Crime is the number one problem affecting the quality of life in Grant County.
We are seeing an epidemic of thefts, as metal and hay thieves prey on our hardworking farmers. We’re seeing property crimes, including burglaries, vandalism and graffiti. We’re seeing the growing issue of gangs and the violence they bring. We’re seeing assaults, rapes and homicides. And there is a growing feeling by county residents that we are powerless to prevent crime.
We are not powerless. The good people of Grant County can do something to help fight crime. We can buy more locks, alarms and cameras. We can be more vigilant when it comes to protecting ourselves and our neighbors. We can keep our eyes open and report suspicious behavior as soon as we see it. Many of the metal thefts and hay thefts are happening in broad daylight. If we see something that doesn’t seem right, we can observe and report and be willing to testify if called upon.
But even if we do our part, I believe we still need our county government to do more to help reduce crime in Grant County. We need to have more deputies patrolling our county. We need to make our juvenile probation system more effective in monitoring and holding underage gang members accountable for their crimes.
We need to figure out a way to increase the capacity of our jail so those convicted of crime can serve full sentences rather than being put back on the streets.
We need to spend as much on prosecuting suspects as we do on defending them.
We need to develop a program to quickly remove gang graffiti in the county, rather than allowing it to tarnish our countryside for years.
Of course, the argument against all of this is the lack of money. Indeed, it is unrealistic to think all of these things can be done without increasing revenue.
I believe there is enough sentiment and understanding among county voters that a tax increase specifically earmarked for fighting crime would pass by an overwhelming majority in Grant County. Raising taxes is usually not a popular position in our conservative county, but having a strong national defense is a conservative principal. And so should having a strong local defense.
The Grant County commissioners can put a three-tenths of one cent tax increase (That’s $3 more in sales tax for every $1,000 in taxable purchases) earmarked for local criminal justice on the ballot. It would mean between $4 million and $5 million more a year going to law enforcement, criminal prosecution and corrections in the county. I believe that is something we need to do now.
Make no mistake; our county is greatly impacted by crime. The fear, anger and worries over crime have taken not only an emotional toll, but there is also a tangible expense in the increased costs of protecting ourselves, and our property. Plus there is the expense of replacing items that are stolen or damaged, higher insurance premiums and the threat of lower property values if people choose to avoid living in high-crime areas of Grant County.
As someone who is fed up with crime in this county, I plan to attend the next county commissioners meeting on Monday, April 9 at the Grant County Courthouse in Ephrata. I plan to address them during their public comment period at 10:30 a.m. and tell them I want the county to do more to fight crime, even if it means supporting a tax increase. I know others who are planning to do the same.
I invite everyone concerned about crime in Grant County to join us. Filling the commissioners’ hearing room would send a message that it is time for us to do more to make our county a better place for good people and a worse place for criminals. If you cannot join us, then, please, let your commissioners and/or your mayors and city council members know you support a stronger criminal justice system in Grant County.
— Chuck Allen
publisher of the Quincy Valley Post-Register