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), 2006-2011City 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