Local analysis reveals more cops have led to fewer shootings

The Sunnyside Police Department's crime analyst, Courtney Percival, recently completed an annual crime analysis report for the city of Sunnyside.

She and Deputy Police Chief Phil Schenck presented the report to the city council last night, noting violent crimes have declined from 2010 to 2011.

The 40-page report contains data and figures compiled by Percival, and Schenck said, "We will never present the analysis as anything but what it is...we want to make sure it is presented fairly."

He said the crime data compiled includes the number of officers per 1,000 citizens.

Sunnyside, according to the figures presented, has about 1.77 officers per 1,000 citizens. Schenck said this is above average for the state. The Sunnyside officer numbers are compared to cities like Othello and Spokane, Grandview and Toppenish, as well as several others.

The highest number of officers in the analysis are 2.41 per 1,000 citizens in the city of Wapato. The lowest number was Spokane's 1.43 officers per 1,000 citizens.

"The MGT study did a good job of explaining how a large community can efficiently determine schedules," Schenck said, explaining how Spokane and larger cities like it can have fewer officers per 1,000 citizens.

Percival said there have been great strides in Sunnyside where violent crimes are concerned. The city's violent crime numbers peaked in 2010 over a six-year period spanning from 2005 to 2011.

In 2011, there were a significant number of fewer violent crimes than 2010.

The recently released analysis shows the highest homicide rate over the six years was in 2010 when there were the fewest number of officers in Sunnyside. There were six homicides that year, three of which occurred in July.

There were also 38 shootings in 2010, said Percival, stating 12 robberies and seven assaults against a police officer were reported that year.

Comparing Sunnyside to the state and national violent crime statistics, Percival also used the "per 1,000 citizens" to ensure accuracy.

She said violent crime rates have been steady over the past six years, but Sunnyside's rates fluctuated. The most dramatic fluctuation was in 2010 and Percival said Sunnyside's gang problem can be attributed to the differences.

"The numbers are adjusted per 1,000 to keep statistics consistent," said Percival.

Percival said a decline in property crimes has also been experienced in Sunnyside. She attributes a decline in residential burglaries and auto thefts to grant funding that provided police the opportunity to place an emphasis on directed patrols and added police presence where property crimes were most prevalent.

There was, however, an increase in major assaults. Percival said that is because police are able to respond to fights more quickly. Assaults are up 157 percent, whereas disorderly conduct calls have declined.

Fights were classified as disorderly conduct calls when police were unable to make contact with individuals involved, said Schenck. He said increased police patrols have provided officers the ability to contact individuals. "They used to scatter," he noted.

Another increase in DUIs and drug offenses has been recorded in Sunnyside, according Schenck.

He said that is because the gang unit has been operating. Schenck said there are more traffic stops made and officers have been trained to determine if the gang unit should be involved in the stops. Stopping motorists believed to be involved in gang activity has led to the increase in DUIs and drug offenses, according to the deputy police chief.

"It's intelligence led policing," said Schenck.

Giving an example of such police work, he said shoplifting reports have increased because the gang analyst has put together data regarding businesses targeted for shoplifting. That information has been shared with a sergeant tasked with contacting businesses. The sergeant and police officers have focused on those businesses at times when shoplifting incidents are at their highest.

Schenck said the gang elimination strategy has included basic security for the community. "Targeted enforcement has led to a reduction in shootings," he said.

Percival said there is a correlation between the number of shootings reported and the number of homicides.

When there is a police presence, there are fewer shootings which amount to fewer homicides, she said.

The two concluded that crime statistics have increased in some areas, but there has also been a decline in other areas. It is all attributed, said Schenck and Percival, to the presence of officers in the community.

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