Special Reports

Deaths 'bring home' need for police

Pasco garage is evidence of a disturbing crime rate in a city that needs more police officers, city officials said Wednesday.

Councilwoman Bev Green said the killings Tuesday night convinced her to support a measure on the Nov. 3 ballot that would increase property taxes to pay for hiring additional officers and buying more equipment.

"I was kind of wavering on the fence," she said. "I feel this brings it home. The drug problem is so rampant here. I knew it was bad, but I feel we need to have extra coverage now. "

The anti-crime levy to be voted on in Pasco would generate $300,000 to hire five patrol officers and a detective and buy two squad cars and a

dog trained to sniff out drugs. The Pasco Police Department has 29 officers, including patrolmen and detectives, said Sgt. Terry Trulson.

A similar measure to be voted on in Franklin County outside Pasco would raise $260,000 to beef up the sher-iff's office, the prosecutor's office and courts.

"We have not historically had the resources I feel we need to appropriately attack the problem (of crime)," said Pasco Police Chief Don Francis. "Those resources are expensive and hard to come by through tax-supported means."

Francis said the criminal justice system frustrates him because it appears to turn criminals back onto the street shortly after police and the public devote time and money putting them behind bars.

Pasco has a unique problem in that it is a place to which people migrate from Mexico "for whatever reason. Drugs come out of Mexico to America" and therefore to Pasco. "So we have a sizable population of people who tend to bring that stuff into the area. Along with that goes crime and violence though we are not the only community that has that. "

Francis said voter approval of the tax levy would provide the necessary money to bring his staff up to an adequate level to tackle the unusual problems Pasco faces.

The police department is equipped only to react to problems but lacks the manpower needed for long-term special assignments. He has tried it but simply could not keep it going, Francis said.

"We have to jump around like mosquitoes attacking an elephant," he said. "First we are here, then we are there."

Trulson said having more police officers may not prevent the types of crimes that occurred Tuesday night when two gunmen walked into an automobile body shop and killed five men and wounded one.

"But a police presence is a deterrent," he said.

City Councilman E.A. "Duke" Snider said Pasco needs more police officers.

"I don't know what would be considered adequate," he said. "I know we could be better (prepared) than we are now. As far as adequacy, a rising crime rate is a problem cities are fighting all across the United States. I'm not sure anyone feels adequately prepared."

Snider said a combination of tax levy approval and the Tri-Cities drug task force "will give use a better edge in addressing the problem and maybe trying to turn the statistics around. "

Mayor Joe Jackson said approval of the tax levy would "be significant in providing a more viable law enforcement contingent in our city."

"I don't feel we will ever reach a point where we have achieved the ideal, where we will be 100 percent in manpower and equipment," he added.

Jackson blamed high unemployment for much of the crime in Pasco and the rest of the Tri-Cities.

The unemployment rate in the Tri-Cities was 8.8 percent in August, compared with 6.7 percent for the state. The jobless rate in Pasco and Franklin County was 11.3 percent, according to the state Department of Employment security.

"Generally there is a rise in various types of crimes throughout the country," Jackson said. "The Tri-Cities, and Pasco in particular, are not immune to this type of activity."

Jackson said the question on his mind Wednesday morning after the mass killings was: "What is happening to our city? Andy my response was that maybe we are in a state of transition because of the overall economic situation we must deal with."