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Task force targets burglaries in King County

A task force — targeted at decreasing burglaries — is in its beginning stages with the King County Prosecutor's Office.

The prosecutor's office launched the Repeat Burglars Initiative on June 1 in response to an increase in burglaries throughout King County. The prosecutor's office, sheriff's office and regional law enforcement agencies are teaming up to operate the task force, which uses communication between agencies to identify top offenders. At a time when the rates of most other major crimes are falling, burglaries are increasing, said Leesa Manion, chief of staff for prosecuting attorney Dan Satterberg. The trend calls attention to itself, she said.

"When everything else has gone down and burglaries have gone up, it stands out," Manion said.

The task force is proposed to work in a way that mirrors the auto theft initiative task force. Law enforcement agencies and the prosecutor's office will track repeat offenders. The success of the task force will rely on shared information and communication.

The county's top offenders will be listed. They may be identified by a pattern of how the crime is carried out or by evidence gathered at a crime scene that is valuable, but not enough to make a case out of, Manion said. By working together, agencies will be able to make connections, recognize patterns and contribute evidence findings.

"Let's share information and find out who are the top 10 (offenders) and go after them," Manion said.

The initiative is headed by prosecuting attorney Maurice Classen, who also played a hand in the auto theft initiative. That initiative also used a top 10 list.

"We reduced auto theft by more than 30 percent through this coordination and focus," Sheriff Sue Rahr said in a King County Sheriff's Office newsletter in May. "It is my hope we will achieve the same results with burglaries."

An inside look

Because of budget shortfalls, a lack of funds has changed how the King County Sheriff's Office handles crime. The sheriff's office underwent a $7.5 million budget cut beginning in 2009. The cut meant fewer deputies and diminished resources. The sheriff's office no longer investigates property crimes valuing less than $10,000.

In 2007, King County Sheriff's Office recorded 1,009 commercial burglaries and 3,141 residential burglaries, according to the 2008 Annual King County Sheriff Report found on the King County Sheriff's Office Web page, www.kingcounty.gov/safety/sheriff/CrimeStats.aspx. Forty-nine of the cases were closed. In 2008, commercial burglaries decreased by nearly 22 percent, with 790 reported, according to the report. Residential burglaries grew by 6.8 percent — with a total of 3,354 burglaries reported to the sheriff's office that year.

In 2008, 238 burglary cases reported to the sheriff's office were closed, according to the annual report.

Federal Way connections

Federal Way has seen its fair share of residential and commercial burglaries. But the city is not yet joined in the task force, Lt. Raymond Bunk said.

"I would say the efforts with law enforcement are unfolding," Manion said. "It's going to take a little bit of effort to get it off the ground and running."

Federal Way has experienced 205 residential and commercial burglaries this year through the end of April, according to information provided by the Federal Way Police Department. In 2008, 570 residential and 230 commercial burglaries were reported in Federal Way, according to the information. In 2007, 507 residential and 241 commercial burglaries were reported, according to the same documents.

In the week of May 24-31, a total of 27 burglaries were reported in Federal Way, according to the police crime log. Several took place over Memorial Day weekend and most happened in the evening hours. Multiple burglaries occurred at apartment complexes. In some cases, the residents were home at the time of the burglaries. Items such as personal documents, jewelry, cash, electronics, wallets and handguns were among the goods the thieves took.

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