Marina tenants cry foul over crime situation

The Port Orchard Police Department plans to increase its presence along the waterfront after a group of marina tenants this week expressed fear and frustration over what they see as a rising tide of criminal activity in the area.

“In the last year, and especially the last six months, I have experienced a dramatic increase in criminal activity in and around the marina,” said tenant Tim McCormick, who addressed the Port of Bremerton’s board of commissioners at a meeting Tuesday night.

McCormick, who owns Action Bail Bonds on Bay Street, said being a live-aboard who travels back and forth from his boat to his business at all hours of the night gives him intimate knowledge of the situation, which he described as a steady stream of theft, graffiti, trespassing and drug activity in the area surrounding the marina, particularly the parking lot.

“I have a pretty good assessment of what goes on, and I am not a naive, paranoid citizen,” he said, adding that since he also has 17 years experience working with criminals, he is “pretty educated in that arena.”

McCormick said he has also become concerned for his safety and that of his wife after more alarming incidents that he said included the sexual assault of a woman visiting a marina tenant, and another live-aboard’s boat being burglarized.

“I have contacted the local police and the marina management, but I feel my concerns are falling on deaf ears,” McCormick said, explaining that he decided to bring the issue to the commissioners “to try and fix the problem.”

Fellow marina tenant Gary Hunter echoed McCormick’s comments at the meeting.

“There has always been a problem with crime (at the marina),” Hunter said, explaining that his small boat was stolen last year.

Steve Slaton, the port’s director of marine facilities, said he was aware of McCormick’s concerns, but he was limited in his ability to respond to them.

“I like to deal in facts, and the only documented crimes here that occurred on marina property were (Russ) Bednorz had his boat broken into and (Hunter) had his boat stolen,” Slaton said, adding that he was not aware of the sexual assault that McCormick was referring to, and that “any activities occurring outside the marina are beyond our control — it is occurring on city property, and is in the jurisdiction of the (POPD).”

As for a dramatic increase in incidents, Slaton said he did not perceive one.

“I’ve been here three years and three months, and (the boat being stolen and the other being broken into) are the only two instances of significant crime I know of,” he said. “(However), I don’t want to discount his concerns, and I responded to them.”

Slaton said before the board meeting Tuesday night when the tenants addressed the board, he and his senior staff had met with POPD Chief Al Townsend and Commander Tim Palmer to discuss the issue and potential solutions.

“I am working with (Slaton) to increase our patrols,” Townsend said, but “realistically, there is not a dramatic spike in calls that I’m aware of.”

Townsend said in many ways the marina is similar to the environment at an apartment complex, since you have many residents in close proximity.

As far as inside the marina, he said “we get calls about wild parties on boats and loud music,” and that there is theft, but “we get burglaries everywhere.”

When it comes to the parking lot, however, Townsend acknowledged there is cause for concern.

“There’s things going on in the parking lots, and some of it can be attributed to what is going on at Mako’s (Bar and Grill),” he said, explaining that the bar is a consistent source of response calls for his department as its patrons spill out into the parking lots along the waterfront at night.

“We’ve heard the complaints about drug activity on the observation tower,” Townsend said, explaining that his department is making arrangements to close off the tower — located just east of the marina office but owned by the city — at night, and step up patrols in the area.

“We do walkthroughs now, but we’re going to make more of an appearance now,” he said. “The port asked if it would be a good idea to hire private security, but my suggestion was to wait and see if we can help them before they spend the money for that.”

When asked about a recent sexual assault, Commander Palmer said there was an incident Oct. 8 involving a 21-year-old Keyport woman who was staying on a boat in the marina’s guest moorage who reported being grabbed sexually by a male known to her who was also staying at the marina.

Palmer said the suspect, a 17-year-old Grapeview resident, allegedly “grabbed the victim’s buttocks” and displayed his genitals, and was arrested for domestic-violence assault and lewd conduct.

Slaton said his next step will be to place a discussion of “marina security” on the agenda for the port’s next board meeting in January.

“That way we will have time set aside to discuss it,” he said. “We have a great relationship with the POPD and we hope to keep working with them on this issue, which we have been proactive about.”

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