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Theft, Property Crime Drives Mercer Island Crime Rate Higher in 2011

An annual state crime report released earlier this month indicates a return to average crime rates in 2011 after an abnormally low level of crime in 2010.

Wave after wave of . Several homes in nearly every neighborhood. stolen — sometimes right off a pier or dock. If it seemed like crime was on the rise in 2011 — you were right, according to an annual statewide crime report released earlier this month.

The reported a year-over-year increase of 24.9 percent for 2011 in the city's crime rate, based on violent and property crime statistics published in the "Crime in Washington" report, published by the (WASPC).

Statewide, reports of all crimes fell 3.4 percent from 2010, while the violent crime rate fell 5 percent.

Mercer Island's jump in the crime rate comes after in the crime rate from 2009 — indicating the city has returned to an average level of crime seen over the past decade. Overall, 426 crimes were documented, which police said was the equivalent of 18.8 offenses per 1,000 residents (see the table below for a more detailed look at types of crimes and crime rates over the last 6 years).

The biggest increase in crime on Mercer Island was in larceny, or theft, increasing 27 percent to a total of 336 incidents. Mercer Island Police Commander Dave Jokinen said the community was experiencing an increase in property crime, punctuated by a string of crimes committed by one or two suspects.

"We're talking here about somebody who had something stolen from their yard, shopping cart, their car, or an item stolen from a locker at school," he said. "Our biggest crime problem here is property crime: thefts, car prowls and burglaries."

Jokinen said the overall number of crimes were low and the violent crime rate had actually dropped from last year (only 11 incidents — down from 14 — were reported). He cited the example of Mercer Island resident as an example of when crime does occur on Mercer Island, it usually comes in a short period of time committed by a single person. Judd was linked to over 50 car prowls in addition to the attempted robbery of a man at . He was later charged for attempted robbery and sentenced to 8 1/2 years in prison.

"Citizens can help us out by keeping an eye out. We're always very happy to respond to a suspicious report."

The MIPD also reported a 2.7 percent increase in the number of calls for service, responding to 13,043 incidents last year.

Mercer Island Mayor Bruce Bassett admitted the Island's reputation for safety can lull residents into a false sense of security — including his own family.

"As a resident whose busy wife sometimes arrives home, partially unpacks the car, then gets distracted and leaves the car doors open wide, I can attest to the great sense of security we feel here," he said. "Ours is one of the safest communities in the area and it's a reason we all love living on Mercer Island. But crime does occur here and while police work hard to prevent and solve crimes, we need to do our part too: Lock your vehicle and remove valuables.  Lock your home and close your garage. Call 911 if you notice suspicious activity in your neighborhood. Oh, and please don't leave things in your car with the doors wide open!"

Mercer Island compared well to other Eastside cities of similar size, including Kirkland, Bellevue, Redmond, and Issaquah. Only Sammamish's crime rates were lower, at 7.9 offenses per 1,000 residents.

"Looking at part one crimes we compare very well to our peers," said MIPD's Jokinen. "Property crime is also much lower — We're typically lower than our comparable cities."

In previous reports, the MIPD said the community's low crime figures were due to "a very small commercial sector, a road network consisting of very few arterials, and the demographics of this community (i.e. highly educated and high median household income)." Proactive police enforcement and educational outreach programs are also believed to contribute to the City’s very low crime rates. The presence of Interstate 90 and the belief that the road invites more crime, however, is thought to be the reason the Island's crime rate isn't lower than Sammamish, currently the third-lowest in the state (only Duvall and DuPont had a lower crime rate). Sammamish is not near a major freeway, making it less accessible.

Mercer Island Mayor Bruce Bassett attributed some of the increase to a regional increase in property crime trends, but suggested that citizens could do more.

"Be smart and do your part to help our police keep our crime rate low," he said.

