The KP Democrats hosted a bipartisan group at the Home fire station April 17 to hear updates from the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department. Lt. Rusty Wilder, the commander of the peninsula detachment and Detective Ed Troyer, public information officer and executive director of Crime Stoppers of Tacoma/Pierce County, spoke about crime and its prevention on the Key Peninsula.
Wilder lives in Gig Harbor, coaches lacrosse at Peninsula High School and was a patrol sergeant in the peninsula detachment. He spoke about some of the challenges facing the department, noting that they are both working to increase the number of positions cut during the recession and to fill three empty positions that have been approved. “I don’t like to make excuses,” he said. “I want to do the best we can.”
Citing the number of waterfront properties on the Key Peninsula, Wilder said that boat engine theft is the most common crime in the area. An organized group carries out these thefts and the department is working to solve it. The best deterrent, he said, is good lighting.
A challenge for the department is the proximity of three counties. Perpetrators may live in one county, burglarize in a second and then try to sell the goods in a third. “We must coordinate with our neighboring departments,” he said.
Wilder fielded questions about how to deal with nuisance complaints, reports of gunfire, the most common calls and how those calls are prioritized.
For irksome behaviors, he first recommended talking to the neighbors, noting that they may not realize the noisy ATV is bothering anyone. If that fails, then a call to the department is warranted. Even if the call does not cause immediate action, it is recorded and if a pattern emerges it may lead to intervention later.
When a call comes in, top priority goes to threats against life and safety, then for property and finally for nuisance, he said.
Complaints about gunfire can be complicated, as there are some areas that are shooting zones on the KP and some that are not. Shooting is not allowed within 500 feet of a residence toward that residence. If shooting takes place after dark, then a complaint about noise is warranted.
Wilder said that a growing number of calls are due to mental health issues. Mental illness, tied to drug use and homelessness, is prevalent here as well as in more urban settings.
Detective Troyer was a resident deputy in the peninsula detachment in the late 1980s and is now the public face of the department and executive director of Crime Stoppers of Tacoma/Pierce County. He said the sheriff’s department has less than half the manpower per capita than city police to cover a much larger area. He also described the work of Crime Stoppers and the value of technology and social media in solving crimes.
Crime Stoppers, a nonprofit with a 20-member board, collects information including tips, photographs and videos and disseminates it through its website, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Troyer said that at least half of the bank robberies in the area have been solved in part due to information gathered through Crime Stoppers.