On Friday, Sept. 9 at 9:30 a.m., a bank robbery occurred at the Oak Harbor People’s Bank, less than 100 yards from my home. On April 30, 2019, the Oak Harbor Washington Federal Bank was likewise robbed. In both instances, K9 support was unavailable, the armed felons escaped on foot and were lost.
Last month, on Aug. 23, a notorious armed felon was diligently pursued by sheriff’s deputies on foot in the Monroe Landing area and lost; citizens sheltered in place. The same week, in the vicinity of the Green Room on Goldie Road, Oak Harbor, a hammer-wielding car prowler caught in the act, escaped to the refuge of the adjacent woods, one of many well known island encampments. A K9 would have undoubtedly proven useful for this and many other events.
When the need arises, the practice of local law enforcement over the years has been to source tactical K9 from off-island departments. In nearly every instance, these resources have been unavailable, or arrived too late to make a difference. Island County comprises 210 square miles of mixed woodland and urban city terrain with too few patrol officers. A skilled K9 team not only covers a search area more efficiently, but also serves as an immediate backup to lone deputies and city officers.
When used appropriately, the mere presence of a K9 can influence compliance without aggression. Cities of similar size to Oak Harbor, like Arlington, WA (9.25 square miles) maintain successful community supported K9 programs. In the interest of citizens and officers alike, it is reasonable and proper that a joint regional program be established for Island County and the City of Oak Harbor.