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Crime stats: Murder in Washington increased 27 percent in 2012

Tuesday, May 21st, 2013
Graph by WASPC.

Graph by WASPC.

The yearly tabulation of crime stats, courtesy of the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs, is out. The Crime in Washington 2012 report is chock-full of trends, some good and some bad. Here’s some of those that caught my eye initially:

  • There is a murder every 2.5 days in Washington state. And the number of people murdered has gone up from 159 in 2011 to 203 in 2012 (That’s a 27 percent increase).
  • Crime occurred most frequently in the state in September; it occurred the least in February.
  • Property crimes: $205,931,711 in property was stolen in 2012; of that, law enforcement recovered $16,931,651.
  • Though it is now legal for an adult 21 and older in Washington state to possess up to an ounce of pot, police in Washington seized 762,809 grams of pot in 2012. By comparison, the two next highest drugs seized were meth (25,418 grams) and heroin (24,824).
  • Arrests: 155,916 people were arrested in Washington in 2012. Of those, 30,924 were between 20 and 24 years old, making it the age group with the greatest quantity of arrests.
  • Of all those arrests, almost a fifth — 18.5 percent — were for DUI.

To read the full report for yourself, click here. I’ll be dissecting our local numbers for a story at kitsapsun.com in the days ahead.

 


One in three, arrested by 23

Monday, December 19th, 2011

A fascinating, if troubling, study released Monday finds that one in three young people will be arrested by age 23.

The study, published in the journal Pediatrics, suggests growth in the “arrest record” population of the United States. From the New York Times report:

The study, the first since the 1960s to look at the arrest histories of a national sample of adolescents and young adults over time, found that 30.2 percent of the 23-year-olds who participated reported having been arrested for an offense other than a minor traffic violation.

The study, at first glance, makes me wonder: Are there more arrests because there are more cops and criminal justice infrastructure today, or because more young people are law-breaking?  Legendary criminologist Alfred Blumstein said in USA Today that “the increase in arrests for young people in the latest study is unsurprising given several decades of tough crime policies.

“I was astonished 44 years ago. Most people were,” says Blumstein, a professor of operations research at the Heinz College at Carnegie Mellon University who served with Christensen on President Lyndon Johnson’s crime task force.

Now, Blumstein says, youth may be arrested for drugs and domestic violence, which were unlikely offenses to attract police attention in the 1960s. “There’s a lot more arresting going on now,” he says.

My second curiosity is what the study, if accurate, means for our society. Such widespread exposure to our bulky criminal justice system might not be a bad thing — it might steer an otherwise law-abiding citizen from a lapse in judgement later on. Then again, acclimation to the criminal justice system could also desensitize the experience and actually decrease someone’s fear of law-breaking.


Buy a brick, fight domestic violence

Thursday, October 20th, 2011

Turning Pointe Domestic Violence Services, a young advocacy group that’s sprung up in Mason County, needs your help to survive.

Their Shelton shelter will be placing engraved bricks in a park area in front of its main building. They’re inviting community members to contribute their own bricks, which can be purchased for $35 each or three for $100.

Mason County Sheriff’s Detective Bill Adam believes in the center and is helping promote the fundraiser:

Even though they are not associated with the Mason County Sheriff’s Office, we help them because of their wonderful work in helping save and protect victim’s of domestic violence.

As a board of trustee’s member of Turning Pointe, I am requesting that you help get the word out about this wonderful fund raiser to help such a wonderful cause.  We need your help and support to keep the doors open to our Domestic Violence Shelter, which actually serves citizens living in many counties surrounding Mason County.  Victims from Mason, Thurston, Lewis, Pierce, Grays Harbor, Pacific, Jefferson, Kitsap are assisted by this very important shelter.

From the press release:

Turning Pointe is offering for sale decorative bricks that you can personalize. Bricks will be placed in the Turning Pointe park area in front of the main building. Purchase your Brick in Shelton at WalMart on Friday and Saturday November 4th and 5th 10 am to 2 pm or at Safeway in Belfair on Friday and Saturday November 11th and 12th from 10 am to 2 pm

Your name can become a permanent part of Turning Pointe’s park setting. Decorative bricks will be used to pave the park setting and surround the Turning Pointe Facility creating a lasting symbol and remembrance of supporters and survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault/abuse, their children and their pets.

With your contribution, your personalized engraved brick will be permanently displayed along with those of your friends, neighbors, community businesses and organizations. An engraved brick is a perfect way to honor a loved one, commemorate a special occasion, and to show your support in helping to end family violence here in Mason County.

Bricks are $35 a piece or 3 / $100. The proceeds from this brick fundraiser will be used to fund Turning Pointe’s services and operational needs.

Now is your opportunity to create a lasting memory carved into a decorative brick, personalized with your name, a special message or honorarium for someone you know and love.

