Mayor’s state of the city address hits on public safety

ARLINGTON – In the face of the burgeoning opioid crisis, and the social and financial strain its putting on the community, first responders and businesses, Arlington is taking policing in new directions that could put some troubled individuals on a path to recovery instead of jail.

Mayor Barb Tolbert delivered her state of the city address on Tuesday that opened with police and fire department achievements that made for a busy last year, and set the tone for an even more productive 2018.

Topping the mayor’s list of public safety priorities was securing funding for the embedded social worker that will team up with police in the Smokey Point area starting around April 1, she said.

The two-year program is a partnership between the cities of Arlington and Marysville, and Snohomish County.

“This is the way we’re going to help repeat offenders and troubled people on our streets, to move them on a path to change their lives,” Tolbert told a packed room at the Wild Rose Bistro in downtown Arlington for this month’s Stillaguamish Valley Chamber of Commerce luncheon.

“As a community and police department, we want to do everything we can to help people on the street find access to services they need,” the mayor said.

Tolbert said designated Officer Ken Thomas was so eager to get the program going, he started months ago talking to local social service providers, joined ESW patrols in Everett, met with business people and visited encampments to get a better lay of the land.

To date, he has already move three people from Arlington-area encampments into treatment, and he is working with 10 more individuals.

The goal is to more quickly connect individuals to the most appropriate resources and services available, while reducing the chances of police involvement in the future. The same applies whether homeless, addicted to drugs or mentally ill makes no difference.

Tolbert hopes that people will view the offer as an opportunity turn their lives around instead of being a drain on resources.

“Our officers were never trained to do social work out in the field,” the mayor said.

Tolbert cited several accomplishments that the city can build on in the new year.

Among them:

* Stay Out of Designated Area (SODA) ordinance that gives police and judges a tool to keep repeat drug offenders out of the Smokey Point area.

* Conversations with Cops, which included 33 informal get-togethers with citizens and business owners at various locations

* Community policing that included chief and deputy chief meetings with businesses and agencies

* Involvement and training with the Intra-agency Child Abduction Team

* Issuance of 103 blanket trespass order agreements to help businesses move along gatherings of the homeless and others where they don’t belong.

* Two ATVs for remote area access donated by a local business and hospital foundation to reach wooded areas, trails, encampments and emergency situations in a quarter of the time that it used to take.

* Needle clean-up kits in partnership with the Snohomish Health District

* – using data compiled by police this tool for mapping crime in neighborhoods and business districts really took off last year; users can see hot spots around Arlington and their own neighborhood, and sign up free for weekly crime reports.

* Public defense legal defense grant

Tolbert said the public defense grant is designed to identify suitable repeat offenders before the municipal judge who would benefit from referral to social services, rather than repeatedly sending them to jail.

The mayor said the grant has only been in effect for a short time but is already showing results.

Participating cities Arlington and Lake Stevens have seen a 35 percent recidivism rate – the rate at which offenders commit other crimes either by arrest or conviction – compared with Marysville, who did not participate, which is registering a 67 percent rate.

Tolbert also touched on nuisance properties and why it takes so long to close down a purported drug house where neighbors have complained. She said it’s legal, laborious, labor-intensive and costly process, but police and planners, as well as code enforcement, are being given more tools to direct the process. The mayor said a regional approach is needed, and point to changes in laws at the county that will help.

Among other public safety successes, police volunteers started a Package Patrol to put eyes in neighborhoods during the day hit by brazen package thieves who are stealing goods from porches, especially during the holidays. For different reasons, Halloween Patrol had some success as well making sure that costumed kids were safer when out trick-or-treating.

The fire department also had a busy year, and can point to several accomplishments that provided life-saving emergency medical services and transport, and fire suppression to protect property. Highlights include:

* Paramedic training

* Video laryngoscopes and intubation techniques for better emergency patient care

* Smoke detector program with Arlington Rotary Club and American Red Cross, with visits to trailer parks and homes where the elderly reside

* Partnership with Pick n’ Pull for extraction training

* Medicaid reimbursement for two previous years to help with sustainable EMS funding

* Extended service contracts with Fire Districts 19-Silvana for advanced life support, 21-Arlington Rural for ALS in their district and basic life support and fire calls in the southern half, 24-Darrington for ALS and 25-Oso for ALS and BLS.

City Hall provided additional administrative support to assist police and fire in their mission.

A few examples that Tolbert cited were:

* “Keep the Change” program aimed at reducing or eliminating panhandling, and diverting that money to local nonprofits that help the homeless.

* “This Community Cares” flyer (with city of Marysville), a handy companion piece to “Keep the Change” that lists contact information for numerous area resources such as food banks, ministries and charities.

* A human and social services report that identified resources, gaps and challenges to addressing homelessness, addiction, mental illness

* Partnership with Wal-Mart to address homelessness issues and parking lot crime

* Arlington Communications Manager joined the Snohomish County Multiple Response Team Public Information Officer Group

* Smokey Point business community meetings that are ongoing to update them on progress in dealing with the area’s near-freeway types of criminal activity.

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