The community of Liberty Lake has earned ninth place on Safewise’s list of Washington’s 20 Safest Cities of 2018.
The list is based on 2016 FBI crime report statistics and population numbers. It considers the number of reported violent crimes, which includes murder, rape, robbery and aggravated assault. Liberty Lake, with a population of just over 9,000 in 2016, had 0.76 violent crimes per 1,000 of population that year and 19.92 property crimes per 1,000.
“Being the ninth safest out of 288, that’s quite an honor,” Liberty Lake Police Chief Brian Asmus said. “We’re proud of that.”
Many of the communities on the safest cities list are on the small side; thirteen of the 20 had a population under 25,000. Liberty Lake, with a listed population of 9,187, is the smallest among the 20 communities. The largest city on the list is 15th ranked Bellevue with a population of 142,000.
Asmus said he doesn’t think that’s an accident. “With the smaller cities you have more of a sense of community,” he said. “People are more apt to have a vested interest in what goes on in the community.”
But Asmus points out most of the small towns on the list are more isolated and residential than Liberty Lake. Interstate 90 runs through the center of town and thousands of people commute to Liberty Lake every day for work in the large commercial areas.
Being in a small community also helps foster the positive relationships that are essential to get the collaboration and cooperation necessary for an effective police department, Asmus said.
As an example, Asmus points to a hit-and-run incident last week that resulted in the death of a pedestrian. All police had to go on was surveillance video showing a truck that was in the area around the time of the incident and posted it online. Police have since tracked down the truck and arrested its owner who is facing a charge of vehicular homicide.
“It was the citizen’s participation and tips that really provided the information that allowed us to move forward with that case,” he said.
Liberty Lake has historically had a very low violent crime rate, Asmus said. “I don’t think we’ve had any murders that have been reported,” he said. “Rarely do we have a robbery, maybe one a year. Our property crimes, that’s where our biggest calls for service are.”
Asmus said his department tries to work crimes aggressively and usually has a high success rate in solving cases. “I think that sends a message to the criminal element,” he said. “We’re going to respond to everything.”
The department also tries to be involved in community events, and this year officers ran a Police Athletic League at the HUB.
“We do get more involved in the community than most agencies,” he said. “I think that’s very, very important. Most people know our officers.”
His department has 11 officers, including himself, and that will increase to 13 in January. His officers work 12 hour shifts, and Asmus said he prefers to have them responding to calls a third of the time, doing paperwork and other administrative duties for a third of the time and having a third of their time undedicated so they can patrol or do traffic enforcement.
“When that balance starts to shift, then it’s time to look at adding resources,” he said.
The town currently has about 10,400 people in it and more growth is planned. A new 408-unit apartment complex will be coming soon and more development is planned in the River District. When the new high school is built within the city limits Asmus would like to add a school resource officer to the ranks.
The department’s size is adequate for now but Asmus knows that will change at some point.
“As we continue to build out, we’re going to need more officers,” he said.
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