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Port Orchard’s crime rate drops significantly

In 2007, only Tacoma ranked higher than Port Orchard for the number of violent crimes per capita. In 2008, Port Orchard didn’t even make the top ten list.

As Port Orchard Police Chief Al Townsend predicted last year, the reason his city had racked up so many violent crimes in 2007 — specifically aggravated assaults — was due to the amount of fights starting in and near the now closed Mako’s Bar and Grill on Bay Street.

After the establishment closed early last year, however, the amount of aggravated assault arrests dropped more than 50 percent — from 67 to 33 — and so did the city’s violent crime rate.

For 2008, Port Orchard dropped to 15th on the list of Washington cities with the most violent crimes per capita, with 5.9 per 1,000 people. Topping the list was Wapato at 10.1, Tukwila at 10, and Tacoma at 9.9.

Townsend called this reduction “tremendous,” and said it was due to a combined effort by “our police officers ... our elected officials and community members,” and took the city off the violent crime top ten list “for the first time since I began tracking this five years ago.”

While violent crimes overall dropped, two homicides occurred last year, including the death of 47-year-old Linda Malcom, who was found stabbed in her home on Sidney Avenue, which was then set ablaze. That murder remains unsolved.

While violent crimes decreased, property crimes increased by 21 percent.

“Unfortunately, that is not unexpected,” Townsend wrote in his report to the City Council. “As the economy diminished, the increase in property crime went hand-in-hand.”

Mayor Lary Coppola praised the POPD in a press release.

“I’m extremely proud of our police department,” Coppola said. “They have proven that through hard-nosed police work, proactive problem solving, and creating community partnerships, it’s possible to make a real difference in our city.”

Townsend also noted that his department’s “citizen satisfaction survey” has the POPD rating an A or A+ on every category track, which asks victims if the responding officer was “prompt, courteous, and professional.”

However, when residents were asked about how safe they felt generally, many did not give positive answers.

“It is troubling to me that only 63 percent of those who responded feel safe walking alone in their neighborhood, and only 74 percent feel safe in their own home,” Townsend said. “It is my goal to raise those numbers and make people feel safer in their community.”

This year will present some new challenges for his department, Townsend said.

Along with diminished revenues and increased costs, he said his department will be affected by “increased costs for jail beds, early release at state prisons and less community supervision of convicted felons, all placing even more burden on local police. In addition, we will see higher than ever expectations for police service as related to annexations.”

In response, Townsend said his department is continually making adjustments “to the way we provide police service to ensure the best and most efficient service possible to our customers, (including) temporary reallocation of personnel to patrol functions and the addition of internet-based reporting of minor crimes. It is my commitment to all of you that we will continue to provide the highest levels of service possible and will continue to work hard to find ways to provide even better service and a safer community while being prudent with your tax dollars.”

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