Tuesday, May 24, 2022
May 24, 2022

Linkedin Pinterest

Donnelly: Property crime must be addressed now


On Nov. 2, voters rejected County Amendment 10, which would have added a tax for juvenile detention facilities and jails. The measure’s ultimate goal, however, was to fund body cameras for law enforcement.

Councilor Temple Lentz addressed the measure’s defeat: “I don’t think Measure 10 was transparent enough for people to fully understand what they were voting for. That is part of why it failed.”

But considering voter priorities, the measure’s demise is understandable. For many residents, surging property crime — up 40 percent in Clark County in the past two years — is impacting their communities as never before. Property crime, some of which goes unreported, saps individuals’ will to persevere. Vulnerable citizens and struggling businesses are disproportionately impacted.

A perfect storm has created a new class of property criminals: brazen, empowered, organized, and patiently opportunistic. They use stolen cars, remove their license plates and wear hoodies to avoid identification. They surveil homes, using smartphones, until the best moment to strike.

In too many cases, they are not held accountable and strike again.

Take recent events in Southcliff, a quiet neighborhood several miles east of downtown Vancouver. A recent cluster of crimes has shocked residents. On a cold morning, well-organized thieves waited nearby to steal a car warming up mere feet from the owner’s front door. Several days later, criminals broke through a door and gained entry to the home of longtime residents. An hour later, a suspicious car with both license plates removed was observed at Southcliff Park, possibly waiting to snatch packages arriving on porches.

Nearby, an auto repair shop patronized by local residents was hit with theft of a customer’s car. The shop’s owner recounts the incident with despair, citing the neighborhood’s declining safety as one reason he will soon close his business. Longtime customers listen sympathetically, wishing they had words to dissuade him.

He points out that across the street, Queen of Peace Bookstore has been vandalized. So have adjacent small businesses. Nearby, Christine’s, a local favorite for home-style cooking, has been hit. Fred Meyer Grand Central now places Levi’s jeans behind lock and key to address brazen shoplifting.

One investigating officer said:  “Crime is really up in the Vancouver area. … Even if (we) catch them, they are out of jail the next day and back on the streets, rinse and repeat … police spend time tracking down the ‘bad guys’ only to learn they are released and put back on the streets.”

Why is more property crime occurring and why is “rinse and repeat” the rule? Multiple factors include new laws decriminalizing drug offenses, sending drug users and dealers back onto the streets to seek cash for their trade. Homelessness and untreated mental illness contribute. Police reform legislation, such as House Bills 1310 and 1052, is paramount, adding onerous restrictions to police interactions in drug and property crimes.

The results are predictably disastrous for safe streets, homes and businesses.

A thorough rebalancing is needed soon. Criminals stealing cars just feet from our front doors must be held accountable. Currently, they aren’t.

Citizens must demand legislative reforms to make it less profitable to commit crimes. Law enforcement experts must be consulted, and their recommendations incorporated. Funding should go toward increased law enforcement staffing.

Prosecutors, links in the chain of accountability, need to hear from voters too.

Property and quality of life are closely intertwined. If we don’t act, future generations will ask why not.

Ann Donnelly, a Vancouver businesswoman, is a former chair of the Clark County Republican Party.

Support local journalism

Your tax-deductible donation to The Columbian’s Community Funded Journalism program will contribute to better local reporting on key issues, including homelessness, housing, transportation and the environment. Reporters will focus on narrative, investigative and data-driven storytelling.

Local journalism needs your help. It’s an essential part of a healthy community and a healthy democracy.

Community Funded Journalism logo