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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Valley police get $100,000 grant for crime prevention programs

Spokane Valley Police Chief Mark Werner brought money to the table when he told the Spokane Valley City Council that the Spokane Valley Police Department has received a $100,000 state grant to be used for crime prevention. The Spokane Police Department and the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office each got a similar amount.

Werner said the money will be used to inform the public on how best to prevent car burglaries and other “soft targets” like unlocked garages and personal items left in cars.

“During the winter people warm up their vehicles and leave the keys in the ignition,” Werner said, adding that he wished people would stop doing that.

Crime prevention officers are part of every department, Werner said, but people continue to do things that make them easy targets for criminals.

Part of the grant would be used to form a proactive property crime task force similar to one that was active for two months in 2012.

Werner said the 2012 task force resulted in 76 people arrested on 228 felony charges and 284 total charges in just two months.

How long the new task force would exist has yet to be determined, Werner said.

“We’d like to see it run at least three months, but it depends on what resources we can allocate,” Werner said.

The grants would also allow the three law enforcement agencies to invest $90,000 in stationary automated license plate readers. Werner said one of the potential locations is in Spokane Valley on the freeway.

Councilman Ed Pace wanted to make sure privacy rights are not violated by such a camera, and Werner explained that the cameras only look for plates that are on a hot list – plates of stolen vehicles or of vehicles driven by suspects or those subject to Amber or Silver Alerts.

Councilman Caleb Collier said that he found horror stories online about people who have been pulled over and treated like criminals, without any reason.

“How often does that happen?” Collier asked.

Werner said that happens when people don’t report that they recovered their stolen vehicle. He added that it has been established that a license plate camera doesn’t violate state or federal constitutions.

“Courts are often wrong,” Collier said. “It’s not an end all for me that the courts have settled this.”

He added that he is “fundamentally opposed to cameras inside the city monitoring citizens.”

Councilman Ed Pace said he’s also opposed to cameras.

Councilman Arne Woodard said he liked Werner’s proposal and the council ultimately supported Werner’s proposal.

In other news, Carolbelle Branch, public information officer for the city of Spokane Valley, has launched a Twitter account for the city.

She said that participating in social media allows the city to communicate directly with residents.

Branch said that Twitter was selected as the first platform because it’s free and people don’t have to have an account to look at the tweets.

The city’s Twitter handle is @CityofSV.

Branch said that initially the Twitter will only be used for emergency outgoing information like snow events.

“For now it’s just outgoing,” Branch said. “We are supposed to receive messages too, but that can be very time consuming.”