According to the County Executive, Jack Louws, Whatcom County is doing great. Revenues are up and predicted to continue on a slow, upward trend as is growth for Whatcom County. The only area of concern that the County Executive is warning the people about is the need to pay more taxes for Emergency Medical Services for our Whatcom County Fire and EMT service delivery to county residents. But, when you look deeper into the proposed Whatcom County budget presented at the November 26th, 2014 Council meeting you find that the Sheriff’s department has lost one full-time employee (FTE). In 2011 the Sheriff’s department had 108.5 FTE’s. In 2013 the County Council reduced the number of FTE’s to 107.5. For 2015 and 2016 the Sheriff’s department was reduced by an extra FTE, to 106.5 full time employees.
Why should the residents of Whatcom County be concerned about the loss of two full-time law enforcement officers? Well, with the recent passage of legalized (quasi-legal) growing and sale of marijuana in Washington State, Whatcom County politicians have embraced this industry with open arms. With the potential for huge growth in this type of industry comes the burden of added risk for crime and violence due to the cash required to run these industries, and after receiving this letter from a concerned resident of Whatcom County I wonder how wise it is of the County Council and the County Executive to have taken this budgetary action?
Please read the letter posted below and share this post. Also, contact your County Council representative if you believe, as I do, that the governments paramount duty is to insure for the public’s safety.
~ Kris Halterman
County Council Encourages Violent Crime and Gangs
Guest article submitted by Roger Sefzik, Dec. 1st, 2014
This headline is an unfortunate truth garnered from the November 26th County Council meeting and backed by written evidence and public testimony. On April 22nd the Council passed Ordinance No. 2014-027. It states, in part, that the Council finds that “Marijuana related operations are vulnerable to robbery and crimes of violence” and that they “pose risks for surrounding residences”. The ordinance is supposed to provide protection to these residences, but instead authorizes the production and processing of marijuana in rural residential neighborhoods without providing additional protection for these residents. Only Councilman Crawford opposed this Ordinance.
To compound the problem, the Council passed a new budget on November 26th which reduces the County law enforcement force by one officer. Simultaneously it provided for a “policy analyst” to assist the County Council. Only councilwoman Brenner opposed this action. One must conclude that the new tax revenues generated by the marijuana industry are not enough to even sustain the existing level of law enforcement, much less police the crime it will create.
The justification for the force reduction was the high injury rate for officers. County Executive Jack Louws promised that if Sheriff Elfo could reduce the injury rate the officer position could be restored. Translated, this means go issue traffic tickets and avoid risky situations such as marijuana operations. While reducing injuries is an important goal, risking the safety of our citizens in that pursuit is counter to the purpose of law enforcement. The good news is there will be a new policy analyst you can call if you feel you are in danger.
During the public comment period, Sheriff Elfo promised to try and reduce the injury rate. He then reminded the Council that law enforcement is inherently risky and related several recent injuries. Just last week an officer was shot in the face at an illegal marijuana grow operation. Of course, that accident could have easily been avoided by simply staying away from that dangerous situation and ignoring the crime. If you are thinking that legal marijuana operations will reduce this type of crime, you are wrong. According to the findings of the County Council, robberies and violent crimes occur at the legal operations.
Among the many who spoke at the Council meeting was a former Border Patrol Agent who now assists employers in obtaining legally qualified foreign workers. His experience provided a unique perspective. He indicated that marijuana growers are looking for experienced growers and have asked him to help. He has declined. Why? Because these workers will come from the drug cartels of Mexico and South America. These cartels are filled with experienced growers anxious to come to Whatcom County and fill these low paying part time jobs. But don’t worry; gang activity will supplement their income. Once these gangs are established, they are not going away. Welcome to the new Whatcom County.
The insanity of this would be laughable if it weren’t so tragic. As you might guess, I am opposed to the legalization of marijuana. I am opposed to the crime and violence that it will bring. I am opposed to the fiscal costs and the impact on our fine law enforcement officers. I am opposed to the long term impacts this will have on our beautiful county and our way of life. I am opposed to the Council encouraging violent crime and gangs and then reducing our protection. I am opposed to this insanity.
The Whatcom County Council and the City Councils within Whatcom County each have the option to ban marijuana activities. They should have the courage to stop listening to the marijuana lobbyists and ban this activity now. Absent that resolve, they should at least completely remove it from residential areas, place it in remote or industrial locations, and provide adequate law enforcement to protect us from the violent crime they admit it creates.