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City moves up on violent city list

The bad news is, Port Orchard inched up four spots to second place in the list of Washington cities with the most violent crimes per capita last year. The good news is, the likely cause of that move upward is gone.

“While we have seen a significant increase in aggravated assaults in 2007, I’m actually not concerned for the future over these numbers,” said Port Orchard Police Department Chief Al Townsend in the introduction of his 2007 annual report.

“We can pinpoint the problem to one downtown city block, and the rest of our violent crimes have seen double digit declines for the year,” Townsend said, adding that the first four months of this year have already brought “record declines” in aggravated assaults.

One reason for the decline in assaults is most likely the closure of Mako’s Bar and Grill, which formerly operated in the building now housing Slip 45 on Bay Street.

A year ago, Townsend was lobbying the City Council and former Mayor Kim Abel to inform the Washington State Liquor Control Board of the ongoing problem his officers were having at the bar.

“People are getting hurt down there now,” Townsend said at the time, explaining that his officers were spending too much of their weekend shifts responding to incidents “involving grossly intoxicated individuals” who were either inside or otherwise connected to the bar.

At the time, Townsend said his officers were spending too much of their Friday and Saturday night shifts either responding to incidents at the bar or just keeping an eye on the area, which he said was “not really fair to the rest of the residents in the community.”

Since then, the establishment has changed hands and names — Mako’s never reopened after it was flooded along with several other businesses along Bay Street last December.

As for the other cities in the top ten, Tacoma remained in the top spot and Bremerton stayed in third place with Tukwila, Wapato, Lakewood, Shelton, Kelso, Yakima, Fife and Spokane filling out the other spots.

The list includes cities with populations of more than 4,000 with the most violent crimes — murder, sexual assault, robbery and aggravated assault — per 1,000 people.

For both 2006 and 2007, Port Orchard had no murders reported, and both the sexual assaults (from 17 to 12) and robberies (3 to 1) decreased last year, as well.

Aggravated assault was the only category to increase, numbering 67 in 2007, up from 50 in 2006.

For 2008, POPD already reported one murder in the city limits, the first since 2001, when there was also only one, according to statistics provided by Townsend.

The only year since 1984 when there was more than one murder in the city was 1997.

Most categories of property crimes decreased, with arson incidents decreasing more than 78 percent from 9 to 2, car thefts dropping 42 percent from 52 to 30, and burglaries dipping 14 percent from 81 to 70.

Thefts and larceny crimes rose, however, from 260 to 280, and overall the property crime rate only decreased by 5 percent. Statewide, Port Orchard ranks 53rd in property crimes.

The top five cities for property crime were Tukwila, Burlington, Union Gap, Shelton and Moses Lake.

The schools in his jurisdiction, South Kitsap High and Cedar Heights Junior High, saw a “significant reduction” in the number of crimes reported, Townsend said.

“SKHS and CHJHS are like small cities of their own, and we can thank the partnership between our department and the South Kitsap School District for progress in this area,” he said, describing his department as a “fine group of women and men” that he was “extremely proud to work with.”

As for working with the public, Townsend said his random survey of citizens showed that his officers earned an “A or A-plus” in nearly every category of service, including professionalism, courtesy, promptness and thoroughness.

The lowest score the officers received was 83 percent, in reference to whether they had been readily available for follow-up.

Townsend said he was pleased at how his officers were evaluated, and pledged to continue to “provide the highest level of service.

“There is a great deal of evidence to prove that strong public safety supports economic development and economic development supports reductions in crime,” he said, remarking that the city’s “renewed interest in economic vitality and public safety” has already made “a difference in our community.”

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