Violent crime on the rise in Port Orchard

What a difference a year makes.

Last year, Port Orchard Police Chief Al Townsend was celebrating a healthy decrease in violent crimes and vowing to curb a frustrating increase in property crimes.

This year, Townsend’s annual report paints just the opposite picture of the city’s crime — property crimes took a double-digit drop, while violent crimes rose by 16 percent.

According to the 2006 POPD Annual Report Townsend released earlier this month, property crimes decreased by 13 percent, but violent crimes — murder, sexual assault, robbery and aggravated assault — were up 16 percent, keeping the city ranked sixth in the state for violent crimes in cities with at least 4,000 residents.

“We remain in the No. 6 spot for violent crime per capita in the state — obviously this is not the kind of statistic a community would pride itself on,” Townsend said in his report.

While the POPD has dealt with no murders the past two years, sexual assaults increased by 30 percent, up from 13 to 17, along with robberies, which went from 2 in 2005 to 3 in 2006.

Aggravated assaults increased by 9 percent, with 50 reported in 2006, while only 45 were reported in 2005.

Townsend said at least part of the increase — particularly when it comes to assault arrests — can be blamed on the criminal activity surrounding downtown bars such as Mako’s Bar and Grill.

“We have felony assaults occurring there routinely,” Townsend said, explaining that while the bar might not necessarily be experiencing problems inside, “it is drawing a crowd that tends to end up in fights after they leave.”

Earlier this year, Townsend alerted Mayor Kim Abel to an ongoing problem with the bar, explaining that from Jan. 1 to March 15, his officers responded to Mako’s 36 times, with half the responses resulting in “significant police activity,” the majority of which were “fights/assaults involving grossly intoxicated individuals.”

At the time, Townsend said Mako’s owner was willing to work with his officers to implement some changes, which include playing different music and establishing a dress code.

This week, Townsend said he has seen some improvement in the situation since then, but “I don’t think we’re all the way there yet.”

Another concern Townsend pointed to was a “resurgence in gang-related activity,” explaining that his department was launching a proactive approach.

“Rather than wait until it becomes a problem, we’re teaming up with the Kitsap County Prosecutor’s Office and both the South Kitsap and Bremerton school districts to educate the community,” he said, explaining that if the city’s citizens learn what to look out for when it comes to graffiti and other warning signs, they can be an invaluable resource.

“Such things as reporting graffiti to police and knowing what to look for in your own children ... are imperative in our fight,” he said.

Another new initiative this year for the department is “crime mapping,” which pinpoints the locations of particular crimes on an interactive map. In the future, Townsend said he hopes to make such maps available to the public via the city’s Web site on a monthly basis.

As more positives, Townsend pointed out that his department beats the national average when it comes to actually solving crimes once they are reported, and “our response times ... continue to be some of the best in the county.”

POPD also scored well in its second annual Quality Service Audit, a survey conducted by volunteers who contact recent crime victims and ask how the officers handled their case.

In all of the categories this year, including the officers’ courtesy, promptness and professionalism, Townsend said his staff rated either 98 percent or 100 percent. The lowest score from last year’s audit — at 88 percent satisfaction for follow-up availability, improved to 98 percent.

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