Violent crimes in Kennewick increased last year while the city’s overall crime rate went down.
That’s according to the Kennewick Police Department’s annual report presented to the city council Tuesday.
The overall crime rate dropped by more than 3 percent, as violent crimes went up 6 percent in 2012, according to the report. Last year marks the second year the police department has seen an increase in violent crimes, after seeing them drop by 6 percent in 2010.
Police Chief Ken Hohenberg attributed the increase to gang activity in the community, saying the majority of violent crimes in the city stem from gang-on-gang violence. Hohenberg said the gang violence in the Tri-City area — not just Kennewick — has increased throughout the years.
“I don’t think it’s a spike,” he said. “It’s a trend we have seen statewide and nationally.”
Kennewick Mayor Steve Young said it’s the city council’s top priority to try and curtail violent crime in the city and to make sure as the population grows, so does the police force. The report showed Kennewick’s population increased by 1 percent last year to 75,160 from 74,655 in 2011.
Young said he fully expects additional officers to be added in the near future and he said the council will find the money to ensure that happens.
“The stats show that our police department is more efficient than it has ever been,” he said. “Major crime is a war we are in. We have to get ahead of it.”
In 2012, there was one homicide reported in the city, 31 forcible rapes, 37 robberies, 160 aggravated assaults, 457 burglaries, 129 auto thefts and 19 arson-related cases, according to the report.
Police did see a 9 percent drop in property crimes last year, which Hohenberg attributed to citizens becoming more aware of thefts in their neighborhoods and law enforcement agencies in the Tri-Cities working together.
The Criminal Apprehension Team, which mainly focuses on gangs and street level narcotics, made 1,098 arrests last year and seized 109 grams of methamphetamine.
Crime Prevention Specialist Mike Blatman said the department also saw a dramatic increase in concealed weapons permits during the past year, with 214 issued in November and December alone.
Hohenberg said the true test of a good police department is the effect it has on the community as a whole. One of the department’s bright spots in 2012 was that it led the state in raising money for athletes of Special Olympics Washington for the fourth year in a row with more than $100,000 collected.
“Great policing encompasses not just the law enforcement aspect but the community aspect,” he said. “It’s important for the community to trust us.”