Crime on Mercer Island increased by 11.3% in 2020

Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs releases report.

When the 583-page Crime in Washington 2020 publication was recently released, it revealed that Mercer Island’s numbers in the largest category of reported offenses rose by 11.3% from the previous year.

With a population of 24,690 as of Oct. 31, 2020, that percentage is one of the lower marks among cities with similar populations in the state.

The 41st annual publication, released by the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs, is based on crime statistics data submitted from state law enforcement agencies using the National Incident-Based Reporting System. The data is based on a “snapshot” of the repository database as of April 20, the report notes.

In the Mercer Island Group A offenses reported spreadsheet, the total is 798 for 2020 compared to 717 for 2019. The Mercer Island Police Department (MIPD) — which has 30 full-time commissioned officers, according to the report — made 60 arrests in 2020.

In breaking down the categories with the most offenses, there were 345 larceny-theft offenses (up from 307 in 2019); 181 property destruction offenses (up from 141); 106 fraud offenses (up from 99); 78 burglaries (up from 66); 23 simple assaults (up from 19); 13 motor vehicle thefts (down from 20); and 12 counterfeiting/forgery offenses (down from 25). There were zero murders and manslaughters.

In the Group B category, the report listed 26 DUI arrests on the Island in 2020.

Jennifer Franklin, MIPD emergency preparedness officer, said the Island’s crime rate is always in the low range and the report’s numbers are fairly accurate because details on some cases may fluctuate over time.

After the report hits their desks and they evaluate the numbers, “We can go down and see what are the areas that we can start focusing our emphasis on, our patrols on. For us, it’s usually property crime,” Franklin said.

Since April, officers have been conducting emphasis patrols for vehicle prowls and thefts, and lately they’ve been focusing on speeders who are burning around the East and West Mercer Way loop. Franklin said it appears they’ve had fewer vehicle prowls over the last month, so the patrols are impactful.

The vehicle-prowl emphasis patrols involve detectives driving undercover cars and officers keeping a sharper eye on things during their regular patrols. On the speeding front, officers are even more diligent in stopping drivers applying a hefty pedal to the metal.

On helping to deter crime in general, Franklin said it’s vital that people know their neighbors and watch out for each other. On July 10, MIPD had its first in-person block watch meeting since the pandemic hit. MIPD also has its Paws on Patrol program on tap, and National Night Out is set from 5-8 p.m. on Aug. 3 when residents are asked to lock doors, turn on outside lights and spend the evening with neighbors.

“I think once people can start to actually get to see their neighbors again, get to know who’s in that block, what should be there, what shouldn’t, that’s when it makes a difference,” said Franklin, noting that people should call 911 first and not go straight to Nextdoor to share incident details.

When it comes to fraud, Franklin said that older residents often fall victim to identity theft or other incidents by giving out personal information online or by phone. MIPD hopes to resurrect its fraud prevention presentations at long-term care facilities soon.

“You should never give personal information over either the Internet or the phone unless it’s something that you’ve trusted, like it’s your secure bank account (if) you do online banking. Otherwise, none of that information should go out. 99.9 percent of the time, it is fraud,” said Franklin, adding that younger residents are also affected by fraud.