Many folks have found themselves out of work during the past year and almost everyone, it seems, experienced some form of cabin fever while following shelter-in-place orders.
Conventional wisdom says that should have created a perfect formula for increased demands on local law enforcement. But end-of-2020 numbers compiled by the Enumclaw Police Department show a relatively stable 12 months, when compared to figures from the previous six years.
A year-end report summarized by the EPD lists the number of incidents, from traffic infractions to serious crimes, for the years 2014 through 2020.
There was one anomaly, however, that can be directly traced to the worldwide pandemic that swept across cities and towns big and small. In Enumclaw, the police department registered 89 cases of “impersonation” during the 12 months of 2020. During the six years leading up to the COVID-dominated 2020 there had been a total of 26 such cases.
The boom in impersonation was linked to the data breech that hounded the state’s Employment Security Department. With so many people furloughed from jobs or finding themselves without employment, offshore scammers went to work. With an avalanche of unemployment claims being filed, many found themselves falling victim to identity theft – criminals impersonated legitimate pandemic victims so they could abscond with ill-gotten unemployment benefits.
Enumclaw Police Chief Bob Huebler said most of those crimes were reported in the early spring.
There also were scattered reports of an uptick in domestic issues — as couples and families spent more time in close quarters — but that wasn’t the case in Enumclaw. During 2020, the EPD reported 32 cases of simple assault/DV, a slight increase from 2019 but fewer than the six years before that. There were three cases of the more serious aggravated assault/domestic violence, a number not out there of line with previous years.
Huebler said there may have been more police responses for “verbal only” domestic issues, but those did not rise to the level where they would be reflected in the year-end report.
Here’s a look at other facts and figures from the police department’s end-of-2020 report:
• Under the heading of “sex crimes,” there were three forcible rapes reported last year, about average in recent years. The crime hit a high in 2014 with five reported rapes and dropped to just one in 2019. There were seven crimes identified as forcible fondle/child molestation, a seven-year high.
• In the “burglary/breaking and entering” category, the EPD had 22 reported commercial burglary cases in 2020, the most since 2014. There were eight reported residential burglaries, the lowest number in recent years.
• When it comes to thefts, Enumclaw’s criminals primarily targeted automobiles. Police responded to 66 thefts from vehicles in 2020, the most since the 82 such crimes in 2014. In the same “thefts/larceny” category, there were 32 instances of shoplifting, 21 cases involving a theft from a building, two thefts of vehicle parts and even one theft from a coin-operated machine.
• Not only did thieves steal from automobiles, sometimes they took the entire vehicle. The Enumclaw Police Department dealt with 20 reports of stolen autos. That’s the bad news; if there’s silver lining, that’s the fewest stolen autos in the past seven years. A year ago, in 2019, there were 35 such cases.
• Twenty-eight people were arrested for driving under the influence. That’s down from 35 in 2019 and 39 the year before that.
• Police received a multitude of calls about “suspicious” people or situation, more than two per day on average. The total for 2020 climbed to 734, just a bit more than the year before but well over the 465 calls received in 2018.
• Officers frequently are called when someone is in emotional crisis and, in 2020, that resulted in 46 people taken to hospitals for involuntary commitments. On 11 instances, the commitment was voluntary.
• As COVID-19 continued to claim victims, the world of law enforcement became less likely to house prisoners in close quarters. That was certainly the case in Enumclaw, where 222 adults were arrested and jailed. That’s less than half the number that were jailed in 2016 when 463 found themselves behind Enumclaw bars.
• When it comes to traffic, city police issued 163 criminal citations, handed out 42 parking tickets and responded to 143 accidents. The number of criminal citations was in line with recent years, fewer than the 174 issued in 2019 but more than the 146 written in 2018.