At the February 26th city council meeting, Snoqualmie Police Chief Perry Phipps and Captain Nick Almquist gave an overview of the department’s 2017 year-end report, including the number of calls for service, types and breakdown of incidents responded to, response time, and community policing operations.
As was the case of the past few years – and because of the department’s policy of ‘No Call to Small’ – SPD still has a high call volume from the cities its officers patrol – North Bend and Snoqualmie. For the approximate 20,000 citizens in both cities, SPD received about 11,000 calls for service in 2017, which was roughly flat compared to 2016. Issaquah PD by comparison had about 16,000 calls for service last year for approximately 37,000 residents.
The response time – measured by the time takes from when a level 2 or 3 call comes into 911 and the officer arrives on scene – in Snoqualmie was about 6 1/2 minutes. For North Bend it was faster at 4 1/2 minutes. Captain Almquist said as the department gets back to full staffing levels with its Snoqualmie officers, that Snoqualmie response time should decrease.
Good news was reported as Chief Phipps announced he had hired two new officers to fill Snoqualmie positions open
since last year. For the past few years law enforcement agencies statewide have faced an officer shortage. New officers Jake Gall and Katie Kent will attend the state’s policy academy in June, but are already doing ride-alongs and getting familiar with the city.
Phipps said now that Snoqualmie officer staffing levels have improved, he looks forward filling two detective positions that were funded by a public safety levy passed in 2016. He did warn council members that next year they may notice an increase in the number of felony cases filed due to the hiring of detectives, but said this doesn’t mean crime is going up, rather they will have detectives who are trained and specialize in getting felony cases filed.
Phipps said he didn’t want this potential increase to alarm council members or make them feel ‘the town is going down,’ but rather that the level of service and detection is going up.
As far as the types of crimes reported in North Bend and Snoqualmie last year, some of the highlights were that burglaries and car prowls were down 27% and 51%. Domestic violence and injury collision incidents also decreased by 42% and 26%.
The amount of traffic stops made by officers saw a sharp 66% increase. Captain Almquist said that was due to increased traffic patrols in certain areas like Snoqualmie Parkway in response to complaints. Almquist said of those being pulled over for speeding on the Parkway, it was a ‘mixed bag’ of local residents and people just ‘zipping through.’ Due to the notable increase in traffic stops, the amount of tickets doubled in 2017.
Three other incident types that saw notable increases in 2017 were DUI’s – up 40%; DUI collisions doubled; felony drug arrests also doubled; trespassing – up 50%; and misdemeanor drug infractions – up 23%.
Felony and misdemeanor cases filed by SPD were broken down by city for the report, with North Bend incidents accounting for 65% of the total. The department reported officers only had to use force – defined at anything in excess of a wrist lock – one time each in 2016 and 2017, a statistic described as ‘absolutely amazing’ by Phipps who just finished his first year in Snoqualmie after working in a much larger California police department.
Chief Phipps emphasized the performance of the department, though, is much more that just the numbers. He explained that while the numbers will reflect the amount of work done, they don’t reflect the level of service given by officers and the vital “human element.”
Phipps praised his officers, saying the department is ‘really good’ at the human element in service to the community. He noted that he gets about 2-3 emails a week from residents expressing how well officers treated them. Phipps commented, “We may take that for granted, but I’m telling you, it’s not the norm and it’s nice to have that here.”
Some other items of importance: The department has begun the process of switching vehicles from Chevy Tahoes to Ford Interceptors at a savings of $20,000 – $25,000 per vehicle. As each Tahoe ages out, the switch will occur. Another switch will be in ballistic vests, moving to an outer vest worn over the shoulders that is better for officers’ spines. SPD is also working to increase its social media use to help inform residents about incidents and events.
Chief Phipps was very pleased with the departments community policing efforts, too, noting the popularity of the new ‘Coffee with a Cop’ program which they plan to do every 6-8 weeks in North Bend and Snoqualmie. The Tanner Jeans Bicycle Rodeo, National Night Out, Rape Aggression Defense Training, and Chief for a Day programs will also continue this year.
SPD Patrol Operations
SPD Cases Filed