiencing severe pain to begin with.

They want attorney’s fees should the judge rule in their favor.

The case is ongoing in superior court.

DUI numbers up following ‘Drive Hammered, Get Nailed’ campaign

Fifty-nine motorists got busted for DUI between Aug. 19 and Sept. 5, when cops were out en masse thanks to federal grant money

The Washington Traffic Safety Commission funded the extra patrols during those dog days of summer because typically, that’s when the most alcohol fueled deaths on Washington’s highways occur. Around the state, officers wrote a total of 1,824 DUI citations.

From the Commission:

“In Kitsap County, the Bainbridge Island, Bremerton, Port Orchard and Poulsbo Police Departments, the Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office and the Washington State Patrol participated in the extra DUI patrols, with the support of the Kitsap County Target Zero Task Force. The extra patrols were funded by a grant from the Washington Traffic Safety Commission.

More than 40 percent of the DUI traffic deaths occur in Washington during the summer months. That is why these extra patrols are so important and are helping to make a difference. According to preliminary 2010 data, the number of DUI traffic deaths decreased by 16.5 percent compared to the previous five year average.”

 

Is meth on its way out?

 

Methamphetamine, that crystalline psycho-stimulant that’s been plaguing our communities for years now, appears to be on the decline around the nation, according to results of a survey released by the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).

As penned in a USA Today article:

“… methamphetamine use, which raced across the USA for a decade, has declined sharply. The number of past-month users fell from 731,000 in 2006 to 353,000 in 2010.”

So could this be the beginning of the end for methamphetamine?

In our area, I’m not seeing any slowdown in police reports from around the county. But we have certainly seen heroin rear its ugly head in the past couple years. And, as you can see from this one sentence I’ve posted from a real police report, it appears, at least anecdotally, that at least one drug seller was having a tough time pushing meth.

I’ve spoken to Bremerton Police Special Operations Group Sgt. Randy Plumb about that very sentence, and he told me not to give it much credence. There’s still plenty of demand out there.

As the report shows, it certainly isn’t the end for marijuana use, which is ingested regularly by almost 7 percent of Americans, up from 6 percent in 2007. But newer laws and education efforts appear to be working in the fight against meth.

UPDATE: The National Drug Threat Assessment, authored by the Department of Justice, is out and says that actually, meth demand is increasing in some markets in America:

“High levels of methamphetamine production in Mexico, along with increasing smallscale domestic production, have resulted in
increasing methamphetamine availability,” it says.

Apparently, the federal government’s public health arm and its law enforcement arm appear to be contradicting each other a bit.

In memoriam: The crown vic, law enforcement’s ‘warhorse’

Police officers have a reputation for being tough. But over the past week, I’ve heard several cops wax nostalgic about the departure of a dear colleague: The Ford Crown Victoria.

The “crown vic,” for short, has become, in its three decades, a sine qua non of American police departments. But Ford has decided it’s time for the model to accept its pension and gold watch, according to an article in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.

“It is a sad day,” said Kitsap County Undersheriff Dennis Bonneville. “The old crown vic has served law enforcement well for many years.”

Kitsap County Sheriff Steve Boyer called the crown vic law enforcement’s longtime “warhorse.”

“The Crown Vic was probably the best patrol car used by law enforcement agencies ever,” echoed Mason County Chief Deputy Dean Byrd. “It was bulletproof and durable. It was agile and large enough to house all of the equipment necessary for a deputy or officer to do his or her job.”

Byrd added that some departments, including Port Angeles police, aren’t yet willing to let go, experimenting with rebuilding their existing crown vics to extend their functional lives.

“So far the results are promising,” he said.

For those not going the Port Angeles route, what’s next?

Poulsbo Police Sgt. Bob Wright said his department had been expecting the crown vic’s departure — and had even found something they liked a little better a few years back, gas prices be darned: an SUV.

“In 2003, we started to move from sedans to a more versatile police vehicle, a four wheel drive Ford Explorer which was built on a truck frame. The vehicle cost was nearly the same as the Crown Vic.

The four wheel drive turned out to be the best value for the money. The vehicles could go anywhere which is especially valuable in a City that is built on hills and gets some very bad weather in the winters.  Prior to this we were having to chain up and down police cars daily and breaking lots of tire chains during response to emergencies.”

There’s also the factor that law enforcement officers are increasingly tasked with carrying more and more equipment, he pointed out.

Ford, of course, is rolling out new “police interceptor” patrol cars to meet the law enforcement demand. If more police departments move to something bigger, like Poulsbo did, they could pick Ford’s SUV interceptor model.

Port Orchard Police Chief Al Townsend added his department is looking to try the new Chevrolet Caprice and Ford Police Interceptor  (its sedan model).

If history tells us anything, the police car of the future — in America at least — will probably be a Ford. The Crown Victoria held 70 percent of the market for police vehicles last year, according to the Star-Tribune article.