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‘Steady, solid performance’

The Kitsap County Prosecuting Attorney’s office released its 2004 annual report, summing up the year as one of solid, steady performance. And while the office was benefiting from organizational restructuring, Superior Court filings exceeded 2,000 for the first time.

“There is no single reason for this,” said Prosecuting Attorney Russ Hauge, “although we do have a continuing issue with meth-related problems.”

The report is available for download at www.kitsapgov.com/news.htm#pros_report. Hard copy versions are also available from the prosecutor’s office.

”It’s a reference,” Hauge said of the report. “It’s not something that you read like a novel. But we have taken some steps to make it more readable. It’s an accurate analysis of the crimes we are responding to and how we are dealing with them.”

Hauge’s office has five distinct divisions — case management, felony, district/municipal, juvenile and civil.

“This is a complicated system,” Hauge said. “We wanted to break through the shorthand that we speak to each other and develop something that a person who is not a professional can look at and figure out what we are talking about.

We spend a lot of tax dollars, and we spend it well, but we want to explain what it is we do.”

Hauge, 53, supervises a 90-person staff that included 44 lawyers. First elected in 1994, Hauge expects to run for a fourth term next year but does not plan to announce formally for some time.

“I love this job,” he said. “It’s the job of a lifetime.”

Hauge said there may be a decrease of locally manufactured meth, but this is offset by an established drug pipeline from California and Mexico. As a result, he is prosecuting the same amount of drug cases as in years past.

While the meth problem may not be visible to many county residents, Hauge said it has an effect on everyone. You can visit any high school in the county and “be just one or two conversations away” from purchasing the drug.

Identity theft is also on the rise, which has led a corresponding jump in insurance rates.

Burglaries have also increased, with all this criminal activity meant to help raise money to get a short-term fix.

Hauge has learned to separate meth users from those who use other drugs.

“Meth makes you do crazy things that you normally wouldn’t do,” he said. “At the same time, a meth user isn’t as cold and calculating as someone who is taking crack.”

Still, meth provides a continuing law enforcement problem.

“People who deal drugs like crack and heroin generally keep their noses out of it,” Hauge said. “People who deal meth are also addicts. With crack, you can cut off the head of an operation to close it down; with meth, the problem still exists. This makes it all the more insidious.”

The prosecutor’s efforts could get a boost next year if the .15 percent income tax increase is approved by the voters. The measure, spearheaded by Hauge and Sheriff Steve Boyer, will be on the September ballot.

“Things look like they are under control,” he said. “But we would like to get some programs going that deter people before they commit the act. We can maybe break up shoplifting rings before they do too much damage, or put more officers in schools to prevent criminal action.”

Hauge isn’t sure how the money will be allocated, especially since it’s possible existing federal grant money that supports drug enforcement will be discontinued.

Regardless of the drug problem, Hauge’s office will always deal with a significant number of domestic violence and driving under the influence violations. The domestic calls increase, but this is attributable to increased sensitivity of the public and the police to the situation.

And many motorists still have missed the don’t drive drunk message.

“This is one crime where deterrence is a factor,” Hauge said. “Some people who are about to drive drunk go through a thought process where they may decide not to do it. But it will always be with us, as some people will always be careless.”

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