Contributions made through purchasing a brick qualifies as a charitable contribution for income tax purposes. Turning Pointe is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization, Federal Tax ID # 91-2024833.

All Turning Point Services are Free and Confidential.


Crime reporter’s notebook: Heroin vapor, mail theft, guns in bars and more

Saturday, October 15th, 2011

Here’s some of my notes from the week of criminal justice:  

Heroin vapor: A Seattle man was arrested in Suquamish for a drug possession warrant Oct. 8, according to Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office reports. Deputies searched him, they found a eye drop-like bottle filled with a brown liquid. The man admitted it was heroin and that he “inhales the liquid as a nasal spray” — a method of ingestion the cop hadn’t seen before. The man said he’d gotten hooked on opiates after an appendix surgery.

Stolen mail: A witness to a car sifting through mailboxes on Sandy Hook Road NE and Dock Street NE called 911, according to sheriff’s reports. A Suquamish officer in the area stopped the suspected car and the two people inside were interviewed. A bag of mail belonging to addresses in Silverdale, Poulsbo, and along Sandy Hook Road was spotted in the car. Both suspects have been charged by prosecutors with theft.

Seattle LEADS program: The Seattle Times reports a new program, to be run by Evergreen Treatment Services (who you’ll recall are the folks that tried to bring a methadone clinic to Kitsap) will attempt to break the incarceration cycle of some hardened drug addicts. Police on the streets will be the ones choosing the candidates for it. “No one knows if it’ll work, but the creation of Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD) has made partners out of professional adversaries and brought shared hope to those dealing with the ramifications of the country’s war on drugs,” Times reporter Sara Jean Green reports. “Funded by private foundations, the $950,000-a-year, four-year pilot program offers hand-picked participants individualized alternatives to arrest, from inpatient drug treatment and educational opportunities to housing assistance and microloans for would-be business owners.”

Guns-in-bars advocate arrested for DUI: A Tennessee lawmaker who spearheaded a law that allows the state’s citizens to carry guns in bars was arrested for DUI this week, reports the Commercial Appeal. In Washington state, it appears guns are banned in areas limited to those 21 and over.

Deputies catch another scrap metal thief: On Tuesday, Kitsap County Sheriff’s deputies were called to an Olalla Valley Road address for a possible break-in to a for-sale home. When they got there, two deputies heard “ripping” sounds and when they announced their presence, it stopped. A man jumped off a roof and one of the deputies tackled him. The Olalla man, who deputies confirmed had been selling scrap metal, was tearing off sheetrock in the home to get at flexible conduit in the walls, deputies believe. He was taken to the Kitsap County jail for burglary. The theft of metal rages on.


Bremerton detectives receive ‘dozens’ of calls following property theft ring story

Wednesday, October 12th, 2011

The phones were ringing off the hooks in the general investigations division of the Bremerton Police Department Tuesday morning. The calls were in response to an article published Monday afternoon regarding the arrest of the reported ringleader of a property theft ring.

As police sift through property they believe was stolen in the ring and stored at a house in West Bremerton, “dozens” of people — presumably people who saw the story — called into the detective division to inquire about the goods recovered.

Crane reminded me that while the calls can potentially reconnect people to their missing items, it is important that, after such a theft, owners file a police report as soon as possible. That way, if ever your stuff is recovered, police will be able to contact you.

And, if you really want to be proactive, mark expensive electronics with a unique number, or note the serial number, to help expedite the process and increase your chances of getting stuff back.

For more burglary tips, click here.

 


Judges have ‘great deal of discretion’ in allowing cameras to roll in court

Tuesday, October 11th, 2011

There are no guarantees when it comes to letting a camera roll inside a Washington state court.

I had mentioned on an earlier blog that most every time I’d been in our local courts and requests to film — generally made by the TV news networks — had almost always been granted.

At times, a judge will ask the TV stations to “pool” their filming, which is a way of saying that one camera would be allowed in court and that station would have to share its footage with others seeking it.

A “John Doe” had commented on the previous blog that he doubted courts would be so open to filming. So I decided to go to a judge to get some answers.

In short, judges can be choosy about who they allow to film — and they can say no for various reasons, reports Bremerton Municipal Court Judge James Docter.

Here’s Judge Docter’s take:

“There is a court rule that addresses filming court hearings. It is GR-16. The rule specifically addresses media filming, rather than filming by the public. There are many articles and some cases on the subject of filming in the courtroom, but most of them relate to the media. So the subject you raise is not clear cut.

Generally, a member of the public would need court permission before filming. The judge has a great deal of discretion when deciding whether to grant a request to film, and would need information about the request. In particular, we would want to know what is the purpose for the filming, and to whom will it be published? We would prohibit any filming intended to embarass, harass, intimidate, threaten, torment or humiliate or unreasonably expose others. We would want to know who is going to be filmed, and we would allow them a chance to object. We would need to make sure the filming did not disrupt the court proceedings. I doubt we would allow it “just for the fun of it”. Perhaps if it were for a school project or a documentary we might allow it.

