While statistics show that crime is on the increase in Blaine, the police force is struggling with not enough officers to put on the street.
According to chief Mike Haslip, in the past six years Blaine has lost three commissioned officer positions including the department’s detective and the school resource officer.
Meanwhile, property crime rose by a little less than four percent but in that category burglaries went up 112.5 percent.
In terms of raw numbers there were five violent crimes reported in 2007 and nine in 2008. But burglaries went from 24 in 2007 to 51 in 2008.
This year there have been 23 burglaries so far through August of 2009, which translates to an annual rate of 35 percent.
“Burglaries were way up,” Haslip said, “and we’re not sure why. Sometimes when there’s an increase like this it’s because of an entrenched burglary ring that picks out a specific area.
“The only way to interdict it is with strong investigation, with things like stakeouts. That’s why the detective position is so important because you need someone who can spend time down in the weeds, so to speak, doing a longer and in-depth investigation. It’s what you lose when you have no detective.”
Haslip said that the burglaries were almost all residential and happened in daylight hours. “These people were kicking in doors in the middle of the day and walking off with stuff. This also happened in Birch Bay, but that sock bandit was [responsible for] just a half dozen or so.
“Our sense was that it was a group or individual since it’s hard to imagine so many opportunistic one-timers going through town in the same time period.”
Haslip said that Blaine currently has 11 commissioned officer positions plus four civilians. But with vacations, retirements and extended sick leave, Haslip was down to five officers to cover the shifts last week.
Fourteen-year veteran officer Jon Landis, the last school resource officer to serve until the position was eliminated in a 2004 budget cutting move, returned to work last week after being sidelined since July 28 by a staph infection that kept him hospitalized for ten days.
He required two more weeks convalescence at home before being cleared September 3.