SPOKANE, Wash. – In this strapped economy, budgets for local law enforcement agencies are getting chopped, meaning unsafe staffing levels, and fewer resources to respond to car thefts and break-ins.
The Spokane County Sheriff's Office has lost 36 deputies in the last three years, and if the budget picture doesn't change, it may lose another 6 by the end of this year.
The Spokane Police Department is not faring much better. KHQ learned today it's short 70 officers compared to recommended ‘safe' staffing levels for a city this size.
A situation that won't change until the mayor allocates for funding, and the city council approves it.
The lack of manpower is putting things like property crimes and car break-ins on the back burner for investigators, because they're overloaded with work and simply don't have the resources they need.
In just a week's time earlier this month, almost 100 calls to Spokane Police came in of car break-ins or thefts. Most times, victims are asked to call Crime Check at 456-2233, but an officer will rarely respond, and people are frustrated.
"I've known a few people to get their laptops and bikes stolen, some right out of their cars, some just right out in front of a coffee shop or bar," said Jeremy Clark, who lives in Browne's Addition. "We actually had a friend up on the North side, she had her car broken into 3 times in one week."
Saturday night, the surveillance cameras outside the KHQ studios in downtown Spokane even caught two suspects on camera, as they keyed a parked car on Sprague then slashed its tires.
It's just another example of the prevalence of such crimes.
Still, Spokane Police tell KHQ if you're a victim of a car crime, still call Crime Check to file a report. Even if an officer can't respond, they say it's still important to identify crime trends in certain neighborhoods. If they see a spike in a concentrated area, police have a better chance of catching the crooks behind it.