What happens to a state when crime becomes so prevalent that the state leads the country? Well, history tells us that people start to complain to politicians, who, in turn begin to pass laws designed to curb those crimes. This often means stricter sentencing guidelines and heavily funded task forces designed to catch more criminals. There is another side to the situation, however. It often also means more wrongfully accused people are caught in the net.
Washington State Becomes the #1 State in America for Property Crimes
According to FBI crime statistics, as of 2014, Washington State has the highest number of property-related crimes in the Nation. As the Seattle Times reported, this may be largely due to drastic increases in auto thefts in the Seattle area. However, when state officials start cracking down, it affects the whole state.
Washington Moves Forward with Comprehensive Reform
Sure enough, the State did move forward with something called “Justice Reinvestment.” This new program is anticipated to cost the State nearly $80 million. According to the Governor's office, this new taskforce will allow law enforcement to supervise property crime offenders after incarceration. This means even after a criminal has served his or her time in jail for a crime relating to property, that person may still continue to be monitored for years. When subsequent crimes occur near that former offender, it is likely the police will closely scrutinize the individual.
What the Legislation Will Do
Senate Bill 5755 aims to curb these high rates of property crimes in Washington State. It was introduced and first read on February 2, 2015, and it acknowledges that the rule requiring that victims be notified when offenders are released from prison is due to expire. This means as of 2016, there would otherwise be no such requirement. This Bill seeks to reinstate that requirement. Likewise, the Bill seeks to include a wide range of property crimes, including such small crimes as Malicious Mischief in the First and Second Degrees. The latter of these is reserved for causing damages to someone's property in excess of $750, and it is listed as a Class C Felony. This means that, as written, the new law would allow police supervision of a petty criminal who spray paints a building or breaks a store window. Similarly, under the new law, that person's release from prison would require notifying the victim.
Governor Inslee's office claims that this taskforce will ultimately save over $290 million in avoided property loss. However, as with any sweeping enforcement effort, there will be those who are wrongfully accused and perhaps even targeted for prior crimes. Questions about this program can be directed to the Governor's Senior Policy Advisor, Sandy Mullins.
Property Crime Arrests
If you or someone you know has been arrested and charged with committing a property-related crime in Spokane or the surrounding areas, you should immediately contact an experienced and aggressive criminal defense lawyer who can explain your rights and navigate the court system on your behalf. Given these strict changes in legislation, it is clear that Washington State is stepping up enforcement of property crimes, and a conviction may mean years of supervision and law enforcement scrutiny.