Methaccounts for increase in crime

Published on Thu, May 19, 2005
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Meth accounts for increase in crime

Aggravated assaults in unincorporated Whatcom County grew 40 percent between 2003 and 2004, according to the annual Uniform Crime Report (UCR) issued earlier this month by the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs. Aggravated assaults are one of four types of violent crime measured in the report. The others, along with changes in Whatcom County’s rate from 2003 to 2004, are murder (no increase), rape (27.6 percent decrease) and robbery (18.2 percent decrease).

The report also cites four areas of property crime. With corresponding changes for unincorporated Whatcom County from 2003 to 2004, they are arson (up 26.7 percent), burglary (down eight percent), larceny (up 11.6 percent) and car theft (up 2.7 percent).

Whatcom County sheriff Bill Elfo commented on the UCR report in a memorandum he said was designed “to put the UCR into perspective.”
When one factors in growth by looking at the crime rate per 1,000 population, the county comes out a bit better. Even though violent crime went up almost 10 percent, from 152 incidents to 167, the rate per 1,000 residents at 2.1 percent is “well below the rate of reported violent crime statewide,” Elfo’s report says, and the property crime rate of 23.8 per 1,000 population “is well below one-half the rate of reported property crime state-wide at 49.2 per 1,000 population.

The large increase in aggravated assaults is tied to “violence associated with methamphetamine and other illicit drug trades,” Elfo wrote, “and action taken in concert with organizations such as domestic violence and sexual assault services to encourage and make victims of domestic violence more comfortable in reporting assaults.”

Elfo provided examples that suggest a correlation between methamphetamine abuse and property crime. “For example, the arrest of two individuals who admittedly stole to support their methamphetamine habit resulted in confessions to nearly 50 car prowls. Upon these two being incarcerated, car prowls decreased by 66 percent in succeeding months,” Elfo wrote.

Elfo concluded with a reference to the new jail, saying that “even when offenders are captured, they are usually just issued a citation because there is no room in the jail. We believe that our plans to remedy the jail situation will allow us to better hold offenders accountable for the crimes they commit.”

For more information, and to read the report, go to http://www.waspc.org/wucrwibr/2004PreCrime.pdf.