Tag Archives: Bremerton

MAP: When they get out of prison, where do offenders go to live?

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To see the map, go here: http://data.kitsapsun.com/app/prisondata

In 2007, the Department of Corrections embarked on a transformation in the way it releases offenders to the community. Ordered by the State Legislature to stop “dumping” felons into Tacoma, Spokane, and other pockets of urbanity in the state, DOC was mandated to send prisoners back to their “county of origin” — the place of their first felony conviction.

There are some exceptions, mainly if victims are uneasy about an offenders’ return to the community. But they can also go to another county if they have family or “other sponsoring persons or organizations that will support the offender.”

In 2012, about three out of every four inmates whose first felony was in Kitsap come back here after prison, according to DOC statistics.

While they’re coming back to Kitsap, it appears they’re increasingly concentrated in Bremerton. But corrections officials say that clustering actually serves public safety best.

To search and find out where every offender went home to in 2012 — and if they deviated from their county of origin — follow this link.

Bremerton city attorney drops pot cases

The Bremerton city attorney has dismissed about 20 simple possession marijuana cases in the wake of Initiative 502’s passage. 

City Attorney Roger Lubovich said his office was waiting until Dec. 6, an ounce of pot for adults 21 and older became legal in the state. He said the dismissals were limited to those charged with just misdemeanor possession, and not in cases where multiple crimes were charged.

Bremerton’s municipal court handles misdemeanor cases that occur within the city. The Kitsap County Prosecutor’s office handles all felony cases in the county and misdemeanor cases outside Bremerton. The office has a contract for prosecutorial services with Port Orchard, Poulsbo and Bainbridge Island.

Kitsap County Prosecutor Russ Hauge had already announced his office was dropping misdemeanor pot cases in mid-November, resulting an estimated few dozen dismissals.

Interestingly, under the new state law, up to an ounce, or about 28 grams, is legal to possess for adults 21 and over. That means it’s still a misdemeanor to have between 28 and 40 grams of pot (that is, unless it’s in food or liquid form). Above 40 grams is still a felony.


Followup: Story of stolen Escalade, sold by police, crosses state lines

The stolen Escalade had traveled through two countries and across many state lines before it landed in Washington, where Bremerton police inadvertently sold it at an auction. 

We told you about this particular Cadillac Escalade in early October, after the unknowing purchaser of the SUV had it seized by the Washington State Patrol. In turn, he filed a lawsuit against the Bremerton Police Department.

The city’s lawyers have been digging into the case to figure out what happened. While the lawsuit continues, here’s what they’ve found out thus far: the Escalade was seized in a 2003 coke bust and, per Washington law, forfeited to the police department.

Police checked with the Washington State Department of  Licensing to see if it was stolen.

“There was no evidence that the vehicle was stolen,” Bremerton Assistant City Attorney Mark Koontz said in a statement. “The police department eventually sold the vehicle at  auction as authorized by state law.”

It wasn’t until summer 2011 that police here found out the Washington State Patrol had seized the SUV, finding it was stolen. State patrol officials informed the city the Escalade was stolen off an auto dealer’s lot in Canada in 2002, before it landed in Indiana, Missouri, Michigan and finally, Washington.

Much mystery still shrouds the how and why it went state to state, as it was never reported stolen in that time, city attorney said.

But state troopers were able to uncover its identity by finding more obscure locations of its Vehicle Identification Number (VIN). The number had been falsified in its more obvious locations on the dash board in in the driver’s side door.

Koontz said rarely does local law enforcement have specialized training at finding hidden VIN numbers and believes “the police department acted reasonably,” in backgrounding the SUV before auctioning it off.

“Even so, the city is hopeful that it can reach a resolution to this matter to the satisfaction of all parties,” he said.

I’ve not yet heard back from the lawyer for the plaintiff in the case, but I’ll let you know when I do.

LIVE BLOG: Kitsap County Traffic Court

THE BACKGROUND: A deputy prosecutor will stand in on behalf of the state in Kitsap County’s traffic court for the first time this afternoon.

The move was a part of Kitsap County Prosecutor Russ Hauge’s plan to boost revenues during the county’s budget discussions last fall. He told the county commissioners having a prosecutor to help present the case of the police who wrote the ticket could lead to about $148,000 in additional revenue.

