Drug Addiction Behind Crime Spike in Washington State

Posted by , , at 11:04 am

Many jurisdictions report that statistics for residential crime – especially burglary – remain stubbornly high (and have even spiked, in some locales): the FBI states that that a burglary happens somewhere in the US just about every 14 seconds. Despite an improving economy and stronger employment in many areas, home intrusions just won’t let up. Law enforcement professionals increasingly point to one significant factor in residential crime: drug use and addiction. And from rural Clallam County, Washington, on the Olympic Peninsula, comes this article on the connection between burglary and addiction.

Burglars fueled by heroin and other drug addictions have ramped up activities on the North Olympic Peninsula, say law enforcement officials. “What we are finding is an opiate drug habit seems to be the common denominator in our burglary suspects,” said Clallam County Sheriff Bill Benedict. “It may well be they’re not connected to heroin, but it sure seems to be a lot of the same people,” he said. Jefferson County Sheriff’s Detective Brett Anglin also said drugs seem to be a primary motivation for burglaries. “I’ve found that to be the case in all of our investigations,” he said.

The Hard Facts

Burglaries rose 33 percent in Clallam County in 2012 over 2011, and law officials say the trend continued through the first month of this year. “We’re definitely having a rash of these,” Clallam County Sheriff Bill Benedict said. In 2012, there were 384 burglaries reported in Clallam County, a large spike over the 289 burglaries of 2011. This January showed no relief from the burglary wave, with 43 burglaries across the county, a leap from the 23 in January 2012.

Another County Heard From

[Neighboring] Jefferson County Sheriff Tony Hernandez said that with the proliferation of online pawn shops, stolen property is much easier to sell to distant buyers or to one another, often swapping stolen goods for drug money. Hernandez added that burglars are stealing and fencing across county lines. That, he said, makes it harder for multiple jurisdictions to recognize the tool thief or the mail thief who might be infamous in his home county. “There’s this connectedness between them, where they’ve developed these networks to fence property, more often than not for drugs,” Hernandez said.

Feeding the Habit

Clallam County Sheriff’s Sgt. John Keegan said heroin users turn to burglary to finance their addiction. “If you have somebody that’s got a $100-, $200-, $300-a-day controlled-substance habit and they have no steady income, that’s what they’re going to do,” Keegan said. Most of the burglaries so far this year have been in the unincorporated parts of East Clallam County. According to www.crimereports.com, a website that logs the locations of calls from the Clallam County Sheriff’s Office and Port Angeles and Sequim police departments, 17 burglaries have been reported in the unincorporated area around Sequim, mostly south toward Dungeness. In 2012, there were 286 burglaries in Port Angeles, a 15 percent hike from the 248 in 2011.

More Scary Statistics

Clallam County’s 2012 community health assessment showed hardcore drug use has risen sharply over the past decade. The report, prepared by Beth Lipton, epidemiologist with the Kitsap Public Health District for Clallam County, showed the county had 31 opiate-related hospitalizations per 100,000 citizens, with 20.7 deaths per 100,000, well above the state averages of 21.8 hospitalizations and 10.0 deaths.  Jefferson County had 22.3 hospitalizations per 100,000 and 17.7 deaths.  In 1992, Clallam County had a rate of 3.5 opiate hospitalizations per 100,000.

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