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Communication can cut down crime

Of the 67 Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office deputies assigned to general patrol duties, 15 primarily work the North End. Two, sometimes three deputies, are on duty to patrol the area for trouble at all times.

But there is only so much the officers can do, especially when 90 percent of the time, they are dealing with the same 10 percent of the population, said KCSO spokesman and deputy Scott Wilson.

That’s when the residents’ efforts come into play.

While crime has been on the decline the past several years, KCSO officials attribute much of the drop to alert residents and their keen eye for suspicious activity in North Kitsap neighborhoods. Part of this effort is through the various KCSO volunteer groups geared toward making local neighborhoods safer.

This is the second article in a two-part series about crime in the North End. Wednesday’s article explored the various statistics on crime and today, different prevention tactics are explored.

A watchful eye keeps

the prowlers away

There are several programs for residents to help deputies — through Neighborhood Watch, Citizens on Patrol and Crimestoppers.

The Neighborhood Watch program is a tool that KCSO Community Resource Officer and Deputy Pete Ball believes has had the most impact on helping prevent crime in neighborhoods.

The idea is for a group of residents to work together to keep an eye on suspicious activity in their neighborhood. It doesn’t take long for potential prowlers to realize the area is being watched, Ball explained.

“Crooks pick up quick,” he said. “(It’s) putting the word ‘neighbor’ back in neighborhood.”

When something does come up, members of the program should call each other or 911. The program can be customized to each neighborhood and can be as flexible or restricted as residents want. Neighbors in one South Kitsap area, for instance, purchased walkie talkies and patrol their area regularly. But even having a simple phone tree makes a difference.

“That is an extremely effective program,” Ball said. “It works very well.”

Neighbors can get started by calling Ball at (360) 337-7074. He will send the necessary information and follow up with a community meeting presentation.

“To me, that’s the best, easiest crime prevention program in Kingston,” he said.

The Citizens on Patrol program consists of volunteer residents who assist deputies with various activities, including monitoring parking lots, which has helped make a big difference in parking lot enforcement, Ball said.

Volunteers also conduct home checks when residents are on vacation. Ball encourages homeowners to have friends and family members monitor the home as well and be contacts for the volunteers in case anything goes wrong.

Volunteers also conduct security surveys of homes and businesses and make suggestions on how to better protect their property.

For more information about Citizens on Patrol, call Jan Koske at (360) 337-4650.

Finally, Ball encourages residents to use Crimestoppers. A program in which concerned neighbors can call (800) CRIME-13 anonymously and make tips. If the tip pans out, the caller could be rewarded.

Keeping kids busy is another key effort to helping prevent crime in the area. The highest rate of criminal activity occurs within the 16-25 age bracket, Ball said.

“If we’ve got activities for those people to be involved with, they will tend to stay out of trouble,” he said, noting that the newly formed North Kitsap Boys & Girls Club is a great “crime prevention opportunity.”

Kingston Sheriff’s office is a mighty tool

While North Kitsap can’t expect to have a deputy on every street, KCSO officials encourage residents to use the local sheriff’s office as it provides many of the same services as the Port Orchard and Silverdale offices. The North End office is open from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday and is located on Illinois Avenue in Kingston, just off State Route 104.

Services include requests for reports, fingerprinting, background checks, concealed pistol licenses and walk-in complaints. A deputy can be contacted there and officials encourage residents to visit the office for non-urgent matters so not to tie up emergency services.

There is no holding cell or breath analyzer machine there, but deputies use such equipment at the Suquamish, Little Boston or Poulsbo Police Departments. Wilson said all agencies — county, city, tribal — have been working more closely together the past few years, which has helped improve communications between agencies, he said.

“These guys have been really good at (maintaining an) information loop network,” he said.

Drugs are minimal in the North End

Each area has its own problems with substance abuse or narcotics, Wilson said, which can range from stolen prescription drugs to fraudulent prescriptions being passed to illegal drugs. In Kitsap, the two most used illegal drugs are methamphetamine and marijuana.

The regional drug investigation agency, West Sound Narcotics Enforcement Team (WestNET), busted 37 meth labs county wide in 2004, down from 39 in 2003 and 51 in 2002, said WestNET Sergeant Randy Drake.

“So, really, in the last three years, they are decreasing almost 30 percent,” he said.

Meth labs are primarily found in South Kitsap because of its proximity to Pierce County, which is the “800-pound elephant” of meth labs, Drake said.

However, the North End’s rural environment can attract such activity and officers have found a couple meth spots, such as Suquamish and Gamblewood, Drake said, and several labs were busted in 2004.

But overall, the North End is quiet compared to the rest of the county.

“It’s a different socioeconomic group up there,” Drake said, noting the population tends to be older and is more well off than those of typical users.

The latest effort to decrease meth production and use has been KCSO’s newest education program, “Blab On The Lab,” and lets residents know what to look for in a meth lab. Several things residents should be on the look out for include:

• Unknown chemical odors or ammonia-based smells coming from a boarded up home

• Suspicious activity such as busy foot or car traffic at night, but for brief periods

• Illegal or excessive amounts of garbage

As for marijuana, Drake said 6 percent more cases were investigated in 2004 than 2003. Officers arrested 210 people in 2004 related to marijuana cases, compared to the 208 in 2003. There were also 7,717 plants confiscated from 92 different growing operations.

For more information, go to www.kitsapgov.com/press/methwatch/default.htm.

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