Residents expressed concerns about housing prices, drug deals in their neighborhoods and rising crime rates. Chief Deputy for the Bellingham Police Department Don Ahlmer told the meeting that while crime rates are up, the numbers have to be viewed with perspective.
“If you look at the numbers for aggravated assault, if a seven year average is 124, the last three-year average is roughly 50 more a year. You’re looking at one more assault a week . . . So, numbers are numbers . . . But I don’t want the public or anybody watching this to think, oh my gosh, there’s like a hundred extra assaults a day.” ~ Deputy Almer, Bellingham Police Department
Mayor Seth Fleetwood said the city needs more police officers.
“We’re fortunate to have a police department that is exceptional, made up of capable, caring, highly confident, trained professionals,” said Fleetwood. “But our staffing levels are down and we’re doing all we can to staff back up. And I know that we’re going to get there.”
Click here to watch a YouTube video of the meeting.
My opinion? The concerns of Bellingham’s citizens reflect national trends that crime – especially homicides and manslaughter – has increased. Covid disrupted every aspect of life in the past two years. Social services and supports that help keep crime down vanished overnight. Schools could no longer keep unruly teens safe and distracted. A broader sense of disorder and chaos could have fueled a so-called moral holiday, in which people disregard laws and norms.
Citizens are righteously concerned with crimes happening in their backyards. And yes, we need solutions. The solutions involve training and hiring police officers who are not racially biased. We need police officers who won’t conduct illegal searches/seizures. And we need police officers who won’t go about policing poverty. These practices strain the criminal justice system. They also burden impoverished people with fines for minor offenses and fracture the relationship between police and minorities.
Please contact my office if you, a friend or family member are charged with a crime. Hiring an effective and competent defense attorney is the first and best step toward justice.