By Jack Mayne
Burienâ€™s crime rate is increasing as it is in other cities in south King County, according to Police Chief Scott Kimerer in his annual report to the City Council on Monday night (April 24).
â€œI can tell you that I have talked to the other chiefs in South King County … they are not seeing anything different that we are seeing. Crime is not only up in Burien,â€ Kimerer said, â€œit is across south King County and some places more so than us.â€
â€œCrime is up and we are having incidents of violent crime, of property crime,â€ Kimerer said.
â€œThey are all up … pretty much across the board,â€ Kimerer said. â€œI have not seen that kind of increase in a lot of our crimes so consistently since I have been here and I have been here 14 years.â€
$224 per taxpayer
Burienâ€™s police budget for 2015 was $11.2 million to pay for the contract for services from the King County Sheriffâ€™s Office. The city has 41 officers, including detectives and supervisors, 26 patrol officers, plus a sergeant.
Last year the officers cost the city $217,327, or $224 for each citizen in the city.
In comparison, Seattle taxpayers paid almost twice as much per officer, $437, and taxpayers in SeaTac, also with a police force contracted from the Sheriffâ€™s Office, each were charged $350 for police. The two other smaller, bordering cities with their own taxpayer paid police departments a bit more than Burien taxpayers. Des Moines citizens each paid $257 for police while Normandy Park citizens paid $227 each for police.
But for cities with more population than Burien, for example Redmond, taxpayers each paid $281 for police protection and those in over twice at populous Bellevue each paid $224 for police services.
Neighboring Tukwila taxpayers got the really biggest bill of $824, but keep in mind the Southcenter Mall is there to help residents pay the tab.
Kimerer cautioned that the system Burien used to quantify crime statistics was different from the system used in other cities in King County so he had no direct comparisons on criminal behavior from city to city. The city will soon change to the prevailing system so comparisons should be possible next year.
The report shows the Burien rate for all major crimes â€“ against persons and property â€“ were up 11 percent last year to 256.
â€œThe biggest driver of that was aggravated assaults,â€ he said, which went up 33 percent. Aggravated assaults are defined as unlawful attack by one person upon another to inflict severe or aggravated bodily injury.
Kimerer told the Council said that Burien was up from the previous year, but also over the past five years, the rate was up â€œ31 percent in crimes against persons.â€ His figures showed aggravated assaults were up 33 percent overall and crimes against persons up 11 percent.
Last year was not far off the high year in 2013, the chief said.
The major crime rate includes murder, manslaughter and traffic fatalities, forcible rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny-theft, motor vehicle theft, and arson.
So far this year there have been two murders, he said.
There were four murders last year, the highest in the past four years, with gangland style activity along Ambaum. There were three murders in 2014, one in 2012 but none in 2013 and 2015.
His report showed patrol officers confiscated 243 guns, but with other police units, the confiscations are â€œinto the 400s.â€
â€œIt is a big push for us, we want to get the guns off the street,â€ Kimerer told theÂ Council.
Rape up, robbery flat
There were 49 rapes last year, compared with 44 in 2015 and 43 in 2012.
Robberies were about flat, with 77 this past year â€“ significantly down from peak years of 1012 and 2014.
â€œThis is a pattern weâ€™ve seen in the past,â€ he said, with domestic violence â€œalways very highâ€ at 37 percent.
There was a 7 percent increase in assaults at regional Highline Hospital, Kimerer said, â€œso we get people who are being involuntarily committed, either drug/alcohol overdose or mental issues for not just Burien, but from all over south King County.â€
â€œStranger assaultsâ€ account for about a â€œfairly low 7 percentâ€ of â€œserious assaults,â€ which also include drive-by shootings, road rage or other serious problems.
â€œI donâ€™t want to give the impression to our residents that youâ€™re not safe out there, because it is not what is happening,â€ the police chief said. â€œThe majority of these are parties that know each other â€“ a bar fight, some other kind of dispute over property…â€
Vehicle theft up
Property crimes include narcotics violations and frauds, along with minor assaults, totaled 3,887 in last year, or up about 5 percent.
They have been increasing the past few years but last year was the low year, Kimerer said. Here burglaries are up but down 21 percent over the 2013 high. Larceny is down.
But auto theft is way up, 18 percent over last 25 percent up over the five year high in 2014.
â€œWe are seeing where they are getting dumped, we are arresting people, but it just seems to be one of those hot items that people are doing right now,â€ he said.
Assault, trespass, vandalism and other â€œPart IIâ€ crimes are mostly up:
Trespass crimes are up 11 percent over last year and 64 percent over the low in 2013
Councilmember Lauren Berkowitz, on the telephone, asked if it was just public property trespass increases but Kimerer said it was for both public and private property.
But liquor violations concerned the chief, because for four years there were an average of 5.15 for an entire year but there were 136 violations just last year, â€œa 1,950 percent increase.â€
â€œThose are most likely drinking in public â€“ in the parks,â€ where he said the department put emphasis because so many people had complained of drinking in parks. They put an officer on foot patrol in parks and â€œI think he had responsibility for some of those. I know for a fact that he would not do a violation without first warning somebody. If he did a violation it was because it was repeated behavior.â€
Councilmember Bob Edgar asked about the 29 percent increase in vandalism over last year.
Kimerer said the most visible vandalism is tagging, which entails spray painting on walls or fences, often with the repeated use of a single symbol or series of symbols to mark territory. Vandalism also includes breaking a fence or a window or malicious destruction of property.
â€œWe have had a lot of incidents of gang tagging this year and last year, that could be some of the increase weâ€™ve seen but the general tagging of kids writing on walls and fences and buildings â€“ we see it all over in downtown,â€ the chief said. â€œWe generally catch them if they are taggers because they go to high school and the SRO (school resource officer) can see if they are having the same tagging on their Pee CheeÂ at school â€“ so we catch a lot of them.â€
Mayor Krakowiak added thatÂ the city â€œgot tagged quite heavilyâ€ over the last weekend.
Complaints against police officers â€“ which Kimererâ€™s report said were those that can â€œoriginate from the public or internal police department personnelâ€ â€“ were up a bit, although there were more dispatched calls, 34,408 in 2016.
The number of complaints was 55 in 2016 vs. 40 the previous year, but calls for service increased by 1,675 in the same period:
Adults arrested by Burien Police were 1,505 last year; the majority of 1,222 were for misdemeanor violations. Juvenile arrests totaled just 87 in 2016, again the majority of 65 were for misdemeanor crimes.
Kimerer said enforcement of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs are up 23 percent over 2015 and 52 percent over five years. Last year the department formed a dedicated DUI enforcement position.
Making 69 DUI arrests in the forth quarter of 2016, Officer Mark Silverstein earned the Washington State Traffic Safety Commissionâ€™s Holiday Campaign â€œTop Performerâ€ award.
â€œWe’re still trying to get the message out, â€˜donâ€™t drink and drive in Burien,â€™â€ Kimerer told the Council, referring to Silverstein as a â€œmachine getting DUIs â€“ there is no place safe.â€
Still no new City Manager
Mayor Lucy Krakowiak started the study session by saying that there would be no motion on the agenda item â€œregarding next steps in the city manager searchâ€ because â€œwe are still deliberating on that.â€ Apparently none of the earlier selected candidates have achieved acceptance from a majority of the Council, a group rather well known for being split on major decisions.