Whitman Co. cracks down on property crimes

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by OTHELLO RICHARDS & KREM.com

KREM.com

Posted on May 30, 2014 at 6:14 PM

Updated Friday, May 30 at 8:03 PM

SPOKANE, Wash.--The Spokane County Sheriff’s Office has taken a different approach than the Whitman County Sheriff’s Office when it came to solving burglary cases. Man power and the volume of property crime dictated the response for both Sheriff’s Offices.

Whitman County Sheriff deputies determined items found at a Thornton property were stolen after they investigated a rash of burglaries and break-ins in May.

“My officers, when they get a burglary…that's a case that they will work until that case is either solved or closed,” said Whitman County Sheriff Brett Myers.

Myers’ policy was that his deputies put boots on the ground anytime the Sheriff’s Office received a report of a property crime.

“But we feel that it's important that an officer actually go to the scene and see the information that's left behind if there is any,” said Myers. “Look for evidence like tire tracks and fingerprints and make sure that they make contact with the victim.”

Myers said he felt his office’s ability to solve cases went up when deputies responded to every crime.

“We know it works here in Whitman County. It's a really good system that we have in Whitman County and it works,” said Myers. “Fortunately we have the resources to do that.”

It was a different story in Spokane County.

“I wish we had the manpower to be able to assign every single case that comes in, whether it's solvable or not but we have to do a triage of sorts for these reports that come in,” said Spokane County Sheriff Lieutenant John Nowels.

Nowels supervised the Spokane County Sheriff Office’s Property Crimes unit. He said detectives looked daily at the property crime reports generated by deputies or Crime Check. Nowels said his unit chooses which cases to pursue based on solvability.

“Do we have serial numbers of the items that were stolen?  Was there a suspect listed? Was there a significant MO that we are aware of that's going on repeatedly?” said Nowels. “Reports that have no solvability, nothing for us to follow up on, those cases we don't assign because simply we don't have the man power to assign them and our probability of making an arrest out of it is very low.”

Nowels said 70 percent of cases they believed they could solve were assigned to a detective. In the first half of 2013, Nowels said five Sheriff detectives were assigned 214 cases and solved 82 percent of them. He said 76 percent of those resulted in an arrest.

Nowels said he wished the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office had the ability to tackle all the cases deemed solvable.

“I tell you we deal with phone calls all day long with people who are frustrated we are not working their crimes,” said Nowels.

Nowels said the Sheriff’s Office was down 34 deputies since 2008. He said most of the deputies were from the investigative division.

“That seriously hampers our ability to investigate these crimes after they have occurred,” said Nowels.

In Whitman County, Myers had a staff of 18 deputies, including him. Myers covered a smaller population  than the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office.

“We don't have so many of these burglaries or property crimes that we can't respond,” said Nowels.

Whitman County had fewer property crimes than Spokane County.

Officials with the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office said its data showed property crimes in the county were down in the first quarter of 2014 compared to in May.

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