Major Crimes In Burien Down By 12%, Lesser Crimes Up

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by Jack Mayne

Major crimes in Burien are way down, but lesser crimes are way up, according to Burien Chief of Police Scott Kimerer’s report to the City Council on Monday night (May 11th).

Crime in general is going down in the metropolitan area and in Burien, Kimerer said. In the year 2000, he said the crime rate in Burien was 92 per one thousand residents, “a high rate.” In 2008, it was 53 crimes per one thousand Burien residents, nearly half the rate of eight years ago.

Calls to City Manager Mike Martin and Mayor Joan McGilton for comment were not returned.

“It has been a gradual decrease over the past six years,” Kimerer said. “We had one year where it was flat, (not an increase or decrease).”

“The rate for this year (2008) was down 12 percent,” he said. “That is fairly sizeable.”

Crimes are organized by severity, with major crimes, or Part 1 offenses, including homicides, robberies, aggravated assaults, burglaries, vehicle theft and larceny over $250. That is the area that has been decreasing year after year, the chief said.

But so-called Part 2 offenses, like theft, weapons violations, juvenile and family crimes, drunk driving and the like have been increasing over the years and did again during 2008. Those offenses were up 14 percent.

The question is, why is major crime in Burien going down even as concern for gang activity is increasing.

“It is more diversified enforcement (now),” Kimerer says. “I have units that target high profile offenders and I have units that target gangs. We have a lot more dissemination of information amongst all the jurisdictions around than we ever had before. We are able to get more information on who is doing what and we are able to focus in on those types of crimes.”

In effect, the police know who the bad guys are and are doing better about rounding them up and putting them in jail. Another way to look at it is that the 20 percent who do the evil deeds to the 80 percent of us who are law abiding are being targeted more efficiently.

Kimerer says he is able to “work better as a regional force and we partner up with regional forces to concentrate on developing problems.
Burien, like many other cities in the county, contracts with the King County Sheriff’s Department to provide its policing. While the officers that work at Burien Police are hired and trained as county deputies, their entire cost is borne by the taxpayers of the city.

In addition, he is able to tap resources in the King County Sheriff’s office and even independent departments, such as Seattle or Federal Way, if needed to concentrate on a specific problem.

Kimerer is the current chairman of the King County Police Chief’s Association, a group from the entire county who meet once a month to discuss problems and to identify certain expertise to help Burien or other areas.

“We don’t need to just use the resources of the King County Sheriff’s Department, although that is a great resource.”

Kimerer says he has one of the more “well known” gang experts working in Burien.

Gangs are created by other cultures, he says, for a sense of belonging as well as problems in the economy in general.

“All gang activity centers around respect and money,” he says.

The problems facing Burien as a city are about the same as other cities in the area, with such crimes as residential or commercial burglaries affecting people directly.

“It is disconcerting to people to have their house broken into,” he says. But there are traffic problems that bother people, too.”

The biggest crime rates in the city are, as is usual in most cities, in the downtown area and in pockets around the city, he said, such as the Ambaum corridor and the Park and Ride area. In areas such as the Maplewild area or Three Tree Point, the crime rate is very low.

By way of comparison though, Burien has fewer officers per shift than West Seattle to answer calls from 911. The standard in West Seattle is six officers per shift for the area, but Kimerer said he has three officers on patrol in the entire city for each shift.

Of course, there are detectives and specialists that work either daytime hours (such as crime detectives) or weekend hours (common for gang specialists).

Key crime stats:

  • In the major crimes area (Part 1), the big increase in 2008 was in forcible rapes and rape attempts. In 2008 there were 28 versus 16 the previous year, a 75 percent increase, said the annual police report. Five of those cases were closed during the year.
  • Residential burglaries, the bane of police everywhere, was up in Burien over 16 percent, with 271 during 2008, compared with 233 in 2007. 14 cases were closed.
  • The biggest decrease in major crime was 35 percent in vehicle theft. In 2007 there were 392 compared with 253 last year, a major incursion into a crime that plagues suburban cities. Likewise, commercial burglary was way down in 2008 with 108 last year versus 142 the year previous.

Crime rate is a major indicator that often affects insurance rates and even property values. There are 31,540 people living in the city now. The major crimes rate was 53.20 per 1,000 people living in Burien. The minor crime rate, which Kimerer says is way up, was 79.01 per 1,000 residents last year.

Police were dispatched for service 10,191 times in 2007, 11 percent fewer calls from the previous year. There were fewer adult arrests last year, 1,131 compared with the previous year with 1,453.

Total gang related incidents were up, as expected, from 275 in 2007 to 309 last year.

Domestic violence was down over 14 percent last year from the previous year, with 355 last year versus 414 the previous year.

For south King County, Burien has the lowest number of officers per 1,000 people but says the “City of Burien funds us the best they can.”

He said there is not a police chief in the world that doesn’t wish for more officers or equipment.

“You are never going to hear me say we could not use more officers, because my people work awfully, awfully hard.”

Burien has an average of 1.22 commissioned police officers for each 1,000 residents of the city. This compares with an average of 1.33 officers in Federal Way and 2.21 per thousand in Seattle.

Burien pays $188 for each resident of the city per year for police protection. That is considerably less than the $253 paid per resident in SeaTac or an average of $322 per resident per year in Seattle.

The major crime rate is down, but the less serious crimes, called Part 2 crimes in police jargon, are “up quite a bit,” says the chief. Much of this type of crime is from family crimes and disturbances.

“We are looking very good in maintaining our crime rate decrease,” he said. “That would be (because of) the hard work of the people in the Burien Police Department, we are effective at what we do and what we focus in on, and we hope to continue that trend.”

Jack Mayne may be reached at [email protected].

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