Ferndale police station didn't have alarms in lobby during break-in

THE BELLINGHAM HERALDJanuary 3, 2014 

FERNDALE - The front lobby of the Ferndale Police Station didn't have an alarm system when a vandal broke in and caused more than $40,000 in damage.

Darrell Ryan Stacey, 22, has since confessed he broke into the station Dec. 22 as revenge for an earlier police response at a Ferndale party, according to charges filed this week.

Security cameras caught a young man in a colorful coat finishing off a can of Coors Light and throwing it at the front doors of the police station around 4:30 a.m. He then urinated on the doors. The man walked out of view of the cameras but later returned with a light post. He tossed it through the glass doors and crawled in.

Once inside, he smashed up three custom-made bulletproof windows at the reception desk.

Police, however, weren't aware until about an hour later, said Police Lt. Bill Hatchett. By that time, the vandal was long gone.

The police station at 2220 Main St. was finished in 2012. It cost more than $5 million in public money. Shoddy security in the old building became a large part of the pitch for the new project.

According to Hatchett, the most crucial of the security upgrades worked well in this case, made clear by the fact that Stacey's not accused of tampering with evidence or stealing firearms.

"An alarm doesn't stop someone from breaking in," Hatchett said.

But it would have alerted police quicker, he conceded.

Instead it took about five days for police to arrest Stacey. They identified him through Facebook photos, where he's wearing the same distinctive, colorful coat.

He has been charged with first-degree malicious mischief and second-degree burglary.

The police station was designed with tiered security levels. Evidence storage, for example, is a much higher priority. The lobby is lower on the scale.

"Most people would probably not assume that a police station would get attacked so randomly," City Clerk Sam Taylor said. "So they made a decision that an alarm system on the lobby was not necessary."

The foyer and the main lobby are monitored with cameras. Other measures are in place that Hatchett declined to talk about, and the city is considering stronger front doors and, possibly, a new alarm system. The city general fund will have to cover only $10,000 of the damage, thanks to an insurance policy.

Hatchett doesn't believe the break-in reflects badly on the department.

"No, we're not embarrassed by it," Hatchett said. "It's frustrating that someone would choose to cause damage to a public building, or any property that doesn't belong to them."

Reach Caleb Hutton at 360-715-2276 or caleb.hutton@bellinghamherald.com. Read his Dispatcher Blog at bellinghamherald.com/dispatcher-blog or follow him on Twitter at @bhamcrime.

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