EASTSIDE CITIES CRIME RATES (violent crimes per 1,000 residents/property crimes per 1,000 residents), 2006-2011

City 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 Sammamish 0.3/11.9 0.2/13.8 0.4/10.5 0.3/8.7 0.4/9.3 0.3/7.6 Mercer Island 1.0/21.3 0.3/17.9 0.6/18.7 0.5/18.1 0.6/14.3 0.5/18.3 Issaquah 0.4/46.6 0.4/35.0 0.6/31.0 0.7/23.6 1.1./27.1 0.8/24.0 Bellevue 1.6/36.6 1.2/35.6 1.4/36.1 1.3/32.9 1.1/30.9 1.1/28.9 Redmond 1.3/35.0 1.5/33.3 1.3/32.9 1.1/31.9 1.2/29.1 0.8/24.6 Kirkland 1.9/39.7 1.4/39.5 2.0/40.2 1.2/33.7 1.3/27.5 1.5/30.1 King Co. Average 4.1/51.5 3.7/44.5 3.5/40.4 3.9/42.0 3.4/41.1 3.4/39.7

MERCER ISLAND UCR PART 1 CRIME STATISTICS, 2005-2011

Offense

2005

2006

2007

2008

2009

2010

2011

Homicide

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

Rape

0

2

0

0

2

1

0

Robbery

2

2

1

3

2

4

3

Aggravated Assault

4

2

0

10

7

9

8

Simple Assault

31

24

26

43

49

43

37

Burglary

69

75

76

79

74

51

59

Theft

323

253

194

316

323

266

336

Auto Theft

37

25

29

32

14

10

14

DUI Arrests

--

53

47

57

50

76

65
Kendall Watson May 29, 2012 at 10:45 PM
The state's highest crime rate can be found a mere 3 miles away (as the crow flies) in Tukwila. With just over 19,000 residents (very close in size to MI), Police reported 193 violent crimes and 2,917 property crimes there. There were 163 crimes reported per 1,000 residents in 2011. One statistic where Mercer Island beat Tukwila? Arson! Mercer Island: 8, Tukwila: 6.
One of my clients was telling me about the increase in crime in her waterfront neighborhood. Burglars are casing neighborhoods by knocking on doors pretending to sell something. Her house was cased and she was home. Her neighbor was not and her house was burglarized. The neighbor also found her own kitchen knife in her bed. This is something else that burglars are doing. They are not coming in with a weapon but going straight to the kitchen to get one of yours. This story is unnerving to any of us who give older kids instructions not to answer the door and pretend not to be home when left alone. As an insurance agent, it reminds me of the importance of monitored alarms, friendly dogs, and the new push for in-wall safes for those with sentimental or high end valuables. One insurance company has even teamed with a wall safe consulting service.
Kendall Watson May 30, 2012 at 08:38 PM
Thanks Michelle. All the more reason to call police if you see something suspicious, as MIPD Cmdr. Jokinen advises. It is actually pretty rare to have your home burgalrized on MI. Out of nearly 10,000 homes and hundreds of commercial units, only 59 burglaries were reported. That said, I noticed a number of police blotter entries over the past year, however, where burglaries had taken place while the homeowner was away. While you can ask the newspaper and post office to hold deliveries, you can't always conceal that you're away on vacation. That's when other measures that you suggest come in handy.
Kendall Watson May 31, 2012 at 04:33 PM
Hi Jeff, Woah, thanks for the strong opinion on this! The cell phone issue seems to affect everyone and is a real safety issue, whether you're on foot or behind the wheel. I recall a student getting hit by a car last year while she was talking on her phone — not noticing a car driving down SE 42nd Street as she crossed in the middle of the block. Folks don't seem to use hands-free as much as they should. What do you think of government proposals to eliminate all cellphone use while driving, hands-free or not?
Kendall Watson May 31, 2012 at 04:40 PM
Perhaps more on point is the city's claim that in 2010 it had the second-lowest accident rate on the Eastside. Want to bet it stayed that way in 2011?

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