Clallam County sheriff forms burglary task force

By Arwyn Rice
Peninsula Daily News

PORT ANGELES — A 27 percent increase in burglaries in unincorporated Clallam County is unacceptable, Sheriff Bill Benedict said, and a task force has been formed to reverse the trend.

The task force consists of Clallam County sheriff’s detectives and officers and detectives from other jurisdictions who will work together with residents to find and stop those who have been breaking into homes and stealing private property, the sheriff said.

The object of the task force is to increase communication among different law enforcement agencies, Benedict said.

The sheriff also asks residents to deter burglaries by using good locks and loud alarms, and to add video systems so burglars can be identified.

“We need the help of the public to solve these crimes,” Benedict said.

The increase, measured from Jan. 1 to Sept. 30, is primarily within unincorporated areas of the county.

In 2011, there were 224 burglaries in that time period and 284 in 2012 — a rise of 60 burglaries, Benedict said. There also was a 5 percent increase from 2010-2011, he said.

Mapping the burglaries shows that a large portion of the burglaries is taking place in isolated neighborhoods, such as the bluffs overlooking the Strait of Juan de Fuca, and foothills communities.

Residents can view their own neighborhood crime history at

The website takes its locations directly from Clallam County Sheriff’s Office and Port Angeles and Sequim Police Department reports.

Forks Police Department reports are not included in the website’s crime-tracking program.

Searches can isolate specific crimes, including burglary — labeled “breaking and entering” on the map — robbery, vehicle theft, assaults and sexual assaults; it also maps the residences of registered sexual offenders.

In Port Angeles, Deputy Police Chief Brian Smith said he didn’t have the statistics but thought that the city’s burglary rate is steady or slightly lower compared with 2011.

What burglaries there are in Port Angeles have been clustered in neighborhoods with no neighborhood watch and that have alleys behind homes that provide a less visible path for criminals to travel, Smith said.

Crime rates tend to be cyclical and can be affected by a few people, he said.

Smith pointed out a major spike in Port Angeles burglaries in 2010 that was mostly attributable to two individuals thought responsible for 150 burglaries.

Once they were jailed, the burglary rate dropped, he said.

In Sequim, there has been a 27.5 percent increase in burglaries, from 29 in the first nine months of 2011 to 37 in 2012, Police Chief Bill Dickinson said.

“It happened before, a couple of years ago,” Dickinson said.

A similar task force was formed to address the increase then, and within a few months, the burglars were identified and captured, he said.

Forks also is seeing a big increase in burglaries, said Forks Police Chief Rick Bart.

Bart did not have current statistics but said he believed most are related to a combination of drug use and the economy.

A very small group of people probably is responsible for about 80 percent of the crimes in Forks, Bart said.

The burglars seem to be watching targeted homes and waiting for all of the residents to leave for church or work, then breaking into the homes, he said.

Benedict said residents’ most effective deterrent is “target hardening.”

Good locks and a loud alarm, around 300 decibels, are the best way to prevent burglary, he said.

Silent alarms are not as effective, since deputies often don’t arrive until after the burglar already has taken what he or she wants and is gone, he said.

Being armed with a firearm would have little effect on the current burglary problem, since the majority of the crimes have been committed when no one is at home, Benedict said.

“You have the right to arm yourself,” Benedict said.

“Just make sure you know the law, and you should be trained.”

Benedict explained that Washington is “castle doctrine” state, where residents can use firearms to defend themselves from intruders who are a clear threat to people, but that does not extend to protecting property.

If a resident surprises a burglar and he has a television set in one hand and a gun in the other, then the resident has legal protections to defend him or herself, Benedict said.

But if the thief has only the television set in his hands, and the resident shoots the intruder, “you might have some explaining to do,” he said.

If your home is burglarized, call 9-1-1.

Anyone with information on the burglaries is asked to call the Clallam County Sheriff’s Office at 360-417-2459 or North Olympic Crime Stoppers, where an anonymous tip can be left, at 800-222-8477.

Reporter Arwyn Rice can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5070, or at

Last modified: October 11. 2012 5:47PM
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