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City, county crime rates rise in 2011
The overall crime rates for both the City of Bremerton and Kitsap County were up slightly in 2011, according to a newly released report from the Washington Association of Sheriff’s and Police Chiefs.
According to the report, the 2011 overall crime rate went up 5.3 percent in the city and it was up 3.8 percent in the county.
The city’s violent crime rate was down 13.8 percent, but property crime saw a 6.4 percent increase. As an example of the property crime increase, motor vehicle thefts went from 109 in 2010 to 185 in 2011, a 69.7 percent increase.
Forcible rapes in the city went from 52 in 2010 to 43 in 2011 (down 17.3 percent) and aggravated assaults went from 161 to 146 (down 9.3 percent). Robberies, meanwhile, saw a six-percent increase from 50 in 2010 to 53 in 2011.
A call for comment to Bremerton Police Department Lt. Pete Fisher was not returned.
At the county-wide level, the violent crime rate went down 30.8 percent in 2011. From 2010 to 2011, forcible rapes went from 95 to 65 (-31.6 percent), robberies dropped from 60 to 52 (-13.3 percent) and aggravated assaults decreased from 472 to 323 (-31.6 percent).
Scott Wilson, a Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office Deputy and spokesman, said that the reasons for the increase in violence are difficult, if not impossible, to pin down precisely.
“Figures like this can be deceiving. Part of the problem with statistics is everyone wants to tag on a reason why and we can only theorize,” Wilson said. “Without concrete, scientific evidence, we’re just speculating.”
But Wilson said that the consumption of alcohol, especially by individuals between the ages of 18 and 21, certainly plays a role in fueling violence.
“A lot of the violent crime we’ve dealt with in the past has been related to incidents involving alcohol,” Wilson said.
The county’s property crime rate, meanwhile, increased by 6.4 percent in 2011. Burglaries were up 26.8 percent, from 1,035 to 1,312, and motor vehicle thefts were up 45.6 percent, from 206 to 300.
“With regards to dramatic increases in property crime, it’s pretty much a forgone conclusion among law enforcement who are experiencing these trends that it’s directly related to the economy,” Wilson said.
A down economy doesn’t just affect criminal behavior and tendencies, Wilson added, it also has an impact on policing itself.
“Part of reason for property crime increases, and I hate to say this, is lack of police presence,” Wilson said. “Our resources are dwindling because of the economy. We don’t have those officers during the day and, more importantly, at night that are looking for suspicious activity so burglary attempts are going to be much higher. Criminals are of the mindset that, ‘I’m gonna take my chances because the cops just aren’t there.’ “
Wilson also noted that while county meth labs are few and far between these days, a large amount of meth is making it’s way up the coast from Mexico through California and Oregon to Washington.
“The effort to bring those drugs up form the south is driving the cost up and the people who buy these drugs to sell or use for themselves is what is driving up the property crime, for the most part,” Wilson said.
One of the best ways to combat property crime with fewer officers on the street, Wilson said, is for area residents to remain alert and report criminal activity.
“What do we know is that we all know a little bit of something,” Wilson said. “Let’s put the puzzle together. Sometimes it takes just one tiny piece of that puzzle for things to come together and wow, next thing you know arrests start happening.”
In the meantime, Wilson asked that citizens continue to support local police officers and deputies and remain patient.
“My input to this (report) is, have faith in your first responders,” Wilson said. “They are doing the best job they can with the resources available. When it comes to certain types of crime, we have to triage.”