Chelan Co. Sheriff Responds To Report Detailing Statewide Crime Increase
Chelan County Sheriff Mike Morrison has written a letter in response to a recent report from the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs (WASPC) that detailed a significant increase in statewide crime last year.
Morrison used the missive to express his disappointment and concern over the statistics within the report, which he labeled as "disheartening".
"When you see stats that violent crimes are up, property crimes are up, and murders are up, you know nobody wants to see that," Morrison told KPQ. "It doesn't matter if you're a law enforcement officer or a private citizen. It's simply unacceptable and I'm hoping we can come together as a state and come up with some solutions so we can reverse this course."
According to Morrison, the uptick in crime is being felt throughout much of the state but has yet to reach his jurisdiction.
"I think for the most part Chelan County has been in a bubble, but we are seeing these issues popping up in the counties that surround us. We are however, starting to see a lot of those issues slowly make their way into Chelan County and if we don't continue to be aggressive about our approach to protecting our citizens, I can see that taking a further hold here and we'll start seeing higher crime figures in Chelan County as well."
The letter also outlines Morrison's frustration with a stat within the WASPC report that ranks Washington last among all 50 states and the District of Columbia for its number of commissioned police officers per 1,000 residents.
"The stats speak for themselves. They are absolutely unacceptable, especially at a time when our state has been stressing de-escalation by having multiple officers on calls for contact and cover. Yet when it comes time to provide funding for our law enforcement agencies, it's fallen short. As a result, we've seen staffing levels continue to decrease here in Washington. And as a result of that, you can also see that our crime rates have increased when in most parts of the country they have decreased according to the stats provided by WASPC."
Morrison adds that unlike the increases in crime, the statewide staffing declines outlined in the report have greatly impacted his agency.
"Our staffing levels are currently lower than they were in 2008. Our county commissioners are in support of us and have been very responsive to our requests for help. But ultimately, we need more officers. Currently we have two openings and will have a couple more that will be coming open by the end of the year. So at a time when we are already lower in staffing than we were fifteen years ago, yet population and calls for service have both increased, we owe it to our citizens to do better."
It is Morrison's opinion that there is also a link between the statewide increase in crime and recent changes to Washington's laws related to when and how officers can pursue suspects.
"I think we've clearly seen at the state level that some of the new laws and regulations that have been passed have directly correlated with an increase in crime. I personally don't believe this is a political issue. But we need both sides to come together to figure out what's going to be in the best interest of the citizens of Washington State and Chelan County. If we change the laws and get back to making crimes actually criminal, we're going to see a result. Our numbers were lower when we were enforcing laws the way we had been in the past. I understand that change is needed but in order to get our crime rates down we need to make crimes criminal again and we need to get more officers on the street."
In addition to a rise in murders and violent crimes, the annual WASPC report also noted an uptick in domestic violence and personal crimes, as well as car theft for 2022.