A spike in burglaries in 2012, and particularly home burglaries, on Mercer Island helped prompt a Mercer Island Police Department presentation on public safety to the Rotary Club of Mercer Island on Jan. 8.
Mercer Island police officers Rob Jira and Shawn Griffin told the audience that while the community was second only to Sammamish in the lowest rates of crime on the Eastside, but Mercer Island had developed a reputation as something of an "easy target". Jira said that of those caught and arrested, nearly 2/3 were off-Island residents who had come over I-90 to commit a crime.
"When we catch (suspected burglars) and interview them they tell us 'It’s a great score, and everybody leaves their doors unlocked',” he said.
There were 87 burglaries on Mercer Island in 2012, according to preliminary statistics released by the MIPD (click on the image of a statistical graph to the right of this story to enlarge). Police also documented 250 theft incidents in 2012 and 7 car thefts — lower than last year, when a rash of car prowls drove thefts skywards — but burglaries saw a significant increase over 59 in 2011 and 24 percent above the average over the past decade. The last time burglary was this prevalent on Mercer Island was in 2004, when 102 burglaries were reported in an unusually busy crime year.
"We are seeing increase in daytime and interrupted burglary." Jira said. "Right now, they’re getting a lot more bold in their tactics, but there’s a lot you can do to prevent this."
Jira said that a recent City Hall satisfaction survey of residents said that 94 percent of repondents said they "feel safe", but the perception can give residents a false sense of security. He said the MIPD was encouraging residents to take preventative measures and "make it harder" for criminals to break in to local homes and businesses.
Two key crime prevention tactics that the public can use that have the biggest impact are locking doors to homes, garages, vehicles and businesses, and using an alarm system.
"It also increases our chances of getting your stuff back, and, maybe even catching them," Jira said.
MIPD also has the ability to fight crime thanks to an ability to pay attention to detail, unlike larger departments.
He described a call he had been on earlier that morning on Tuesday, Jan. 7 at 12:30 a.m., when an officer reported a suspicious vehicle near the high school and discovered through a license plate check that it was an off-Island vehicle. The officer later detained and arrested several people for criminal tresspass after he saw them peering into windows of several homes, and found they were carrying "tools" commonly used in burglaries: gloves, stocking caps, screwdrivers, baseball bats and other items.
Officer Griffin, who focused on crime in the business community, said one of the biggest issues he sees is the opportunity that retail businesses present to a criminal element, such as a July 9 shoplifting incident when two men tried to steal approximately $2,000 in liquor from the North-end QFC. He also mentioned several other incidents when businesses found unsecured belongings were stolen as they conducted their daily affairs, and cautioned businesses to stay aware of conflict in the workplace and prevent violence before it happens.
"If a product can be re-sold, they will steal it," he said. "Help us to be a deterrent. Don’t make it easy for them."
More Patch police coverage on burglaries:
- Burglars Hit Several Homes in a Week on Mercer Island — Mercer Island Police Blotter
- Protecting your Valuables in a Burglary
- Police Blotter: Burglars Ransack Madrona Crest Home
- Police Blotter: Tony Maroni's Struck in Daylight Burglary
- Police Blotter: Woman Interrupts Home Burglary