Up until now, Hauge told the commissioners that “if you know the magic words to say,” tickets would be dismissed without an argument from prosecutors — because no prosecutor was ever in court.

Another program aimed at relicensing motorists charged with suspended driving — before almost always reduced to a $124 ticket — also begins today. Drivers will now face a $250 fine under a so-called “diversion” program. The good news for defendants, however, is it is a pathway to becoming licensed again, prosecutors argued. That program could bring in more than $356,000, Hauge argued to commissioners.

The programs only affect Ktsap County District Court — not in courts in Poulsbo, Port Orchard, Bremerton or Bainbridge Island.

A story about the first day of the two programs will be posted later today.

Inslee: Safe Disposal Needed in Wake of Bremerton Pill Taking Students

Rep. Jay Inslee, D-Bainbridge Island, weighed in today following an incident Tuesday at Mountain View Middle School in which nine students were taken to the hospital for taking prescription pills.

“This week, nine middle school students in Bremerton were hospitalized after popping prescription pills some of the students brought from home,” Inslee said in a release. “Our communities need all the options available to them to combat this problem.”

The timing of the incident coincides with the passage of the Safe Drug Disposal Act by the U.S. House of Representatives, a bill aimed at allowing for prescription pill disposal sites without police involvement — which is currently illegal under federal law.

Inslee is a sponsor of the bill.

Unused prescription pills can get into the water supply and also fall into nefarious hands to be sold or abused. The state legislature has even taken aim with some proposed laws that failed to pass this past session.
Such drug overdoses recently surpassed car crashes as the no. 1 cause of death in Washington.
Also coincidentally, Saturday is National “Take-Back” day. Drop sites around the country will be available for anyone who wishes to turn in unused prescription drugs.

This is an alarm our newspaper first sounded in 2008 in a project called “A Bitter Pill.”

Here’s the full press release from Inslee’s office:

“This afternoon, the House of Representatives passed Rep. Jay Inslee’s (WA-01) Safe Drug Disposal Act, H.R. 5809, by unanimous consent.  This important bipartisan legislation will break down barriers preventing communities from starting comprehensive and all inclusive drug take-back programs in accordance with Drug Enforcement Agency guidelines.  Drug take-back programs provide communities with a safe, legal option for disposing unwanted or unneeded prescription medication.

“Passing the Safe Drug Disposal Act is a big win for Washington families,” said Rep. Inslee.  “Prescription drug abuse is a growing plague in our communities.  This week, nine middle school students in Bremerton were hospitalized after popping prescription pills some of the students brought from home.  Our communities need all the options available to them to combat this problem.  The Safe Drug Disposal Act will give them a common sense option to easily and safely get rid of leftover prescription medication.”

Prescription drug abuse is a growing problem in Washington state and around the country.  Between 1999 and 2006, the number of fatal poisonings involving prescription drugs more than tripled across the United States.  Prescription drug overdoses have now surpassed car accidents as the leading cause of accidental deaths in Washington state.  Three in five teens say prescription pain relievers are easy to get from parents’ medicine cabinets and over half of prescription drug abusers get the medicines from a friend or relative.

“Drug overdoses are now the #1 cause of accidental death in Washington State.
In many areas, including Snohomish County, prescription drugs are involved in a majority of overdoses,” said John Gahagan, Vice-Chair of the Science and Management of Addictions (SAMA) Foundation. Mr. Gahagan’s son, Sean, died of a prescription drug overdose. “Whether left unused in medicine cabinets, tossed in the garbage or flushed down the toilet, these drugs represent a danger to the health of our youth and the health of our environment.   Rep. Inslee’s bill is a critical step in support of efforts to ensure that unneeded controlled substances are securely collected from homes and disposed of safely.”

The Safe Drug Disposal Act would allow local agencies and organizations to set-up and run safe drug disposal efforts, like drop-off boxes and mail-in programs, in accordance with future DEA regulations.  Groups, authorized by the Attorney General would be able to accept controlled substances for the purpose of disposal.  The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) would be able to issue rules regarding drug take back programs. The bill also calls for a new public awareness campaign to educate citizens about the dangers of prescription drugs.

Until now, there has been no safe way for consumers to dispose of unwanted prescription drugs.  Under current law, consumers are prohibited from giving unneeded, unused or expired drugs to anyone besides law enforcement.

