Monthly Archives: March 2013

Bremerton Police add online drug tip form, bios of top brass

photoThe Bremerton Police Department’s web site is looking a little different these days, as new Bremerton Police Chief Steve Strachan continues an effort to reach out to the city’s residents.

Biographies of Strachan, as well as ones for captains Jim Burchett and Tom Wolfe and lieutenants Pete Fisher and Luis Olan, can now be found online.

Additionally, the department has added a first-ever online tip form to report drug activity. The department says the information can be anonymous but that “it can assist our detectives if we can contact citizens directly to obtain vital details.”

Questions on the form are broken into five parts:

1) Why do you think this is a drug house?
2) Where is the activity occurring?
3) Who is involved?
4) What cars are involved?
5) Any additional comments?

Strachan said the changes were made to both update the web site but also “provide a direct link” for residents to send in questions or comments about the department.

Bremerton Police Sgt. Randy Plumb, in charge of the department’s Special Operations Group, said the new link streamlines information so it can get to an investigating detective as quickly as possible. He also noted that providing the anonymity online may help bring forth new tips of those previously concerned their identities might be revealed.

Those wanting to report drug tips can still go through the department’s phone line: (360) 473-5217.

Bremerton Police Community Resource Specialist Joe Sexton said additional citizen reporting tools and web site features will be coming in the months ahead.

Murky stats cloud gun control debate over background checks

Do we really know what percentage of guns are purchased without a background check?  

In the wake of the massacre at a Newtown, Conn. elementary school, mandating background checks on all gun sales has been one element of possible reform that has gained momentum. A bill that would create universal background checks is headed to the floor of the U.S. Senate. Here in Washington, an effort for such background checks appears to have stalled, but the debate continues and could be headed for the fall ballot.

Background checks are already conducted when one purchases a gun from a licensed firearm dealer; the legislation federally and at the state level would extend checks to private gun sales.

But how many guns are bought and sold privately?

The number thrown about by politicians is around 40 percent. But an interesting report by the Associated Press out today shows that statistic is stale.

From AP:

The claims that gun sales made without background checks comprise “more than,” ”as many as,” ”nearly” or “about” 40 percent of all gun sales are rooted in a poll looking broadly at gun ownership in America. Sponsored by the Justice Department through a grant to the Police Foundation, the poll’s principal relevance today is as a snapshot of the way things were when it was taken — 1994.

The research reported on the nature of gun acquisitions made in 1993 and 1994, asking people who had obtained guns then where the guns had come from and whether they thought the source was a federally licensed dealer. Transactions through licensed dealers were considered covered by the background check system, which was just then coming into effect.

Although the survey interviewed more than 2,500 Americans, just 251 had acquired guns during that time frame, a small sampling from which to make a general conclusion.

AP goes on to say that the “study’s researchers found considerable ambiguity and some apparent contradictions in the responses.”

“With a clear picture eluding them, they estimated 30 percent to 40 percent of the acquisitions were off the books and would not have been subjected to a background check,” AP said.

So the bottom line is we really don’t know how many people buy guns through private sales. Some data would certainly help.

But perhaps the numbers aren’t needed at all. Just because they pass a bill doesn’t mean criminals won’t get their hands on guns, some say; tighter regulations via background checks could thwart some guns from falling into the wrong hands, others insist.

Where do you fall?

Washington bucks national trend: gun deaths here outnumber traffic fatalities

Awhile back, Bloomberg published a startling story that revealed the likelihood deaths by firearms in America would soon outnumber traffic fatalities

After doing some digging today, I figured out that Washington state has already turned that corner. In fact, it did so in 2008 (see below). Traffic fatalities numbered 454 in the state in 2011, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Deaths caused by firearms were higher, at 619 — 492 of which were suicides — according to the state’s Department of Health.

I would credit this trend in part to the state’s nation-leading seat belt use (98 percent). The average for the country is just 84 percent. As for gun deaths, I’ll leave that discussion for now but feel free to make your voice heard below.

Here are the rest of the stats for Washington:

Gun deaths                   Traffic fatalities

2006                619                                  633

2007                544                                  571

2008                583                                  521

2009                618                                   492

2010                 607                                  460

2011                 619                                  454


Trim the state budget, cut … the state supreme court?

Cutting four jobs in state government might not seem like it would be a tremendous cost savings to taxpayers. But, what if these are the highest paid elected state employees (along with the governor) in Washington?

Three Republican state senators have introduced a bill in Olympia that would cut the state’s supreme court from nine justices to five, the Associated Press reported last week.

From AP:

The measure, introduced Wednesday, would require the current nine justices to draw straws. The four who draw the shortest straws “shall be terminated, and those judges shall not serve the remainder of their respective unexpired terms.”

Republican Sen. Michael Baumgartner of Spokane points out the state’s constitution only mandates we have five justices.

But the effort comes (suspiciously) following the high court’s ruling that voter-approved initiatives requiring the legislature to have a supermajority to pass tax increases is unconstitutional.

More from AP:

 Supreme Court justices earn more than $164,000 a year. Baumgartner said that by reducing the court, you also reduce salaries that need to be paid to their clerks and other staffers.

“There’s a lot of school teachers you could hire with these salaries,” he said.

Sen. Doug Ericksen of Ferndale and Janea Holmquist Newbry of Moses Lake have signed on to the bill, a well.

Just doing the straight math here: that would be a savings of $656,000 a year. Do you think this is a good idea in any way or perhaps a veiled effort to get back at the court?