Grant County Sheriff Tom Jones spoke to the concerns of a dozen Electric City residents who turned out Monday night at Pepper Jack’s Bar & Grille.
His visit was all part of a plan to hold town hall meetings in 10 communities this year.
Jones said his office would support and help organize a “block watch” program in Electric City sometime in the near future.
The idea came up at an Electric City Council meeting a couple of months ago and has been fostered by Councilmember Birdie Hensley, who was at the Monday night meeting.
“We can’t do our work without the public’s help,” Jones said. “I will return, along with some of my staff, to help you set up a block watch, and even fund a little bit of the expense.”
All 12 of the residents who turned out were from Electric City, four living on the same block.
Their interest in the town hall meeting was sparked by the deluge of criminal reports in the city.
Jones stated that law enforcement can’t do everything alone. He said calls from residents about things they see that appear out of place have turned into arrests several times in the past year.
Accompanying Jones were a half dozen deputies and staff members. The Washington State Patrol had a representative there, and Grant County Commissioner Richard Stevens was on hand, as were two officers from the Grand Coulee Police Department.
Jones said his office responded to 1,700 calls last year, nearly 80 percent of them in the Moses Lake area.
“Seems like you can forget people up at this end of the county,” he said as he replied to a question about coverage at this end of the county.
Jones reported on several law enforcement developments in the county:
• Jones spoke to a new program at the Grant County Jail. Before, inmates were allowed free movement from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. “That’s changed,” he said.
Prisoners are now locked up 23 hours a day and have one hour a day when they have some ability to move around. “If you’ve done something wrong, then the experience should be uncomfortable so they won’t want to come back,” he said.
• When gang activity showed itself in the county, a special gang task force was formed that reduced incidents sharply.
• A rash of metal thefts in the county resulted in a program that involved all recycling companies and a “no buy list,” which identified some 65 pages of individuals who were suspect. Thieves had been stripping copper wiring from buildings and selling the copper for scrap. “This has largely stopped because recyclers have been educated,” he said.
• Jones said he has one officer for every 1,700 residents in the county. The sheriff stated that about eight officers patrol during daytime hours and about the same at night.
The county has two full-time marine officers who cover waterways, including lakes and the Potholes area.
• In 2002, the county disassembled some 202 meth labs, and by 2011 had reduced this to two. “More of the meth is now coming up from Mexico,” Jones explained.
• The county sheriff’s office seized some $150,000, 15 vehicles, 19 firearms and are working on seizing two houses as the result of drug raids.
• Jones stated that there are 284 known sex offenders in Grant County.
• Overcrowding in the county jail has been a problem.
“We are getting good support from the prosecutor’s office,” Jones stated.