Mercer Island is a safe community, but that doesn't mean residents shouldn't take precautions against crime. With thefts and burglaries as the most common crimes on the Island, the police officers who spoke at the Mercer Island Rotary Club luncheon on Jan. 8 stressed two basic crime prevention tips: lock your doors and get an alarm system. Police respond to every activated house alarm they are dispatched to.
"Mercer Island is still a very safe place to live and work, and we want to keep that reputation," Officer Rob Jira said.
Jira, with Officer Shawn Griffin, said that non-Islanders account for two-thirds of all arrests. Interstate 90 grants easy access to outsiders who don't have the best intentions. There are 24,000 Island residents, but that number doubles with people coming on and off the Island.
But that doesn't mean crime is more prevalent on the North end. Instead, crime activity is "a lot more scattered," Jira said. "We're seeing it all over the place."
Criminals especially target darker areas. Police recommended installing motion sensor lights, and making sure house numbers are well lit and visible so that police can easily find the residence when responding to an incident.
The number of burglaries in 2012 totaled 87, an increase from 59 the previous year. Jira said the Island is currently in the middle of an uptick in burglaries, and there has been an increase in daytime break-ins and interrupted burglaries. Thefts in 2012, however, were down from the previous year by 26 percent, at 250 total.
"Thieves will steal products that can be resold," said Griffin, who addressed commercial crime and added that a major deterrent is not to be an easy target.
Workplace violence was also discussed. Police recommended being aware of what's going on with employees and coworkers, identifying potential problems before they escalate, and even coordinating with the MIPD about the workplace layout and having a plan.
The officers answered questions from the audience ranging from marijuana legalization and gang activity (not found here) to self-defense, and recommended that if one has a firearm for defense, to know its capabilities and to be trained in it.
Other tips included: don't leave valuable items in cars such as purses, GPS units, laptops; take pictures of valuable items kept at home, and keep a list of serial numbers of important items. And have a plan if you don't feel comfortable when your spouse or family member is at home alone.
While 100 percent safety can't ever be guaranteed, Griffin said, "Our goal is not to have any victims. We need your help in order to help us be successful."
Other crimes in 2012 included 35 assaults, two robberies and two rapes. Auto thefts decreased by half, with seven in 2012 and 14 the prior year. Police made 277 arrests in 2012, down from 354 in 2011. Accidents were also down last year, with 139 in 2012 and 166 in 2011. The number of parking tickets doubled in 2012, at 782. Citations totaled 3,270 in 2012 and 3,780 the previous year.
See the City of Mercer Island's Crime Prevention handbook here.