Rep. Inslee worked with many local, regional and national organizations to craft the language of the Safe Drug Disposal Act.  In Washington state, local agencies and community groups like Group Health and Bartell Drugs have tackled this problem head-on and developed successful pilot safe drug disposal programs.  Bartell Drugs provided the first take-back locations in Washington’s pioneering Unwanted Medicine Return program and continues to expand locations at its stores in King , Pierce and Snohomish counties.

“Bartell’s understands the need for the safe and environmentally sound disposal of prescription drugs,” said George D. Bartell, Chairman and CEO of family-owned, Seattle-based Bartell Drugs. “The Safe Drug Disposal Act will play an important role in safeguarding our environment, reducing abuse and saving lives.  We heartily applaud Representative Inslee’s efforts behind this bill.”

The Crime Stats Are Out (How Did Your Community Fare?)

This week, the Washington Association of Sheriff’s and Police Chiefs (WASPC) released their annual report on crime in this state. I’m working today to analyze the numbers and get the thoughts about them from our local law enforcement leaders.

For the county, here’s the overall trends:

  • Violent crime (murder, rape, robbery, assault) in the county fell about four percent, from 1,103 reported incidents to 1,060.
  • Property crime (theft, burglary, ect.) in the county, too, fell almost five percent, from 6,465 incidents to 6,170.

I’ve posted the report below, so you can see for yourself. I’ll be updating this entry throughout the rest of the day with tidbits and stats on each of our communities.

Crime stats overall
Violent crime (rape, robbery, murder, assault)
Property crime (theft, burglary, ect.)

Kitsap County Sheriff

2008            2009     %change
Violent crime       674            682      up, 1.2 percent
Property crime     3,789       3,267    down, 13.8 percent

Bainbridge Island
Violent crime       29             31          up, 6.9 percent
Property crime     324         304         down, 6.2 percent

Violent crime       308            250      down, 18.8 percent
Property crime     1,584       1,718    up, 8.5 percent

Port Orchard
Violent crime       50              52          up, 4 percent
Property crime      465         564         up, 21.3 percent

Violent crime       42            45              up, 7.1 percent
Property crime      303         317             up, 4.6 percent

Mason County Sheriff
Violent crime       140         133             down, 5 percent
Property crime     1,648       1,578        down, 4.2 percent


Red Light Cameras Come Under Scrutiny in California

Love them or hate them, red light cameras generate a lot of talk. But in Orange County, California, they’ve now taken a hit from the judiciary.

An appellate panel of judges has ruled such photos and video taken by the cameras is inadmissible, according to a story in the Orange County Register. Their rationale? No officers saw the offense with their own eyes, and the company that runs the cameras didn’t testify against the offenders in court.

Here in Bremerton, where we have red light cameras on both sides of town, such an issue has not been raised. Whether the California argument and decision is replicated has yet to be seen.

Eating Meth is Not Advised (With Multiple Examples)

Turns out that a 19-year-old man taken to Harrison Medical Center for swallowing meth wasn’t the only one last Friday to have gobbled up amphetamines.

In remarkably coincidental fashion, at the same time a suspect ate a gram and a half of meth as Kitsap County Sheriff’s deputies investigated a drug deal, Bremerton police were heading to a Sixth Street cafe for a report of a man trying to steal things from their bathroom.

The cops found him Friday night “sweating profusely,” with the bathroom in a state of disarray. Police reported that he’d told them he’d “smoked a twenty sack and swallowed a forty sack of meth.” He began going into convulsions, officers said.

Darcy Himes, spokeswoman for Harrison Medical Center, said the man was treated and released from the hospital early Saturday morning.

It goes without saying that ingesting meth in any form is risky and dangerous. But eating it? Wikipedia says — and I’d take this with a grain of salt — it’s actually the safest way to ingest it. But from Kitsap’s oddly timed examples here — requiring hospital trips — I’d say we have some anecdotal evidence to refute that.

Turning A Corner on Crime: Bremerton Police Captain Reflects

Blogger’s Note: Today is the first installment in an occasional series examining how far Bremerton has come in reducing its state-high violent crime rate. Our guest blogger is Bremerton Police Captain Tom Wolfe, who’s seen the city then and now. The initial installment can be read here.

