Port Orchard Police saw a sizable increase in calls for service through the first half of 2012, continuing a three-year increase in calls.
The police department fielded 11,723 calls through June of this year, a 33 percent uptick over the same time last year, said Port Orchard Police Chief Alan Townsend. This continues a trend that saw an eight percent rise in overall calls from 2010 to 2011 and nearly a 20 percent uptick from 2009 to 2010.
According to a 2011 annual report released earlier this year by the Port Orchard Police Department, there was a 9 percent increase in all crimes and a small jump in the number of violent crimes in Port Orchard in 2011.
According to a report released by the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs, Kitsap County as a whole saw a 8.3 percent increase in total crime from 2010 to 2011, but had a sizable drop in violent crimes.
Townsend said the numbers reported for the first half of 2012 are for service calls only, and don’t necessarily always relate to crimes committed in the city. Service calls can also be non-crime related, such as a cat stuck in a tree.
The annexation of the Bethel Corridor North, 570 acres of mostly commercial properties, accounts for a large percentage of the increased service calls, Townsend said. However, he said police officers are seeing more calls in areas that were already part of the city before the annexation in April.
“The numbers are up significantly,” Townsend said. “My guess is it’s related to Bethel, but I can’t say that for sure. We’ve seen an increase around the rest of the city.”
So far, Townsend said the police force has seen “about what was expected” from the Bethel annexation. Police officers have dealt with more shoplifting, credit card fraud and bad checks than before, he said. Two houses, one on Salmonberry Road and the other on Bethel Road, have also shown some drug activity. But violent crime rates have stayed the same and nothing too outside of what was expected has occurred in the new area, Townsend said.
“We were expecting an increase and we are getting it,” he said. “Mostly our spikes have been occurring in existing city limits.”
The police department has dealt with employee shortfalls this summer, which is the busiest time of year, Townsend said. Two police officers were injured on the job — one during a domestic violence fight and the other at a Van Zee Park arrest — and are out on medical leave. The shortage in staff complicates the shift changes in a small department.
“It’s always a balancing act,” he said.
An additional police officer will be added to the force in mid-September, growing the police force to help keep up with the Bethel annexation.
Money to pay for the new officer position was approved by the Port Orchard City Council earlier this year and will be paid for with additional revenues from the annexation.