Filming might be justified for certain purposes, so the judge would review the request on a case by case basis, after hearing from those involved. Then the judge would make a ruling, and either allow it or prohibit it. So long as there is a good basis for his/her ruling, I’m confident the judge’s decision would be upheld by the higher court(s).”

Judge Docter has served as Bremerton’s judge since 1997. 


Scam alert: Beware of the ‘Smishers’

Saturday, October 8th, 2011

Beware of “smishing.” 

If you didn’t know what in the heck “smishing” is, you’re not alone — I didn’t either. But the basic gist is this: Smishing is a new scam in which nefarious individuals pretend they’re a bank and send you text messages on your cell phone asking for personal information.

Don’t give it to them.

Washington State Attorney General Rob McKenna’s office got a number of calls this past week from people who were asked for personal information over text messaging. Here’s the press release from his office about it:

SEATTLE – Washington State Attorney General Rob McKenna today warned consumers about a text-message trap to capture financial information and drain credit card and bank accounts. Such text message scams are called “smishing.”

“If you don’t wish to be smished, ignore text messages that look like they’re coming from your bank or credit card,” McKenna said. “Flip over your credit or ATM card and call the number on the back. If there’s a problem with your account, that’s the best way to find out.”

Consumers began contacting the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division early this week complaining about calls to their cell phones from those posing as Wells Fargo employees. An automated voice suggested that the customer’s account has been breached and directed them to “press one” for assistance. They were then connected to a person who asks for sensitive account information.

Many of the calls came to those who don’t even have Wells Fargo accounts. As the week progressed, the scam morphed to text messages from those posing as representing Bank of America, Chase, Citibank and Capital One.

“Phishing” scams trick consumers into turning over account numbers, PINs, credit card security codes, usernames, passwords and other sensitive information. “Smishing” is a similar scam launched over SMS (Short Message Service) messages – better known as text messages.

Scammers have long phished by phone and email. The text scam is a somewhat new variation. The Attorney General’s Office recommends that consumers never respond to any message requesting account or personal information. Instead, contact the institution using a phone number from a statement or from your bank or credit card company’s official Web site.

Phishing and smishing are criminal acts that the state Attorney General’s Office lacks authority to investigate. Consumers contacted by such scammers should file a complaint with the FTC.

Consumers concerned they may have revealed sensitive information in a phishing or smishing scam should contact their bank or credit card company, if applicable, and monitor their bank statements, credit card bills and credit reports to watch for suspicious activity.


Feds to consider changing archaic definition of rape

Monday, October 3rd, 2011

Scottish author Andrew Lang once said of a man: “He uses statistics like a drunk uses lamp-posts, more for support than illumination.”

Currently, the Federal Bureau of Investigation is supporting its annual rape statistics with a rather archaic, 80-year-old definition critics have long argued needed to catch up with the times. Rape is defined as “the carnal knowledge of a female, forcibly and against her will,” reports the New York Times.

That definition may soon be updated by the FBI, which will take up discussion on it this month, the Times reported Sept. 28.

Why does it matter?

It’s a matter of honesty. The FBI’s report is known as one of the best indicators of crime in the United States (and its latest report shows crime dropping in America again). If the police jurisdictions report rape to the FBI using a more modern definition, they won’t include those cases.

The Times sums up the what the FBI leaves out (Blogger’s warning: some readers might find this terminology disturbing):

(The FBI’s definition) … critics say, does not take into account sexual-assault cases that involve anal or oral penetration or penetration with an object, cases where the victims were drugged or under the influence of alcohol or cases with male victims. As a result, many sexual assaults are not counted as rapes in the yearly federal accounting.

I invited Claire Bradley, a chief deputy of the Kitsap County Prosecutor’s Office — and the current chair of Kitsap SAIVS (Special Assault Investigations and Victim’s Services) — to share her thoughts about updating the language. Bradley was also deputy prosecutor in the county’s special assault unit for eight years.

“I think, across the board, anyone who deals with sexual assault crimes would agree this is a good thing. Locally, our law enforcement, prosecutors and victim advocates already do a great job of responding to all types of sexual assault, not just the ones that would be classified as “rape” by these federal statistics. But, to the community as a whole, the classification of what is “rape” by federal statistical standards is absolutely misleading.

And, to me, the most important factor in this reclassification is that our victim advocacy programs rely on statistical data for grant funding. Our victim advocates serve so many more victims than the statistics would suggest, and so their funding is based on false numbers. I would love to see them be able to report actual, true numbers and receive more funding, that is actually representative of how many people they serve.”

Perhaps with an updated definition, the statistics provided by the FBI will become more illuminating for all of us.


