Police Chief Rick Smith and I joined officials Tuesday from Snohomish County and Arlington to report on the Embedded Social Worker program we introduced in north county last spring. Also participating in the panel discussion were County Executive Dave Somers, Sheriff Ty Trenary, County Councilman Nate Nehring, Mayor Barb Tolbert and Police Chief Jonathan Ventura from Arlington. Perhaps most compelling were the on-the-ground stories from the Embedded Social Worker teams who do this important work every day. In Marysville, officer Mike Buell and county social worker Rochelle Long make up that team. In contrast to the approach taken in some other communities, in north County we are taking a holistic approach to transient-related criminal behavior. In the past, our officers observed that they were frequently arresting the same individuals for crimes such as theft that are often perpetrated to feed drug habits. These people, once released from jail, often repeated that criminal behavior, creating a “revolving door” that is costly to taxpayers and does not improve the situation for victims. The Embedded Social Worker program offers a different approach. We recognize that just finding housing is not enough for people who may need help with addiction or other issues to turn their lives around. Our Embedded Social Worker teams form relationships, develop trust and help meet individual needs. This program is helping people return to their formerly productive lives and again contribute to our community. Here in Marysville, one of my favorite stories is from a woman who contacted me a few months ago to ask for help for her loved one, then in jail, who was ready to enter a drug treatment program. Recently she communicated back that he is now clean and sober and reestablishing a life with his family. Behind the stories are the encouraging statistics. Citywide crime levels were down nearly 7% in April compared with last year. In the north Marysville where our Embedded Social Worker team has focused significant attention, those crime levels dropped 29%. Assaults are down 46%, vehicle prowls down 57% and vehicle theft down nearly 78%. Additionally, our Embedded Social Worker team has gotten 79 people into treatment with 47 having graduated successfully. They have also found temporary housing for 80 individuals. Being homeless itself is not a crime, but we have no tolerance for people who continue to commit crimes and victimize our residents and businesses. We offer significant and meaningful help to those who commit transient-related crimes and impose certain legal consequences for those who choose not to accept that help. As the Embedded Social Worker program enters its second year, we are looking to the community to help the program continue to evolve and grow. Two ways you might help:
•Individuals who want to donate funds for short-term emergency housing, meals, clothing and toiletries for people in need, often homeless, entering treatment or social service programs can donate online at www.marysvillewa.gov/1007/Make-a-Donation.
•Businesses can consider offering jobs to local people with criminal records who have successfully completed treatment. For details call the Arlington Community Resource Center at 360-386-7989.
Jon Nehring is the mayor of Marysville. His monthly column runs in this newspaper.