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Liberty Lake crime rate is up, but still lowest for population

There’s good news and bad news for the Liberty Lake Police Department. The small town’s crime rate is up, but it still has the lowest rate of crimes per 1,000 in population in Spokane County.

The total crime rate is up 57 percent, but since the town has so few crimes even a handful more crimes than usual can drive up the percentage sharply. The number of violent crimes such as rape, robbery and aggravated assault went up from 9.5 per 1,000 in population in 2009 to 14.7 per 1,000 in 2010. That’s driven primarily by domestic violence cases, said Police Chief Brian Asmus. “Most of those were in aggravated assault,” he said.

Other small Spokane County towns came in much higher. The violent crime rate in Airway Heights was 27 per 1,000 in 2010 and Cheney had 36 per 1,000.

Property crimes went up 61 percent in Liberty Lake, going from 8.9 per 1,000 in 2009 to 14.4 per 1,000 in 2010. But last year Liberty Lake was, for a time, the personal playground of a prolific garage burglar. Asmus said he estimates as many as one-third of property crimes can be attributed to that person.

While Asmus isn’t happy that the rates have gone up, he’s still pleased that Liberty Lake ranks last. “We are still the lowest in the county,” he said.

Asmus reports that 35 people applied for the two vacant officer positions and he said 24 of them met the qualifications he was looking for – an experienced officer who could start work right away. Several are from North Idaho and Eastern Washington, but applications also came in from as far away as Alaska. Asmus said he plans to narrow that to the top 10 and then do interviews. Based on the interviews he will narrow the pool to the top five and then do extensive background investigations on the finalists.

The department’s detective and sergeant have been trained to do background investigations and will visit each candidate’s current city, he said. Co-workers and neighbors will be interviewed and police files reviewed. “It’s quite time-consuming to do background investigations,” Asmus said.

Still, Asmus wants to have the new hires on the payroll by the end of June, in advance of the busy concert and special event season. He said that schedule may be overly optimistic, particularly since any out-of-state hire will have to complete two weeks of training before becoming certified in Washington state. “I’d like to have them on board sooner rather than later,” he said.

Meanwhile, everyone in the small department is doing patrol duty. Luckily for officers, the week of May 2-9 was fairly quiet. A garage burglary was reported in the 900 block of North Homestead Road on May 2. The resident reported that her unlocked car was inside the garage and a thief took her purse.

Officers responded to an accident at Appleway and Madson at 3:25 p.m. on May 4. A Spokane Valley Fire Department crew was inspecting a fire hydrant. Their engine was pulled off the road with its flashing lights on, but was partially blocking one eastbound lane. A woman in that lane drove into the back of the truck and damaged the bumper, Asmus said. “She was speeding,” he said. “They measured 71 feet of skid marks.”

Police estimate she was traveling 47 mph in the 35 mph zone, he said. There was no other traffic on the road and it is unknown why the woman didn’t simply change lanes or swerve out of the way, Asmus said. She was ticketed for second-degree negligent driving.

There was one arrest for driving with a suspended license. During the week officers handed out two citations for failure to show proof of liability insurance and eight for speeding. Additional citations were given for license and plates required and failure to stop at a stop sign.