Can murder of federal Seattle prosecutor be solved?

Saturday, October 1st, 2011

Thomas C. Wales, a federal prosecutor based in Seattle, was killed 10 years ago this month. And close to the anniversary of his tragic death, efforts to find his killer are once again being ramped up.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder Wednesday came to Seattle to help shine the light on the case, in the hopes that a tip or clue could come forward that will help bring justice to the unsolved murder of a Western Washington federal prosecutor.

We’re not strangers to cold cases here in Kitsap County. Four in five homicides go unsolved. Indeed, as a country, 6,000 people a year get away with murder.

Here’s more about the Wales killing from a news release by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Seattle:

SEATTLE – Attorney General Eric Holder joined U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Washington Jenny A. Durkan, the Wales family and the FBI in Seattle today to announce a new media and social media effort to seek information related to the 2001 slaying of Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas C. Wales.  Wales worked as a federal prosecutor in the Western District of Washington for 18 years before he was shot and killed 10 years ago in his home the evening of Oct. 11, 2001.

“Tom was a dedicated public servant, a committed advocate, and a loving father and friend,” Attorney General Holder said.  “Although this case remains unsolved, and Tom’s killer remains unknown, our resolve to uncover the truth – and to help Tom’s family, friends, colleagues and neighbors find the answers and the closure that they deserve – has never been stronger.”

“The message to the public is: what you know may matter. Please call. What may seem to you to be a small, insignificant observation could be a critical clue for law enforcement,” said U.S. Attorney Durkan.  “It was one month after the 9-11 attacks. Think back, remember what you saw, heard or knew, and use the FBI tip line.  You could make the difference.”

In conjunction with the anniversary, the FBI is launching a major media and social media effort to encourage people with information to come forward.  Investigators believe there are people who have not yet contacted the FBI, either because they are fearful or they do not believe their information is significant.

This effort includes advertisements in The Seattle Times and The Stranger, on Seattle-area billboards, and in commercials on local radio and television which start today and run through the anniversary of Wales’ death on October 11th.  The FBI has also launched a new web page, www.fbi.gov/wales which is solely committed to posting and receiving information from the public about the Wales case. Additionally, the FBI will use its existing Facebook, Twitter and YouTube pages to reach the public across the country to seek any new information.

In addition to these efforts, anyone with even the smallest bit of information is encouraged to contact the FBI and can do so confidentially by phone at 1-800 CALL FBI or by email at walestips@ic.fbi.gov. People can also send anonymous tips to the FBI at PO Box 2755, Seattle, Washington, 98111.

“The murder of Tom Wales was more than a single act of violence against an individual,” said Greg Fowler, FBI Inspector-in-Charge of the case.  “It was a crime that impacted many, but no one more than his family.  Tom Wales left behind a legacy and a life that cannot be replaced.  We remain confident that, with the public’s help, we will find those responsible and bring them to justice. “

The FBI and the Seattle Police Department have led the joint investigation since the beginning.  They are joined by staff from the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office.

“It is regretful that the suspect in Tom Wales’ murder has not been brought to justice,” said Seattle Police Chief John Diaz.  “We will continue to work with our federal partners and do everything within our investigatory power to solve this heinous crime.”

“Attorney General Holder’s presence is a powerful reminder of the Justice Department’s dedication to pursuing justice in the murder of Tom Wales,” said Dan Satterberg, King County Prosecuting Attorney.  “Local prosecutors will continue our partnership with federal investigators on this case.  We are determined to solve this terrible crime.”

The compete library of information, including copies of the print and broadcast media pieces, the FBI “Seeking Information” poster, details about the tiplines and more can be found at www.fbi.gov/wales. Additional information regarding the FBI’s efforts is available at www.facebook.com/FBI, twitter.com/#!/FBIPRESSOFFICE and www.youtube.com/user/FBI.


Crime tech: Accelerating the slow DNA testing process

Thursday, September 29th, 2011

Criminal justice aficionados, put this little news tidbit under your caps. A new technology for testing DNA samples may drastically cut the time it takes investigators to analyze it, according to the Baltimore Sun.

The process is called “microfluidics” and the National Institute of Justice is supplying $1 million to to spur collaboration between the Baltimore Police Department, Yale University and Advanced Liquid Logic, a North Carolina company that came up with the new testing technology, the Sun reports.

It’s going to be awhile before the technology will be ready — and that’s if it works. But the potential here is to cut the expensive and time intensive process from 24 hours to one, using tiny samples one-hundredth of a raindrop in size, Advanced Liquid Logic CEO Richard West told the Sun.

Here at our Sun in Kitsap, we often receive calls and emails from frustrated residents about why criminal cases take so long to bring to a charge. One big reason is that the Washington State Patrol’s crime lab needs time to complete DNA testing.

Perhaps one day soon, that process will be much shorter.


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