Officials address community’s public safety questions during Saturday forum

(L-R) State Rep. and Snohomish County Councilmember Strom Peterson, Snohomish County Sheriff Adam Fortney and Lynnwood Police Chief Jim Nelson led a three-hour meeting with residents to discuss public safety.

Dozens of concerned residents of Lynnwood and the nearby unincorporated area attended a public safety-oriented discussion Saturday led by law enforcement and State Rep. and Snohomish County Councilmember Strom Peterson. 

Lynnwood Police Chief Jim Nelson and Snohomish County Sheriff Adam Fortney spoke about their current and future plans for dealing with crime while Peterson talked at length about the way legislators are attempting to address the opioid epidemic. Attendees shared their recent experiences with crime in their neighborhoods and their reservations about treatment centers like the Acadia facility that recently opened near the Alderwood Boys and Girls Club. Lynnwood City Council President Shannon Sessions and Councilmembers Shirley Sutton, George Hurst and Jim Smith also attended.

Nelson and Fortney went into detail about a recent interagency collaboration with the Edmonds Police Department– a violent crime reduction unit. The 12-officer force focuses on violent crime with an emphasis on gang activity among youth. Nearby police departments participate in information-sharing programs and leaders meet once a month to confer about crime trends. Both departments shared that although they are well-funded, they are limited by staffing shortages. Nelson said that 14 of 81 funded officer positions in the Lynnwood Police Department were currently vacant.

Sheriff Adam Fortney thanked Rep. Strom Peterson for organizing the meeting.

Fortney spoke about police efforts in unincorporated South Snohomish County. “We’ve had ongoing operations there [near the airport and Highway 99] since 2021,” Fortney said. “Is it perfect? It’s not– it’s not a panacea. It is not perfect. But I can tell you what. I’m proud of what we have been able to do there.” He also spoke about the Snohomish County Jail and its new medical director, saying that people with addiction struggles were able to receive some treatment during confinement. A meeting attendee later commented that this practice results in recidivism as addicts would be released while suffering withdrawal symptoms initiated by the treatment. In reply, Fortney stated that recidivism was a major obstacle that the jail is facing and that confining people longer for treatment was simply not possible.

Police Chief Nelson said he recognized that the Meadowdale area is seeing increased gang activity and added that dedicated officers have been patrolling near Meadowdale High School. He stated that the department has a good relationship with the school and their near-daily exchanges have allowed police to identify students exhibiting illegal behavior. 

Law enforcement officials advised residents to call or text 911 for public safety concerns, even if the situation wasn’t urgent, using as an example the case of a person consuming drugs in public. Officials said that the decision to call 911 would not be a drain on the system, and that 911 operators would prioritize issues accordingly. They also shared crime deterrence tips, such as keeping areas well lit and staying vigilant and aware of one’s surroundings.

Rep. Strom Peterson talks about Washington state’s intent to hire more judges in order to expedite sentencing.

Many residents voiced concerns about homelessness and drug use, which were often overlapping issues with differing opinions. Safe Lynnwood founder Vivian Dong was one of three meeting attendees who questioned Rep. Peterson’s  support of certain public safety-related state legislation. One of the examples she cited was Peterson’s vote in favor of House Bill 1268, legislation that would eliminate stacking sentencing enhancements in certain cases in an effort to reduce excessive sentencing.

“Of course, we want to show amnesty, we want to give people a second chance, but for crimes committed, especially in zones where kids are around, I just don’t understand why you’re voting to approve [HB1268] and reduce the sentencing.” said Dong. 

“This is a little more technical,” Peterson replied. “We’re not letting kids off if they’re committing crimes. There’s a thing we do where we stack these different things on top of each other… We’re one of the few states in the country that does that and there are actually some real concerns that the length of some of these sentences and how that stacking is not actually helping on the front end of crime.”

Other attendees brought up specific areas where they noticed crime, such as the LA Fitness parking lot near Mukilteo as well as in their neighborhoods. Some of those at the meeting acknowledged and thanked the police for their presence. 

— Story and photos by Jasmine Contreras-Lewis

  1. They also do things around the back of the LA fitness in Lynnwood . Then in the back they also have a place to recharge their cell phones . Then they have the old state emissions place that was closed down a few years ago.
    I heard they also a place there to shower . But it’s only open until sunset time .
    But we still have problems at the parks after sunsets . Lynnwood did a search at the park across from the Ford dealership where they found a shot gun. I can only imagine what else they will find there .

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