On June 6, the Battle Ground City Council voted against Clark County’s Proposition 11 for public safety funding. As leaders of a grassroots effort to fight crime in our communities, we support the proposed .1% sales tax increase.
The county and its cities — in a 60/40 split, as required by law — must spend the money on public safety and criminal justice.
We are all in it together. Crimes committed in Vancouver, Ridgefield, Battle Ground, or in unincorporated locations, likely will impact the rest. Criminals do not observe borders.
We, advocates, are all too aware of today’s financial stresses, but crime in our communities has become a crisis we can no longer defer. Proposition 11 is a necessary response to a spike in crime that is crippling individuals, especially the vulnerable, struggling families and businesses large and small.
Thefts of catalytic converters are up 10,000% since 2019 and vehicle thefts have increased by 88% since 2021. Home deliveries of packages are now routinely stolen. Most of those responsible are young males driving stolen cars or with no license plates to avoid detection. They lie in wait in neighborhoods following delivery trucks and opportunistically stealing at will. Few are apprehended, much less charged or punished. New unwise laws hamper police response.
Some local grocery stores are experiencing crime hourly. Law-abiding patrons watch as brazen shoplifters exit stores, carts piled high with stolen goods.
What message does this lack of accountability send to other potential criminals? Even more important, what are young people learning? If this decline in respect for law continues, where will our society be in a decade? Who will then volunteer for law enforcement under such conditions?
The most fundamental obligation of government is public safety. The failure we are experiencing promotes chaos. Individuals conclude they must provide for their own and their family’s security. Are we prepared for widespread and justifiable self-protection?
Last January, a large group of concerned and affected people from many neighborhoods, including many representing our region’s large businesses such as Fred Meyer and Safeway, joined our Zoom call to sound the alarm about spiking crime. Elected officials joined from Vancouver and the county. Law enforcement from cities and the county participated. They offered much needed advice, too often ignored.
We identified solutions. This proposed Proposition 11, a sales tax of 10 cents per every $100 spent, is part of a comprehensive effort we are advocating. We know a variety of approaches are needed. First, establish trust, transparency and accountability between law enforcement and county residents by finally procuring body cameras and the funding needed every year for maintenance and training. Additional funds are required to be spent on public safety or criminal justice.
Battle Ground’s council members believe they do not need the additional funding for public safety, but we contend their voters will disagree.
Second on our to-do list, is addressing morale and recruitment/retention, because Clark County has earned the dubious distinction of being “the lowest of the low” in law enforcement staffing, in the state and nation. Ask law enforcement why this is and take action to correct deficiencies.
Third; revise the unwise state laws passed in 2020 that tipped the balance in law enforcement strongly in favor of the criminal. Listen to law enforcement as to how to write fair but reasonable laws about pursuit and probable cause. Only minimal progress was made in 2021.
Finally; plan for, design, remodel, and/or build a humane, safe and effective jail. Today’s failing county jail is contributing to the public safety crisis.
Ann Donnelly, Jim Mains and Michele Rudi are the three founders of Clark County Public Safety Alliance. Learn more online at clarkcountypublicsafetyalliance.com or on Facebook at facebook.com/ccpublicsafetyalliance.