Public safety was the topic of discussion during the Lynnwood City Council’s recent work session, when the council reviewed the police department’s annual report for 2018.
According to the July 1 presentation from Chief Tom Davis, in 2018 the department received 43,334 calls for police service — a 3 percent increase from 2017. However, the number of arrests in 2018 went down, Davis said.
In 2018, officers made 2,972 arrests compared to 3,700 arrests in 2017. Davis said the decrease is due in part to fewer calls regarding retail theft. According to the report, last year $2.5 million in stolen retail merchandise was reported. However, instead of reporting shoplifting suspects to police, retail employees are engaging in their own civil remedies — like recognizing and banning suspects — without police involvement
“That is a policy that many of our retail organizations have turned to,” Davis said.
As for traffic-related police activity, the department issued 25 percent more traffic tickets in 2018 than in 2017 — 4,266 compared to 3,396.
In addition, police saw a decrease in accidents involving vehicles, pedestrians and cyclists. The number of injury accidents also decreased significantly, from 337 in 2017 to 275 in 2018. There was one fatality traffic accident in 2018, compared to two in 2017.
The drop in vehicle accidents was a result of patrol officers focusing on high-accident areas that generate collisions, Davis said.
“Traffic obviously is a big issue in our community that we will continue to deal with as the population increases,” he said.
The department’s four K9 units made a combined 115 arrests last year. The department’s K9 units were deployed 136 times to track suspects, 114 of which resulted in police seizing narcotics. During those instances, only one K9 unit made contact with a suspect, Davis said. “Contact” between a suspect and K9 unit is defined by the department as “any gripping of a person’s body or clothing by the dog’s mouth, irrespective of injury or damage.”
“I think people think a capture always results in someone getting bit and that’s not always the case,” Davis said.
In 2018, the department reported a daily detention rate of 43 inmates per day at the Lynnwood jail, which has an occupancy of 46 inmates. With an average seven-day stay per inmate, the department has had to contract housing for inmates to other detention centers like Snohomish County Jail, South Correctional Entity (SCORE) Jail and the Yakima County Jail. The Lynnwood Police Department spends $1.4 million annually to contract out to other detention facilities due to space issues, Davis added.
Last year, the Crimes Investigation Division (CID) was assigned 820 new cases. Additionally, the department closed 971 cases. Davis said the CID’s success was due to a new case management system the department adopted.
“This is one of the strategies that was recommended that we are seeing success in it year over year,” he said.
Domestic disturbance calls increased 21 percent in 2018, with 1,497 calls made. According to the report, a domestic violence call is made every 11 hours in Lynnwood. Last year, 464 criminal domestic violence cases were reported. Nationally, only 25 percent of domestic violence are reported.
Additionally, methamphetamine use in Snohomish County has increased “significantly,” Davi said. In 2018, police seized 24,563 grams of methamphetamine — almost five times the amount of heroin seized by police.
“We’re starting to see a higher percentage — proportionately — of meth users over heroin,” he said. “It’s something to be concerned about.”
Also, police reported seizing 106 guns from suspects that were either illegal or involved in crimes.
Last year, 14 complaints were filed against officers and only four generated viable complaints, Davis said. Council President Ben Goodwin noted that the lack of complaints was a testament to the department’s community engagement.
“It’s good to have a community police department that is willing to engage with people,” he said. “And do it in a way that they don’t receive those complaints.”
Also, the police department delivered its strategic plan for 2019-23. Presented by Deputy Chief Jim Nelson, the plan detailed the department’s goals to ensure a high quality of life for all residents, enhance organizational culture, strengthen communications in and out of the department, and explore programs that will reduce repeat offenses.
In other business, the council decided to draft a resolution providing guidelines for the city’s Compassion With Boundaries initiative. The council has been working with Parks and Recreation Department Director Lynn Sordel, Public Works Director Bill Franz and the police department to find solutions when dealing with the city’s homelessness issue. The council has already passed one ordinance under the Compassion With Boundaries initiative.
In May, the council voted to approve an ordinance regulating pedestrian and vehicular traffic. The ordinance was drafted to protect citizens from threatening or intimidating behavior caused by aggressive solicitations.
–Story and photo by Cody Sexton