Monthly Archives: January 2009

UPDATE: Were Huffers to Blame for Wrecking Truck, Snowmobiles?

photo by
photo by

Kitsap County Sheriff’s deputies are still investigating the strange case of a stolen pickup — complete with two snowmobiles on an attached trailer — that ended up crashed into a tree less than a mile from its home.

The truck’s owners, on the 1900 block of Sawdust Hill Road, awoke in the early morning hours of Jan. 20 to find their truck and snowmobiles gone. They’d been planning to head out on a trip the same morning, according to police reports.

They called deputies, who found the truck in the 2000 block of the same road, smashed against a tree, with its trailer jackknifed, and and snowmobiles damaged. Deputies took some blood they found in the truck’s cab for lab testing, along with a baseball bat hat inside that didn’t belong to the owners.

One would think such a crash would result in injuries — but area hospitals didn’t report any that day that could have revealed a suspect.

So what gives? Apparently, the owners left a hidden key on the truck, but no one knew they were headed on a trip, deputies said.

UPDATE: I spoke to one of the victims of this crime today. She said it was a cold, frosty morning, and it’s likely the thief or thieves couldn’t see driving away — and hit the tree after failing to make a 90 degree turn.

The victim added that the truck, the trailer, and at least one of the snowmobiles was destroyed.

Witnesses have reported a suspicious red car in the area recently. Mail boxes and real estate for sales signs have also been damaged in the area recently. And they’ve reported an agglomeration of empty whip cream canisters discarded in the area. That’s a sign of “huffing,” or using the cans to get high — a potentially deadly practice that is definitely not recommended by this blog.

A reader emailed about the crash over the weekend. Since it’s a week after the fact, it’s a little late to be in our code 911 section, but I felt it certainly warranted a write-up for those following the blog.

UPDATE: Cutting Back on the Strings Attached to Parole

There are four times as many Americans — 780,000 — on parole in the U.S. now than in 1980, according to the Urban Institute.

That increasing load is not a positive statistic by any stretch, but in these financially perilous times, it’s even worse. Thus, Gov. Chris Gregoire and the State Legislature have both come up with plans to cut out parole funding, leaving it for the most violent criminals or the most likely to re-offend.

Lawmakers are looking at a plan that would put offenders deemed “moderate risks” to re-offend back on the street after prison time with little or no supervision by corrections’ officials. On Monday, Senate Bill 5288 was sent to the Senate Rules Committee for discussion.

Eldon Vail, Department of Corrections’ secretary, is quoted in a Sunday Seattle Post-Intelligencer story saying it comes down to this:

“We have to either incarcerate less people or supervise less people, and by reducing the supervision of those offenders who score out at a low or moderate risk to reoffend, we’re cutting out caseload,” Vale said.

Of course, the state has to weigh the risks of such a plan. Veil’s answer?

“Does it present zero risk to the public? That’s not a question anyone can answer,” said Vale.

Russell Hauge, Kitsap County Prosecutor, wrote me today in an email after I asked him about what this concept could mean.

Hauge said that if well funded, the Department of Corrections could and should monitor these convicts.

“However, these low-risk categories of offender receive little or no supervision under current practices,” Hauge said. “That is not the fault of DOC or its personnel–it’s that the Department has never been given enough to do its job.”

Hauge says the cuts would, at least, bring corrections more toward a concept he calls “truth in sentencing.” For too long, he’s argued previously, the general public is led to believe if a judge doles out a five year prison term, for instance, they serve all five years. In actuality, they’re given up to 50 percent off the sentence for good behavior in many cases, such as non-violent property crimes.

In this case, the cuts mean more honesty as well — there may be laws on the books about monitoring low-risk offenders, but it rarely happens, Hauge said.

“I see (the cuts) as a step toward more truth in sentencing,” he said. “If this bill passes, we will not be lead to expect that orders to serve community custody will actually be enforced.”

For more about this topic, I recommend reading the Urban Institute’s public paper entitled, “Putting Public Safety First: 13 Parole Supervision Strategies to Enhance Reentry Outcomes.” I was happy to see reporter Madelyn Fairbanks included it in the P-I’s story.

A Special ‘Three Tone’ Salute for Fallen Cencom Dispatcher

John Taylor

Today at about 3:20 p.m., Kitsap County’s 911 dispatchers broadcast something out of the ordinary that caught our attention.

Dispatchers at Central Communications put out three tones — normally the beeps reserved to alert cops to an in-progress crime — in honor of John Jeremy Taylor, 25.

It was a fitting tribute to a man who I can say was very good at his job.

Taylor worked as a dispatcher and supervisor at CenCom. I had the privilege of meeting him several times on the job and off it. Aside from being a stellar dispatcher, he was a charming and friendly guy who, as his obituary said, “spent his whole life helping and serving others.”

To read his obituary in the Kitsap Sun, click here.

Can You Get Charged with Two DUIs for the Same Incident?


Until this week, I didn’t think there was a way to be charged with multiple counts of driving under the influence.

You drive drunk and get stopped, and that’s it — just one DUI. It’s not like you go home, sober up, then drink up once more, and head out again for a second DUI.

But in fact, there is a way. Prosecutors this week charged a Tacoma man with multiple DUIs for the same criminal fact pattern. Basically, because the man was witnessed driving, then getting out of his car, then getting in it again to drive, that constitutes multiple DUI charges. Here’s what Kitsap County deputy prosecutor Jeff Jahns had to say:

“(It’s) Extremely rare. A distinguishing factor involves a person driving their vehicle while intoxicated, leaving their vehicle to commit another crime, and then getting back in the vehicle and driving away while still intoxicated.”

Continue reading

Do Cops Write More Tickets When Hard Times Hit?

One economist in Missouri thinks so.

Here’s the findings of Thomas A. Garrett, an assistant vice president at the St. Louis Federal Reserve, as told by St. Louis Post-Dispatch Reporter :

“Traffic tickets go up significantly when local government revenue falls, they found. Their study showed for the first time evidence of how “local governments behave, in part, as though traffic tickets are a revenue tool to help offset periods of fiscal distress.”

As we found in a special report on traffic enforcement in July 2007, however, was that cities and counties rarely collect much of what their cops write in tickets. It usually makes up very small parts of government budgets, too.

Continue reading

Is Cell Phone Law Effective — or a Phony?

photo by

Since the state slapped a $124 fine on driving while talking on a cell phone, have you noticed less drivers yakking away?

I sure haven’t.

The law, which went into effect last July as a secondary offense — meaning cops need another reason to pull you over before writing you the cell phone ticket — has been enforced, according to an article in the Tacoma News Tribune. The Washington State Patrol handed out 798 tickets and 1,464 warnings statewide under the new law through Dec. 15, according to TNT reporter Ian Demsky.

That doesn’t seem to be stopping drivers, however. A poll of TNT’s online readers asking if the law was effective had the yes votes at 25 and the no’s at 363. Clearly, the no votes have it.

What about in Kitsap and North Mason?

While you ponder that question, consider the mindset of Mark Hallenbeck, director of the Washington State Transportation Center at the University of Washington.

Continue reading