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Millwood sees jump in crime reports

Millwod has seen an unusual spike in crime, according to data from the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office.

From April 20 to June 15, there were 12 burglaries – a 367 percent increase over the average of 2.57 for that time period over the past seven years.

Malicious mischief and vehicle prowl reports were also up with six each, compared to the average of 4.5 and 3.29 respectively.

One longtime resident experienced three burglaries within a recent two-week period. Laura Ferguson’s front door was broken in using a crowbar and thieves stole tools, electronics and other personal items, valued at more than $10,000.

“We brag about Millwood being the best place to live,” said Ferguson, who’s lived in the town for 23 years. “I’ve never seen anything like this.”

City Planner Tom Richardson held a special meeting Tuesday to address the issue. As part of the meeting he offered crime prevention resources to residents such as the Sheriff Community Oriented Policing Effort – known as SCOPE – and forming a Neighborhood Watch group.

“This is just a starting place to see where we want to go next,” Richardson said. The group plans to meet again next month.

During the meeting, residents talked about other crimes occurring around the city, including an incident of a knock-out game – where “one or more assailants attempt to ‘knock out’ an unsuspecting victim” – and several reports of graffiti and vandalism at construction sites. Residents also said it didn’t seem like enough was being done in response to the recent crime.

“The city is working with the Sheriff’s Office to ensure Millwood receives attention appropriate for the types and numbers of crimes we are experiencing,” Millwood Mayor Kevin Freeman said in an email discussing the recent rash of crime. “I have spoken with Sheriff Knezovich and they are aware of the issues and are developing a response designed to address both the symptoms but also the causes.”

Knezovich plans to attend Millwood’s next council meeting to address the issue.

Knezovich said it is not unusual for areas to see spikes in crime.

“Overall our burglaries are down 23 percent from last year,” he said, referencing Spokane County as a whole. “If you look at property crimes over the last decade, 2004 through 2013, down 8 percent and that’s with losing quite a bit of personnel.”

Knezovich explained that the Sheriff’s Office lost 34 personnel over the past five years due to budget cuts.

Millwood is part of a larger district maintained and policed by one deputy and one detective. The entire district covers 68 square miles.

Sgt. Khris Thompson with the Investigative Task Force stated the deputies are conducting extra patrols in the area. He encouraged residents to report any suspicious activity.

“If something doesn’t look right, call,” Thompson said. “We need involvement from our citizens.”

All information gathered is given to investigators to analyze. Even though response times to calls may vary, he said a deputy would be assigned to respond.

“Those people who call in help us out greatly,” Thompson said. “Gives us a better idea of what’s truly going on out there.”

In fact, a call about individuals on bicycles wearing backpacks and unloading merchandise into a parked RV late at night resulted in one person being arrested on a felony Department of Corrections warrant and booked into Spokane County Jail.

Knezovich recommended Millwood citizens get involved by volunteering for SCOPE or forming a Neighborhood Watch.