News

Tickets up, crime down

Adding a full-time parking enforcement officer resulted in over 200 more parking tickets issued by the city last year as the number of crimes reported and arrests made by Island police fell.

A total of 713 parking citations were issued in 2007, according to data released by the Mercer Island police department last week. The year before, only 491 parking violators were ticketed, an increase of 45 percent.

At the beginning of last summer, the city’s new police support officer, Kim Druktenis, started enforcing parking restrictions in the Town Center and around the high school regularly.

“Our citations went up considerably then,” said Police Chief Ed Holmes. “We used to handle parking enforcement by complaint only, and now we take a proactive stance on parking instead of reactive toward the calls we receive.”

Police also issued another 3,340 traffic citations to drivers for moving or criminal violations on Mercer Island.

There were 79 fewer serious criminal offenses reported to Island police in 2007. Property crimes continue to make up the majority of illegal activity on the Island. Thefts decreased by about 25 percent, with 59 fewer this year than the 253 reported in 2006. However, four more auto thefts took place in 2007 while forgeries and assaults went down. One more burglary happened in 2007 than in 2006, with a total of 76 last year.

Police made fewer arrests in 2007 but the number of juveniles taken into custody increased by about 50 percent. Last year, there were 79 youth arrested compared to the 52 in 2006. Crimes classified as malicious mischief, such as minor property damages and graffiti, decreased from 107 in 2006 to 95.

The number of drunk driving arrests and accidents increased on the Island in 2007. There were 10 DUI accidents on the Island last year, the same amount as in 2005. Only one occurred in 2006.

There were also 49 drunk drivers arrested on the Island in 2007, eight more than the previous year. However, that is not a result of extra patrols, Holmes said.

“We always try to participate in campaigns such as the ‘Drive Hammered, Get Nailed,’ but last year we were short staffed,” said the police chief. “Those numbers are reflective of just our routine enforcement.”

Holmes also said that the DUIs listed in the report did not include boaters arrested on Lake Washington by the department’s marine patrol.

The number of vehicle accidents that occurred on Mercer Island in 2007 also increased. There were 238 car accidents on the Island last year, compared to 214 in 2006.

Holmes estimates that the numbers reflect most of the Island’s crimes. He said some lower level crimes may not be reported by victims, but he encouraged anyone who thinks they have been a victim of a crime to call the police.

“It’s important for residents to know that they won’t be a bother to us,” Holmes said. “We’d rather have somebody call if they are not sure.”

Other crimes that occurred on Mercer Island may not be reflected in the numbers because another agency handled the case. For instance, zero rapes were reported in the Island data released last week, but a high-profile arrest and subsequent charges accuse the former Youth Theatre Northwest director, Ben Keylin, of raping a young woman in his Island condo in December.

“Bellevue was the lead agency in that case, so it would be reflected as one of their cases,” Holmes said. “If it is reported to us, then it is reflected in our [statistics].”

For more information, go to the city Website at www.mercergov.org.

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