SPOKANE COUNTY, WA.- It must be nice to sit in your office in Olympia, Washington and with the stroke of a pen, deciding to put convicted criminals back on the streets.
It’s easy because you are not forced to deal with the consequences of your action. It is law enforcement that is on the front lines of having to deal with your politically correct nonsense.
Ask Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich. On Tuesday afternoon, he announced the creation of a property crime task force due to a spike in reports which he said are the direct result of COVID-19 related releases of repeat offenders.
During the months of March and April, after the release of prisoners in the state was mandated by Gov. Jay Inslee, a Democrat, data shows a substantial increase in garage and commercial burglaries when compared to the first two months of the year.
It is unclear exactly how many of those crimes can directly be attributed to those released from jail under Inslee’s mandate, however the correlation cannot be ignored.
Knezovich said that commercial burglaries are up 162 percent, robber is up 68 percent, and residential burglary is up 42 percent, according to KREM-2.
“COVID has victimized this community across the board. I think it’s time for us to not allow it to create more crime victims just in the sense of trying to release people from jail,” Knezovich said.
Knezovich noted that in Spokane Valley, there were 30 garage and 53 commercial burglaries between March 1 and April 25, according to county crime statistics, nearly double the rates of the previous 56-day period, when there were 17 and 28.
More than 80 commercial burglaries have been reported since January, compared to 30 during the same period in 2019, Knezovich noted.
In the city of Spokane, they have also noticed an increase in those types of burglaries, although not at the same dramatic rate as the greater Spokane area, according to Sgt. Terry Preuninger, a department spokesperson.
In the city, there were 67 garage and 75 commercial burglaries between January and February of this year, according to crime statistics; they increased to 94 and 85 respectively for March and April. The first four weeks of April alone saw 50 commercial burglaries.
Preuninger said that police had begun concentrating patrols around unattended commercial properties and businesses to dissuade potential burglaries in March. “We have interrupted some burglaries in progress,” he added.
Knezovich was not pulling any punches in how his agency would be responding to crime in his jurisdiction. “We are going to go after our hardcore, career criminals. We know who they are,” he said. “And we intend on putting them back in jail.”
He said that the department would use data from the community, as well as from patrol deputies to target times and locations, in addition to targeting known offenders of the particular crimes.
In other area departments, Cheney Police Department Capt. Rick Beghtol noted that his jurisdiction has seen more auto thefts, thefts from unattended constructions sites and other “crimes of opportunity” than usual.
The department has increased routine patrols of empty businesses and construction sites, Beghtol said. He also said that officers were being encouraged to complete police reports in their cruisers and increase their visibility within the community as well.
Back to Spokane County, Knezovich said that Undersheriff Dave Ellis is spearheading the task force. Ellis said that the office will target repeat property crime offenders through redeployment of personnel and use crime and investigative analysts to work with the task force to identify trends. Also, he said, investigators’ shifts will be changed to cover all hours during the day.
Ellis said that the task force will also work with other community partners, as well as other law enforcement agencies to solve crimes, and then communicate to prosecutors who the most serious offenders are.
The office will also provide weekly reports, which will track the progress of the task force, including the names of those arrested, who is released from jail, and now long it takes deputies to rearrest those offenders.
This isn’t the first rodeo, Knezovich said, noting that he had implemented a property crime task force between April 2012 to January 3013 when there was a rise in burglary rates during that time.
In the current situation, Knezovich attributes the uptick in property crimes to repeat offenders who Inslee ordered released from prison, ostensibly to “protect” them from the coronavirus.
Most right-thinking people know that the coronavirus pandemic is being used as an excuse to implement the goal of virtue-signaling social justice warriors across the U.S., and that is reduce the prison population.
Knezovich agrees with that sentiment, saying he believes that advocacy groups are taking advantage of the crisis to reduce jail populations.
