Suze Marshall feels the effects of not having enough police to go around in her west Vancouver neighborhood of Arnada.
"Our neighborhood officers -- ours in Arnada is Drue Russell -- do an amazing job with the time and staff they do have, but I feel as though there is very little to zero follow-up with neighborhood burglaries, prowlers and property damage," Marshall said. "My experience has been that they simply don't bother with taking any evidence or looking for clues about breaking into homes and garages, where upwards of $20,000 of goods have been stolen. Often, the police reports don't have the correct information on them. Too often we see: case closed, no suspects."
In May last year, Marshall was away from her home for about 15 minutes -- enough time for thieves to make off with $25,000 worth of antique home fixtures stored in her detached garage. Police didn't take any evidence and none of her belongings were ever recovered, she said.
Statistics show Marshall isn't alone. Last year, in the city of Vancouver, $10,504,031 worth of property was stolen and vandalism totaled $727,401, according to the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs. How much was recovered? Just over $3,000 worth of property. City and county property crime detectives were eliminated during budget cuts.
On a driving tour of the Arnada neighborhood, Marshall pointed out all of the houses that have been hit by robbers, thieves and drug addicts. A broken window here, graffiti and robberies there.
The neighborhood is bordered by major arterials: Interstate 5, Mill Plain and Fourth Plain boulevards and Main Street. There's a commercial district to the west and to the south, and a few counseling services are sprinkled throughout the neighborhood, which makes for a diverse daytime population.
"We have a lot of antique shops, which is cool, but I find my own antiques in these shops," Marshall said.
Many drug addicts, Marshall says, come from the detox clinic at the Center for Community Health, 1601 E. Fourth Plain Blvd., and walk across the Fourth Plain overpass, right into Arnada. They'll bang on doors, try to get into houses or will rifle through the garbage cans in the alleyways.
A fence runs along the side of the neighborhood facing I-5, but transients camped out next to the freeway simply hop the fence or cut through it.
The criminals are smart, she said. Some pretend to be landscapers; they drive to a neighborhood with pickups and trailers carrying some landscaping supplies and start to clean out a house.
Arnada Neighbors On Watch volunteers work with neighborhood police officers to combat street-level crime and increase the neighborhood's livability.
The program, Marshall argues, shouldn't replace police assistance: "It's become a substitute where there aren't enough officers."
Her neighbors focus on trying to make Arnada unattractive to thieves. They've created more gathering areas, to show criminals the area is abuzz with activity. A bulletin board near a busy intersection advertises the Arnada kickball team. The more activities neighbors participate in together, the better, Marshall said. They look out for each other and can recognize when something's not right next door.