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Mayor's memo | Jim Ferrell

Federal Way Mayor Jim Ferrell - Contributed
Federal Way Mayor Jim Ferrell
— image credit: Contributed

The paramount duty of any government is to keep its citizens safe. In Federal Way, we take seriously that responsibility to place safety first. That's why this week we opened a new downtown police substation across from the Transit Center, one of several major new initiatives aimed at keeping our community safe.

The police department has done a tremendous job making our downtown a safe place for residents and visitors alike. The introduction of the Special Operations Unit in 2009, along with the operation of the SafeCity Network, dramatically reduced key crimes like assault and robbery in subsequent years.

The downtown is growing, though. New businesses at the Commons, such as Kohl's and Dick's Sporting Goods, are bringing more shoppers downtown. As new businesses arrive, such as DaVita, demand is increasing at downtown restaurants and shops. And, in July, the city's first downtown park will open at the Town Square, on the west side of the Transit Center, bringing residents and their families out to play at the site.

A busier downtown can also be more attractive to the criminal element, so we've opened the substation to proactively increase the presence and visibility of officers in the downtown. The facility is located in a highly visible location at the John L. Scott Building on the east side of the Transit Center. From that location, officers are seconds from the Transit Center, and can quickly reach businesses and residential areas in the business core, when needed. I'd like to thank Pat Rhodes, the building's owner, for donating the first year's office space to the city.

As important as maintaining safety in the downtown is, it's even more critical to ensure safety in the neighborhoods and on the streets we travel. Without that feeling of safety, it's useless to talk about quality of life. And while the crime rate in 2013 was flat or declining across major categories of crime, any incident of crime is one crime too many. That is why I am working to increase the department's staff and technology resources to fight crime.

As the city prepares its 2015-2016 biennial budget, I will propose to the City Council the addition of five new officer positions. This is, simply put, the most cost-effective way to combat crime, putting more cops on the street where they can help you.

If the Council approves the positions, we'll place these officers in proactive-based units, such as the Special Investigations Unit, which will enable police to have a greater impact on auto theft, gang activity, human trafficking and illegal drugs. We'll also add an officer to the Traffic Unit, enabling Police to respond more quickly to accidents and neighborhood speeding complaints.

In March, we began an emphasis program on drunk and distracted driving that will address one of the biggest threats to residents' safety - auto accidents.

The Nick & Derek Project is named after two Decatur High Students - Nicholas Hodgins and Derek King - who were killed in 2010 by a drunk driver. Each year, our police respond to about 2,000 traffic accidents and 50 DUI collisions. The Nick & Derek Project puts officers on the street to focus on drunk drivers and illegal use of cell phones while driving. In the first two months, the program has already resulted in four additional DUI drivers taken off the road.

One of the biggest public safety challenges facing the community is auto theft. As a former prosecutor in the auto theft division, I know how devastating car theft is to its victims. In March, I worked with the Council to arm police with two additional vehicle-based Automated License Plate Readers (ALPRs).

While an officer manually checking license plates can recover three to four vehicles per year, an officer using an ALPR-equipped vehicle can recover between 50-75 stolen vehicles per year. And because these units are mounted on police vehicles, officers can instantaneously identify a stolen car and catch the criminal red-handed. The message to auto thieves is clear: If you're thinking of stealing a car, don't do it in Federal Way.

All of these police initiatives taken together should send a similar message to all criminals. If you come to Federal Way to commit crime, there's a strong chance that you'll be caught and you'll pay for your crime. As we move toward discussion of the city budget this summer and fall, I believe there is strong consensus in the community that the city's number one priority should remain "safety first".

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