Sheriff assigns deputy to Birch Bay
Whatcom County Sheriff Bill Elfo announced Tuesday that he will assign a special deputy to Birch Bay beginning as early as March, depending upon training schedules and other variables. The assigned territory runs from the Birch Point area south to the BP Cherry Point refinery, and the deputy will be free to set his own hours as long as he puts in 40 per week.
The current territory that deputies in the area cover runs from the border south to Aldergrove Road, and from the shoreline east to the Guide Meridian, an area of 139 square miles. Other deputies will still maintain a presence in the area, Elfo said, both for back-up in dangerous situations and because Birch Bay Drive is one of the most likely spots in the county to catch drunk drivers.
“The number one complaint in this area, however, is speeding,” he said. The speed limit along Birch Bay Drive drops from 35 m.p.h. to 15 m.p.h. from mid-May through Labor Day Weekend.
He made his remarks in a presentation to the Birch Bay Chamber of Commerce. He described the assigned deputy program as similar to one already in place in Kendall, where a deputy has been working and living in a house provided by the department since 2004. The department will not furnish housing in Birch Bay, Elfo said, nor will it for a similar program planned for Sudden Valley.
The Birch Bay deputy can start his flexible shifts quickly by not having to report in at the courthouse in Bellingham, Elfo said there is a satellite office in the North Whatcom Fire and Rescue station on Birch Bay-Lynden Road, where the officer will have direct computer links and other services available.
In Kendall, Elfo said, the on-site deputy has made a difference. “For example, lots in some of the developments that were selling for $2,500 four years ago are going for $15,000 to $20,000 apiece, and people are beginning to move back in.”
Elfo also spoke of the lack of jail space as a chronic problem that the new jail has helped to alleviate but not eliminate entirely. “Six percent of the crooks commit 80 percent of the crime, and these are the ones smart enough to know that even when caught doing something they won’t necessarily be jailed,” Elfo said. He told of a situation when he and a deputy discovered people rifling mailboxes “and they as much as told us that we couldn’t arrest them because [our department was] on booking restrictions. We agreed, but in that case we were able to make an exception, much to their surprise, because with the extra space multiple offenders are at least booked into jail now.”
Elfo, who became sheriff in 2003 following former sheriff Dale Brandland’s election to the state senate, said he has 80 deputies at this time and is scheduled to add one more in 2007 and another in 2008. “We also have 28 department reserves, trained civilians with limited authority who ride with regular officers,” he said.