Police keep close eye on Ridgefield

By Patty Hastings, Columbian Social Services, Demographics, Faith

Published:

 

8 sworn police officers.

5,625 residents.

7 square miles.

1.42 officers per 1,000 residents.

1 officer on patrol at all times.

A snapshot of 2013 crimes in Ridgefield:

Theft: 56.

Destruction of property: 30.

Simple assault: 25.

Burglary: 8.

Drug narcotics violations: 6.

Motor vehicle theft: 2.

Robbery: 1.

Source: Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs

8 sworn police officers.

5,625 residents.

7 square miles.

1.42 officers per 1,000 residents.

1 officer on patrol at all times.

A snapshot of 2013 crimes in Ridgefield:

Theft: 56.

Destruction of property: 30.

Simple assault: 25.

Burglary: 8.

Drug narcotics violations: 6.

Motor vehicle theft: 2.

Robbery: 1.

Source: Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs

Every time Officer Jason Ferriss starts his workweek, it seems like another handful of homes has cropped up somewhere in Ridgefield. The development in the small city is obvious to Ferriss, who spends his work day driving around the 7 square miles that make up Ridgefield.

“I swear they finished these houses last week. They go up so fast,” he said while on patrol in the Green Gables residential area.

Despite the city’s growth, Police Chief Carrie Greene said the crime rates in the city aren’t high enough to warrant hiring another police officer.

Although the city grew by an estimated 368 people, or 7 percent, from 2012 to 2013, crime didn’t grow at the same rate. There were seven more crimes in 2013 than there were the year before, according to data from the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs.

“You justify the services you need to support the community,” Green said. “The old ratio of one officer per 1,000 [residents] isn’t always the equation to follow.”

Rather, the number of police needed depends on the makeup of the community and the number of 911 calls for police service. When officers run out of discretionary time for proactive community policing, she’ll seek to hire more officers.

A longtime Ridgefield resident, Greene said the city has maintained its small-town feel throughout the housing boom.

The area’s home ownership rate was more than 80 percent from 2008 to 2012, according to American Community Survey data. That’s higher than the state average of 63.8 percent. By comparison, the city of Vancouver is about half renters, half homeowners.

So far, Ridgefield hasn’t added any apartment complexes that would boost the renter population.

Ferriss argues that permanent residents have more of a stake in the community. They move to Ridgefield because it’s safe, and they want to keep it that way.

“As long as we can stay ahead of the curve, I think people will enjoy a low crime rate here,” he said.

A majority of the emergency calls made in Ridgefield are traffic-related, Ferriss said, and vehicle crashes are typically the result of drunken driving.

There is at least one officer patrolling the city at all times, which means the department goes through three officers throughout the day. With such a small force covering a small area, residents have gotten used to the community-policing approach. Ferriss said people will drive around for an hour looking for officers to tell them face to face about a crime rather than calling 911.

Commercial development along the Interstate 5 corridor and the Clark College satellite campus, slated for next year, will increase the daytime population, Ferriss said. Police try to get ahead of crime through proactive policing, he added. For instance, they patrol the Ridgefield marina during nice weather so intoxicated boaters and people who pick fights on the dock will get the idea that those kind of crimes aren’t tolerated.

At some point, the force will need to expand — just don’t expect it anytime soon. To support additional officers, the city needs more rooftops to generate more tax revenue.

For now, police in Ridgefield say they are patrolling a city in flux, keeping their eyes on newcomers and new businesses.