Bellingham is a city of active, engaged neighborhoods, among the many attractive qualities about Bellingham that inspired me to be your police chief. Bellingham residents' connections to their neighborhoods and the city government's commitment to engaging with them makes our city ideal for solving problems through community policing concepts.
If you are unfamiliar with community policing it is best described as local police departments working together with residents, neighborhoods, businesses, government agencies, non-profit organizations and others to prevent crime and promote community safety. Community policing has been the organizational philosophy of the Bellingham Police Department for many years, and we intend to expand our efforts in the months ahead.
Community policing has been particularly successful in areas with strong community connections and problem-solving systems. Bellingham has many such resources in place, among the most important being the active organization and advocacy of our 25 neighborhood associations. I am making it a personal priority to meet with each neighborhood association during my first few months on the job. Since I started on Feb. 4, I have already had the pleasure of attending meetings of two neighborhood associations and I expect to attend many more in the weeks ahead. I also am scheduled to participate in the March 20 meeting of the Mayor's Neighborhood Advisory Commission.
The Bellingham Police Department works very closely with neighborhood organizations and in recent years has had in place an innovative community policing/problem solving unit: the Neighborhood Anti-Crime Team.
NEIGHBORHOOD ANTI-CRIME TEAM
Typically, neighborhood residents are most aware of what goes on in their area and are our "eyes and ears" when it comes to crime prevention and enforcement. The Neighborhood Anti-Crime Team partners with residents to address neighborhood-related issues, find lasting solutions to problems, and make our neighborhoods safer, more comfortable and pleasant places to live.
Formed in 2009, the Neighborhood Anti-Crime Team is a proactive investigations unit charged with preventing, targeting and suppressing crimes through the use of focused enforcement to address crime trends, apprehend repeat offenders and lead the efforts in neighborhood problem solving.
The team uses a variety of techniques, including preventing crime through environmental design, uniformed and plain-clothes officers, bicycle, foot and car patrols, surveillance and the use of information gained from criminal intelligence and crime analysis. A few of the common problems the team tackles include gang activity, drug transactions, vehicle prowls, residential burglaries, disruptive party-houses, mail theft and graffiti.
The Neighborhood Anti-Crime Team works closely with community members and in particular with neighborhood association representatives and Block Watch participants to develop effective solutions to local quality of life issues. When problems are identified, team members reach out to other units within the police department, other city services and to other organizations, groups and community members who possess the expertise, staffing, equipment and appropriate resources to assist in their efforts.
NEIGHBORHOOD TEAM SUCCESS STORIES
We have had many successes since the Neighborhood Anti-Crime Team began. During the last six months of 2012, for example, more than 600 felony and misdemeanor charges were filed by Neighborhood Anti-Crime Team personnel. Here are a few examples of the work of this team:
In the team's first months, two individuals were arrested for possession of heroin and we were able to link those individuals to 11 local burglaries.
The team investigated a neighborhood theft ring that resulted in the seizure of 10 firearms, including several assault rifles, ammunition, one-half pound of heroin, ecstasy and nearly $12,000 in cash. Stolen property was also recovered at a suspect's residence.
The team's work on mail theft last year resulted in the arrest, successful conviction and sentencing of two people found to have extensive stolen mail at their residence. Originally discovered during the course of searching a burglary suspect's apartment, the mail theft investigation resulted in the team contacting more than 240 mail theft victims and a similar number of charges against the suspects, who ultimately were held accountable for their actions.
A current project involves collaborating with property owners to clean up and secure neglected properties rather than have them remain empty and potential nuisances. The property owners have been contacted and asked to repair broken windows and doors, remove dilapidated structures, make exterior repairs and secure the properties from intruders in an effort to eliminate illegal activities.
We also are currently working with a neighborhood experiencing criminal activity and disorderly behavior at bus stops. Recent problems have included drinking, urinating and unwelcome, inappropriate conduct, which then continues onto the buses. The team was assigned to work with neighbors, area businesses, transit officials and others to address the problem. Responses included uniformed officers riding the bus route periodically so riders would feel safe. Drinking problems were actively addressed and have diminished substantially. The transit authority is currently re-designing the stops to increase visibility and customer safety. We expect these and other measures taken by our community partners will result in another success story, for both the team and our community.
These are just a few of the many successes of the Bellingham Police Department Neighborhood Anti-Crime Team. For more information or to report concerns in your neighborhood, contact the Bellingham Police Department at 360-778-8800.
HONORED TO LEAD DEPARTMENT
The Neighborhood Anti-Crime Team is one of the many ways we serve our community with innovation and excellence. It is just one of the many success stories I have discovered in my short time here.
The Bellingham Police Department is recognized across the region and state as a premier public safety organization and I am experiencing that first hand every day. I am also very impressed with the expertise, commitment and caring attitude demonstrated by the members of our department as they go about the business of serving this community. This is a great department and a great city with a lot to be proud of, and I am honored and humbled to serve as your chief of police.
Bellingham Police Chief Cliff Cook recently was appointed by Mayor Kelli Linville. He took his oath of office and began his duties on Feb. 4, 2013. This is one of a series of monthly Civic Agenda reports The Bellingham Herald invited Linville to provide to share updates about City of Bellingham issues and projects. She invites citizens to contact her at 360-778-8100 or email@example.com.