Police focused on reversing rise of property crimes fueled by drug users

K-9 unit is latest attempt to reverse the increases in cases of burglary and fraud
By Dan Aznoff | Nov 15, 2017
Courtesy of: City of Mill Creek Rasko and Mill Creek Police Officer Ian Durkee have served as the city’s first and only K-9 unit for the better part of the last decade. Police Chief is hoping the next canine chosen to work with his department will be trained to sniff out drugs and contraband in the effort to stem the rise of property crimes in the city linked to the opioid crisis.

The chances of becoming a victim of a property crime in Mill Creek is less than half than other areas of Washington, but that is still too much for Police Chief Greg Elwin.

Elwin made an impassioned presentation to members of the City Council in October to request that the new dog chosen to replace the city’s first-and-only K-9 unit be trained to sniff out drugs and other contraband.  Elwin is hoping to have the new dog and his police partner ready to go into service when the department’s current canine, Rasko, reaches the end of his service life in 2019.

The chief explained to the council that police work has evolved since Rasko became part of the Mill Creek Police Department. In addition to “pursuing and apprehending bad guys,” Elwin said, “the city needs a dog trained to identify illegal drugs.”

The new dog, he said, could be used to patrol parking lots where increasing numbers of car prowls have been reported over the past year. The dog also could be used on unscheduled visits to homeless camps.

“The increase in property crimes is a direct result of the opioid crisis right here in Mill Creek,” Elwin told The Beacon. “The criminals may not live here, but they’ll come from other communities to target certain areas of our city.”

Elwin said residential burglaries have spiked, along with cases of fraud and identity theft as a result of the break-ins. He added that parking lots at townhome and apartment complexes as well as in commercial areas of the city have been favorite targets of the non-violent crime.

“I would not classify property crimes as victimless,” he said. “Having your vehicle or your home broken into is a violation. It is a crime we can address.”

The chief said the increase in the number of arrests for possession of narcotics is evidence that the property crimes are being done, primarily, to feed drug habits. Opioids are the current trend among drug users, according to Elwin. But his officers have also seen a surge in arrests made for possession of cocaine and heroin.

The council voted unanimously to approve the succession plan for the city’s K-9 unit.

On a brighter note, the police force in Mill Creek is expanding. Chief Elwin traveled to Eastern Washington this week to meet the department’s new puppy. The dog is expected to travel across the mountains to his new home in the next several weeks.

Elwin also attended the graduation ceremony at the Police Academy for the department’s two newest officers on Thursday. The addition will bring the city’s police force from 23 to 25 uniformed officers.

 

Crime stats

One person out of every 51 in Mill Creek has been the victim of a property crime, according to a 2016 survey of police records. That compares to one out of every 29 persons living in the state.

The same survey indicated that 3.59 of every 1,000 Mill Creek residents had been victims of a burglary during the past year (72 total) and 14 out of every 1,000 (281 total) had suffered a theft. Fewer than two out of every 1,000 (38 total) had their vehicle stolen.

By comparison, the same survey of police records indicated that one person out of every 39 in Bothell had been the victim of a property crime, which is just under the national average. In Everett, statistics indicate that one person out of 17 has been the victim of a property crime.

In Mukilteo the property crime rate was one in every 48 residents. In Edmonds, it is one out of every 36.

The issue of property crime rates was highlighted in the local media that claimed Seattle had the highest property crime rate of all major cities in the United States.

Those claims were denied by then-Mayor Ed Murray and Seattle City Attorney Ed Holmes. The Seattle officials indicated the chances of a Seattle resident becoming a victim of a property crime was at more than one in 18, ranking the city as the sixth highest among major cities, just behind San Francisco and ahead of Memphis.

The survey of police records indicated that residents of Albuquerque and Tulsa have the highest chance of becoming the victim of a property crime, while people in New York, El Paso and San Diego were the lowest.

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