The local contingent of social justice warriors in the Spokane area dispute the notion that the increase in crime is due to their efforts because in some cases, they are unhappy with the recent jail releases, or segments of it, as well.
Spokane NAACP President Kurtis Robinson, who is also a spokesman for Smart Justice Spokane, said advocacy groups had asked for a responsible, transparent release of people who did not need to be in jail.
“And what we saw was sporadic, and at the beginning stages of it, nontransparent,” Robinson said.
Robinson noted that advocates had asked for investment in alternative criminal justice methods, community policing and treatment resources.
“We never asked for people to willy-nilly be let out,” he said. “What we are doing is continuing to hammer the issues that were evident long before COVID hit and are more evident now.”
For his part, Knezovich disagreed with how the state Department of Corrections has handled the spread of COVID in the jails, saying instead they could have prevented the spread in correctional facilities by distancing inmates.
Specifically speaking to Spokane County, he said that a new jail with room for distancing was more than 20 years overdue in order to combat continuous problems with overpopulation.
Robinson disagrees with that assessment. “There’s no evidence that shows building a bigger jail makes any area safer. What makes a city saver is investment in resources.”
Robinson and Knezovich both acknowledged that the bulk of the jail population tends to be people awaiting trial. Knezovich noted that recently many people have been arrested multiple times, only to be released before their first hearing.
Jason Rantz, a talk show host from the state complained that Inslee is releasing sex offenders, multiple gang members and other dangerous criminals. In fact, he noted that last week, the Washington State Supreme Court was only one vote shy of releasing serial killers. Rantz complained that Inslee had previously said that violent offenders would remain in jail.
On tonight's After Show, I'll tackle Gov Jay Inslee's plan to release prisoners over coronavirus, talk great TV options and tackle life in isolation. https://t.co/FLyWC68CdN
— (((Jason Rantz))) on KTTH Radio (@jasonrantz) April 27, 2020
Rantz noted that the DOC had released a list of prisoner names up for release, even though the number of cases in Washington state has been steadily decreasing recently.
The list, he says, includes felons serving time for illegal possession of a firearm, prolific burglars, convicted sex offenders and so on.
Rantz complained that one of the offenders on the DOC list, Milo M. McCune is in jail for Harassment with Threats to Kill. There are two other inmates with the same crime listed set for release. McCune was also “caught exposing himself to a group of children near Regal Elementary.” The DOC is defending his early release, saying he would have been released soon anyway.
Rantz also noted that eight other criminals scheduled for early release are “confirmed gang members,” according to KHQ.
Among other criminals being released are drug dealers and people with multiple DUIs.
A couple of weeks ago, all 21 members of the Washington State Senate Republican Caucus got together to demand that Inslee reconsider his plan to release 1,100 inmates.
Activists demand we release murderers in coronavirus prisoner plan
After Governor Jay Inslee announced his coronavirus prisoner release plan, Seattle-area activists decided they wanted more. They want everyone out of jail.
JASON RANTZ | APRIL 20, 2020https://t.co/LjGAbuvWQO
— Neal Houston, PhD 🇺🇲 ⭐⭐⭐ (@DrNealHouston) April 21, 2020
In a letter to the governor the Republican Caucus stated their belief that Inslee is violating the state Constitution, specifically the Crime Victims Bill of Rights.
“The state Constitution requires that victims be notified before there is any potential release…Governor Inslee in his proclamation suspends all sort of notification requirements,” said Sen. Mike Padden of Spokane Valley.
Padden noted that for someone to have been sentenced to state prison, they would have had to be found guilty of at least on felony. He is concerned also about nonviolent offenders presenting a risk to public safety if they are released to the streets early.
“The recidivism rate is that one out of three of these folks who are released will have a new felony within three years…plus we think it’s going to help spread the virus, not contain it,” he said.
Padden noted that “it’s unusual to get all 21 members or our caucus, which includes one Democrat, to be unified to do this,” Padden said. “It just seems to fly in the [face] of common sense.”
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