Property crimes plague county, state at higher than average rates

MARYSVILLE — Burglars and thieves keep plenty busy in Snohomish County.

On an average day, they’ll pull off nearly 50 property crimes, and those are the ones that actually get reported to police.

Yet, when compared with the state, things don’t seem quite so bad.

Snohomish County accounts for 7 percent of the state’s property crimes but 11 percent of the population. It also has 11 percent of the state’s arrests for various ways of stealing, according to researchers who examined property crimes in Washington state.

The report grabbed headlines in January because it found that Washington has the nation’s highest rate for property crimes. Washington averages 3,710 property crimes per 100,000 people. The national average is 2,730.

The numbers are based on 2013 FBI statistics. They include burglaries, auto theft, car break-ins, identity theft and other crimes.

State lawmakers continue to debate what should be done, including whether it makes sense to shorten sentences but increase community supervision to keep better tabs on felons when they are released. One bill passed through the Senate; another remains in the House.

In 2013, there were 17,655 reports of property crime in the county. Statewide the total exceeded a quarter million.

Police in Snohomish County made 3,002 property crime arrests during that time.

Statewide, more than two thirds of property crimes were committed by people with felony convictions.

That doesn’t surprise Marysville Police Department Sgt. James Maples, who leads a multi-agency group of detectives investigating property crimes in north Snohomish County.

Many of its arrests have involved repeat offenders and career criminals, he said. Some have been major players on the black market in the business of selling off stolen loot.

“It’s either that’s what they know, or heroin, and they have to supply their demand,” he said. “If you don’t have a place to take it, you may have to find another way to get your dope.”

Each arrest of a major mover of stolen goods shrinks the options for thieves and burglars, he said.

Between early January and through March, the north county property crimes unit made 119 arrests, recovered $198,000 in stolen goods and seized $27,000 in cash. It also was able to return items to 52 victims.

The team includes officers from several jurisdictions who work in the same office. The strategy recognizes that many thieves cross boundaries between different cities and unincorporated parts of the county. The idea is to share knowledge among the detectives.

People can help detectives with criminal investigations and improve the odds of getting their stolen goods back by recording serial numbers and taking photos of the valuable items, especially jewelry, Everett police officer Aaron Snell said. Neighborhood block watches have programs to help people create records of their belongings.

It also is important to report stolen items as soon as possible because thieves often unload their loot quickly, Snell said.

Maples said the ability to work fast has helped the north county property crimes unit.

“We have been able to get to the property quickly, to get to it before it is farmed out,” he said.

Sometimes the detectives enlist victims to help with online searches with many items popping up on craigslist.org or offerup.com, he said.

Eric Stevick: 425-339-3446; stevick@heraldnet.com.

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