Editorial | Property crime: more needs to be done

Property crime on South Whidbey is not a new topic, so it’s no surprise that nearly 100 people turned out for the Island County Sheriff’s Office’s neighborhood watch meeting Thursday.

People are tired of being burglarized. Who can blame them?

While Island police have taken several positive steps in recent weeks by meeting with concerned citizens, promising to dedicate additional hours to cases, rolling out a new website that tracks property crime and providing public education on prevention, we question whether these are enough. And if Thursday’s meeting is any indication of public sentiment, we’re not the only ones. Rather than holding meetings about how the public can help itself, perhaps it’s time the entire law and justice community takes a closer look at the steps it can do to address property crime and drug abuse on the South End. That includes those who control the purse strings, the Island County Commissioners.

This stance should not be confused with one that vilifies local police. We’ve found them to be competent professionals who care about the community — Lt. Evan Tingstad and Detective Sgt. Laura Price with the sheriff’s office, and Langley Police Chief David Marks to name a few. These are good cops, and claims that they’re too inept or slothful to make arrests are as silly as they are insulting.

Property crime is a complicated problem, one that requires resources and evidence — pictures of shady trucks and scuzzy-looking hoodlums isn’t exactly the kind of stuff that holds up in court. To make matters worse, it’s almost certainly fueled by complex issues like drug addiction. On this, experts and frustrated residents all agree.

All that said, South Whidbey residents have been saying the same thing for years, that there’s a big problem and it’s not getting better. Some say they’ve been hit by burglars up to five times.

There’s an old adage out there that says if one person calls you a donkey, you can laugh it off. If two people say it, take note. But if three people call you one, it’s time to turn around a look for a tail. There’s an ass on South Whidbey and it’s time to silence the braying.

Extra man hours are a great start, and hopefully it will make a difference in getting some of the worst offenders off the street. But perhaps the sheriff’s office needs to go further by assigning a temporary team who will specialize in property crime. Maybe more officers need to be assigned to the South Precinct. The department could also begin consistently supplying newspapers with the police blotter. Many read it for laughs, but it’s also an excellent source of information about what’s happening and where.

Finally, funding. Sheriff Mark Brown has clamored for more resources for years, and has met with some success. It’s likely this old and tired issue needs to be revisited.

Whether the problem has truly reached epidemic proportions or not, the public believes the issue is out of control and they have a legitimate and reasonable expectation that law enforcement will take the necessary steps to keep their persons and property safe. Greater steps are needed.