E-News: Crime keeps going… UP!

July 2022

Hello Friends and Neighbors,

By now you should have received your primary ballot. Don’t forget to fill it out and turn it in on time! There are many important elections to consider, from local (Clark County sheriff) and legislative (all House positions, including our 17th District) to statewide (the unexpired term of Secretary of State) and federal (Third Congressional District). The 22 drop box locations in Clark County are open through 8 p.m. next Tuesday, and if you mail your ballot in, it has to be postmarked no later than Tuesday.

Pink Lemonade
As a breast-cancer survivor I was so happy to take part in the Pink Lemonade Project’s monthly walk on July 16, at Whipple Creek. The next one is set for 9:30 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 20, at Round Lake in Camas; click here for details and to sign up. It was great that Senator Cleveland was able to join in as well. Pink Lemonade is doing important work to support those experiencing breast cancer in the greater Vancouver area; earlier this year I was glad to nominate the organization for PhRMA’s Roadmap to Health grant. My cancer-related work this year in the Legislature centered on my legislation to require insurance coverage of biomarker testing; I’m now looking to establish a Cancer Coalition Caucus that could put more focus on such policies.

Inflation worsens while state revenues grow: My June report to you looked at the need for inflation relief, and how the majority in the Legislature dropped the ball on it during this year’s session. In the past several weeks two things have happened that had me and other Republicans repeating our call to help families struggling with soaring prices.

The first was the late-June release of the second quarterly forecast of state revenue, which indicates the state treasury will get even fatter over the next two budget cycles. The second was the mid-July release of new inflation numbers, which showed prices in Washington – which are measured in the greater Seattle area – are up 10.1 percent from the same time a year ago.

I joined with Senate Republican Leader John Braun in commenting on both the revenue forecast and the June inflation report. The Reflector in Battle Ground also published my reaction to one of the majority’s ongoing talking points – their claim that this year’s huge increases in agency budgets should be viewed as “targeted investments.”

Click here to read my argument that tax relief aimed at helping families contend with rising prices is the best kind of “targeted investment” legislators could make. To repeat something I said following the latest revenue forecast, it’s troubling that I see no signs of empathy from our Democratic colleagues in the Legislature for the financial struggles many of their constituents are experiencing.

Governor Inslee is no help – he doesn’t think tax relief would be “productive.” He points to a tax credit that families below a certain income threshold can seek in 2023, but has nothing equivalent to the Republican gas-tax suspension to offer families in the middle.

It’s very concerning how the quality of life is deteriorating for many people. Not only are wages failing to keep up with prices, but as of today our nation is officially in a recession — so who knows how many layoffs could be on the horizon? It would be the worst kind of “perfect storm.”

Violent crime in Washington goes up… again: The Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs (WASPC) produces an annual report on crime. Last year’s report revealed that both violent crime (murder, rape, robbery and aggravated assault) and property crime (vehicle theft, burglary, larceny and destruction of property) hit 25-year highs in 2020.

Crime in WA

This past week the 2021 crime report came out, and it shows things are even worse. Violent crime overall increased 12.3% from the previous year, with homicides reaching an all-time high.

Here’s where crime increased:

  • Murder: 325 (5.9% increase)
  • Rape: 2,572 (8.2% increase)
  • Robbery: 5,802 (10.3% increase
  • Aggravated assault: 17,440 (16.2% increase)
  • Motor vehicle theft: 35,385 (27.3% increase)
  • Burglary: 42,267 (1.5% increase)
  • Larceny/theft: 166,496 (9.5% increase)
  • Destruction of property: 78,589 (13.9% increase)

While crime went up, the number of crime fighters – our law-enforcement officers – decreased again. Washington was already last in the nation in officers per capita, and in 2021 it got worse. The FBI reports a national staffing average of 2.33 officers per capita; in Washington, another 495 officers left the profession in 2021, dropping the state staffing rate to just 1.38 officers per 1,000 residents.

Washington would need almost 7,400 more officers to hit the national standard, according to WASPC. I co-sponsored legislation to help communities rebuild their depleted law-enforcement agencies, and as Republican leader on the Senate Ways and Means Committee, arranged for a public hearing on the measure – but that’s as far as it went.

If you look at the new report and notice a 60% drop in drug/narcotics violation offenses from the previous year, don’t be misled. Hard drugs became essentially legal at this time in 2021, due to the Legislature’s appallingly soft response to the state Supreme Court’s Blake decision. No wonder the number of arrests fell so much!

How changes in law make us less safe: Sometimes it doesn’t take long to see the negative effects of bills that are soft on crime. An example is the measure passed in 2021 that essentially banned police pursuits. Within a few months vehicle thefts shot up to near-record levels in our state, which is why I and other Republicans tried unsuccessfully to fix that mistake this year. Unfortunately, we can expect the car thieves to keep at it, because the law is now on their side.

This past week brought another example, when The Columbian reported how a Clark County murderer may see his mandatory life sentence replaced with something less. It’s because of a change our Democratic colleagues made, again in 2021, to the state’s “three strikes” law. Because that law was made weaker, the Chelsea Harrison Act that was passed in 2008 – named for the 14-year-old Evergreen High student murdered in 2005 – also became weaker.

I remember the case well. It was gut-wrenching as the community waited and waited, hoping Chelsea would be found alive. Now it appears her family and loved ones will have to live through the resentencing process, and you can imagine what that would do to their faith in the justice system.

I also have to believe people would be shocked if they knew about other efforts to tilt our laws in favor of the criminals more than the victims. Puget Sound news doesn’t reach us consistently here in southwest Washington, so you may have missed this tragic story about a disabled African-American man whose murder was attributed to someone who had been released from the King County jail less than two days earlier.

The accused killer had been in jail after his conviction for third-degree assault with a sexual-motivation “enhancement.” The enhancement added a full year to the man’s sentence, and represented the bulk of the time he served.

House Bill 1169, which was passed by the House this year on a party-line vote and was moved ahead by the Senate Law and Justice Committee, would have greatly weakened the sexual-motivation enhancement part of state law, meaning less time in custody. Thankfully it didn’t reach the floor of the Senate chamber, but there is every reason to expect Democrats to try again. Does that sound like it would make our communities safer?

Working to keep bridge project moving in the right direction: In a perfect world the Interstate Bridge Replacement project would be driven more by the design part and less by the funding part. You know, come up with a “good-better-best” set of options that meet Coast Guard requirements; increase capacity, to decrease congestion for commuters and freight hauling; and support the most effective form of mass transit. Then we figure out which makes the most sense, based on funding and the views of our constituents.

bridge meeting

Unfortunately, the Biden administration has skewed the process by dangling a bunch of federal funding sooner that anyone could have foreseen in 2017, when I and others sponsored the legislation that produced the Joint Oregon-Washington Legislative Action Committee.

While last week’s meeting of the bi-state bridge committee ended with a “locally preferred alternative” moving a step farther down the road, several on the Washington side made it clear there needs to be room for adjustments as further study by the IBR office proceeds.

Nearly every survey taken indicates congestion relief and movement of freight are right in there with safety as the highest priorities for a replacement bridge. They need to stay at the top of the list. I’m open to seeing what the upcoming research tells us, but I also don’t see that the LPA in its present form meets the needs of the region. That needs to change.

I have no intention of allowing others’ fear of losing the feds’ financial offer to dictate a final decision prematurely. Otherwise this project will become a colossal waste of time and the citizens’ money, as the failed Columbia River Crossing effort was.


I’m your senator year-round, not just when the Legislature is in session. Keep the messages coming!

Yours in service,

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