“I started working in Bremerton as a police officer in the summer of 1988. I worked a lot on foot downtown in the beginning, and spent the next eleven years working some form of night shift, with three of those assigned to the gang unit when gangs hit their high water mark.

Two years ago, as I stood at First Street and Washington Avenue at 9:45 p.m. on a pleasant summer night, it hit me just how far we have come.  I could visualize the brawls that spilled out of the numerous bars. I still remember hearing and seeing all available Bremerton, (Kitsap) County and (Washington) State units gathering to quell the mini-riots. I remember a sailor slumped against the wall of the old Popeye’s Tavern after having just been shot. The guy in the trench coat with the shotgun running down Front Street. Knife fights. Cat fights. You name it.

That vision was interrupted by a little girl and her parents walking by eating ice-cream cones. All the bumps and bruises and trips to the ER suddenly seemed worth it. We had fought to keep the peace on the streets and now they are peaceful, at least most nights. The police department formed a gang unit in the early 90’s to combat violent gang issues. We took officers and took aim at the biggest problem in the city, untying them from responding to 911 calls. And it worked.

Bremerton has some factors working against it, but the one thing it has had as long as I have been here is men and women who think outside of the box and are creative problem solvers. We have never had the equipment other departments have, or the number of officers. Instead we have had more calls and higher crime rates than those well-to-do agencies, so we have adapted and overcome.  I remember listening to a commander from another agency bemoaning his lack of budget and manpower issues. When I showed him our budget, manpower and call volume his jaw dropped: “How do you guys do it?” he asked.

In 2005, when Chief Craig Rogers took over, we still had the dubious distinction of being number one most violent city in Washington per capita, three years running in at least the top three.  Rogers’ focused policing program, working to put extra officers on the street and untie them from going 911 call to 911 call, has paid big dividends. Our violent crime rate has dropped significantly.

The other program that has impacted the city the most is the landlord notification program. We have, above all, been willing to try new things — i.e. the red light cameras. Like them or hate them, you have to look at the reason we put them there, to make our streets safer.  The accident rates have dropped and we have not experienced a fatality at our worst intersections since they went in.

With the drug culture shifting from crack cocaine to meth we have taken on new drug issues.  The city remains largely rental-oriented and that creates unique problems as well. But I look at where we were 23 years ago and what we have been able to accomplish and I can honestly say we are turning the corner. We have made so many positive impacts and changes that we can show results for. I think the next ten years will tell the tale for certain. And we will be here pushing the city around the corner, dragging it if need be.”

Bremerton Says Goodbye to an Officer and His K9

Bremerton Police dog Tabor has been hunting suspects in Kitsap County since 2001.

His handler’s been doing it for three decades.

On Friday, Brian Johnson, a longtime master patrol officer, said goodbye to his colleagues. Retiring with him is Tabor, a German Shepherd that’s developed a reputation for being relentless.

Johnson handled K9s Chase and Jake four years each before taking on Tabor for the past nine years.

His dogs’ successes may have a lot to do with their own abilities, but there’s no substitute for a good handler, says Billy Renfro, Johnson’s sergeant on the third watch, otherwise known as graveyard shift.

At his retirement Friday, Bremerton Police Chief Craig Rogers praised Johnson for being one of the officers that assured him the streets at night would be safe. A longtime graveyard officer, Johnson was one of those souls that functioned best in the dead of night.

Rogers said he never received any complaints about Johnson, who did his job with “little oversight and supervision.”

Here are Renfro’s own words about Johnson and Tabor:

“Although PD Tabor is an outstanding K9, I think a lot of it has to do with Brian’s approach to being a handler, and quite frankly “listening” to what Tabor is saying during the track. Brian’s approach is pretty low key and he doesn’t let obstacles such as time delays, heavy foot and/or vehicle traffic in the area become deterrents. He simply puts Tabor out and does a great job of reading him.

I specifically recall one track of an armed robbery suspect in the downtown area. It was raining out and there was heavy vehicle traffic. The track went for almost an hour when Brian told me that he was going back to work an area where he saw “Tabor” show some interest.  Lo and behold, “Tabor” located the suspect hiding in a back yard.  I have witnessed similar tracks time and time again, and I know I speak for Third Watch and others at BPD that Brian and “Tabor” will be greatly missed.”