About 40 people joined Mayor Mary Verner, Police Chief Anne Kirkpatrick, neighborhood resource officers, COPS representatives and crime specialists, at a COPS-sponsored community crime prevention forum at Northeast Community Center Tuesday night.
Kristy Hamilton, COPS director, opened the forum by thanking the more than 300 Community Oriented Policing volunteers who staff the 12 COPS shops across town.
Many of the attendees were COPS shop volunteers.
The Spokane Police Department’s Carly Cortright gave a presentation on recent crime statistics explaining that one of Spokane’s biggest crime problems is car theft.
“You may be aware that Spokane is fourth in the nation when it comes to vehicle theft,” Cortright said. “And 46 percent of the car thefts happen here in Northeast Spokane.” October is usually the biggest month for car theft, perhaps because people leave their cars running and unattended to warm up.
“Don’t do that,” Cortright said. “We have seen an 11 percent reduction in vehicle theft this year, but it’s still a huge problem.”
Another big problem is burglaries, Cortright said. The Emerson-Garfield neighborhood has been hit hard lately.
Because of budget cuts in the Spokane Police Department, the property crimes unit has been eliminated by attrition. A question from the audience gave Chief Kirkpatrick a chance to explain what that means to burglary victims.
“It does not mean that we are not doing anything about property crime,” Kirkpatrick said. “We do investigate burglaries and we try to focus on repeat offenders.”
Another audience member wanted to know why she never gets a call back from Crime Check when she reports a suspected drug house.
Mayor Verner answered that question saying that the Spokane Police Department has to constantly prioritize tasks.
“It’s more important to have an officer at the scene of a crime than to have someone call you back,” Verner said. Verner, who’s running for re-election, also said she is opposed to further budget cuts in the police department which has lost more than 45 fulltime positions during the last five years.
“I know I can’t cut anything else and we must fill the vacant positions,” Verner said. “But I’ve got to remind you that I only propose a budget – the city council approves it.”
Another question was about alleged drug houses and what the police are doing about them.
“We do look into every drug house that’s brought to our attention,” said Kirkpatrick. “You may not notice that we are there because our drug officers are plain clothes officers. But we don’t ignore you.”
Longtime COPS volunteer Sue Hille encouraged people to join neighborhood Block Watch and safe house programs.
“Call them when something doesn’t look right, stay connected,” said Hille, who’s been a Block Watch volunteer for 16 years.