SPOKANE COUNTY, Wash. -- Violent crime is on the rise again across Spokane County, after years of a downward trend.
The numbers increased only slightly in the Sheriff’s Office jurisdiction but in the city of Spokane, violent crimes were up more than 40 percent.
Spokane County Sheriff’s deputies saw an impact in major crimes by going hard after property and minor crimes. Since 2007, the violent crime rate dropped from 2.5% to .9% - down a full 64%.
“Those are the things you have to keep in check,” said Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich. “If you don't, then you'll see your violent crime really start spiking.”
In Spokane, murder, robbery, and assault were all up from 2011 to 2012. Police Chief Frank Straub said, however, that was in the face of 17 fewer officers and limited resources. Straub insisted they were still winning the war.
“The fact that violent crime is down almost four percent consistently when you've had 17 vacancies, that really talks about the herculean effort of our officers and the tremendous work they're doing,” said Chief Straub.
Both the city and the county are also part of the Violent Crimes Task Force, along with state and federal authorities. Authorities said that organization has been a big part of the steady 22% decline in major crimes since 2007 - from 4.5 to 3.5 in just five years. Even that area has suffered in recent times, however.
“We haven't been able to focus and send as many resources into that arena for the last four years,” said Sheriff Knezovich
Across the board, the 2012 violent crime numbers indicated an upward trend.
“It will be a sign of things to come, if we're not diligent in keeping it down, and if we don't get resources,” Knezovich said. “We need more staffing. There's no other way to say that.”
Chief Straub argued it would take more than just law enforcement. He planned to launch specific programs aimed at youth before they even start a life of crime.
“[It’s] really specific on prevention and building good relationships,” said Straub.
Both the Sheriff’s Office and SPD said they were hiring. Both organizations also said, however, they were barely keeping up with retirements. The two organizations together had lost more than 60 deputies and police officers in recent years.