By Rikki King Herald Writer
STANWOOD — At 9 a.m. sharp, the blinds rolled up at the Stanwood Police Department.
The remodeled bank building downtown announces its tenant in two ways: old-school lettering on the windows and a wooden welcome sign outside, shaped like a goose.
Rick Hawkins has been police chief here for about a year. He’s been working to build community partnerships and revamp Business Watch and Neighborhood Watch programs.
“There’s not a lot of crime here,” Hawkins said. “It’s a good place to live, work, play and shop.”
As Hawkins drove around the city one morning last month, he saw community policing in progress — and places where more work could be done.
On one block, the chief pointed out a bank that’s added a security guard outside. In one neighborhood, somebody’s been stealing power tools. In another, city officials have been seeking grant funding to build a sidewalk to improve safety for kids walking to school.
Stanwood, a city of 6,200 in north Snohomish County, contracts with the sheriff’s office for police services.
Deputies in blue Stanwood uniforms routinely assist city parks staff with closing and opening gates, Hawkins said. They sometimes check on street lights and report burned-out bulbs.
“We’re out here. We might as well do it while we’re out on patrol,” he said.
Still, Stanwood has seen a few large-scale police incidents in past years, including a shooting at an assisted living home last week.
In March, a 3-year-old Camano Island boy fatally shot his sister with their father’s handgun in the family’s van, which was parked near City Hall. The shooting brought a lot of attention, in part because the girl’s father is a Marysville police officer. The court case just recently wrapped up. The Marysville internal investigation is ongoing.
Then, in September, the city’s uptown shopping center was shut down for hours one morning after a deputy shot and wounded a suspected serial bank robber. The suspect survived. His court case is ongoing. At least two other serial bank robbers have targeted Stanwood in recent years.
Early in 2012, Stanwood Mayor Dianne White asked Hawkins to develop a robbery prevention program, she said. She’s a pharmacist, and she knew pharmacies and banks often are targeted for holdups.
Stanwood police met with bank employees in town in the spring, Hawkins said. The FBI joined them and shared tips.
“We were building that open communication,” he said. “Part of this is just listening.”
In the fall, someone robbed a fast-food sandwich shop in town. Police since have made an arrest.
The incident alarmed Leslie Tripp, the State Farm agent for Stanwood and Camano Island. She and Hawkins serve together on the board of Stanwood’s Chamber of Commerce.
Soon after the restaurant robbery, she ran into Hawkins at a grocery store in town. She asked the chief to find a way to educate local business owners about crime prevention.
About 25 people attended the first Business Watch meeting in November, Hawkins said. They shared safety concerns and talked about security issues.
The next Business Watch meeting is planned sometime before spring, Tripp said.
Meanwhile, Stanwood police are using social media to keep people informed. The department’s Facebook page has more than 1,380 followers, the most for any police page in the county.
The day the bank robber was shot, phone calls flooded City Hall and the police station, Hawkins said. There wasn’t a lot city staff could say.
They’ve since joined Nixle, an online program where people can sign up to receive free text and email emergency alerts. Stanwood is trying to keep the alerts limited to major incidents, Hawkins said. An alert went out soon after last week’s shooting, letting people know no children had been hurt.
Hawkins’ drive through town last month took him through Copper Station, a neighborhood on the north end of Stanwood where about 100 homes are being built.
One of the first new Neighborhood Watch meetings was held there in early January, he said. About 40 people attended.
Police talked to them about when and how to report potential crimes.
About 3 the next morning, someone who had attended the meeting called 911, Hawkins said. There was a suspicious car in her neighborhood.
The “suspicious” activity turned out to be a deputy on patrol, Hawkins said. But the caller was doing what she was supposed to — keeping a lookout.
Development at Copper Station dried up during the economic downturn a few years ago, Hawkins said. Last month, construction was bustling again, with workers putting up housing frames and digging foundations.
“This is good,” Hawkins said. “This is good stuff.”
Rikki King: 425-339-3449; firstname.lastname@example.org.