January 18, 2018

Archives for March 2011

Gangs of Whatcom County

By: Spencer Kope, WCSO Crime Analyst

Gangs.  They’ve been a part of Whatcom County for decades; a part of the United States for centuries.  Many county residents are familiar with the Bandidos, an Outlaw Motorcycle Gang (OMG) with thousands of members worldwide, whose National President and International Presidents have called Whatcom County home.  Until recently, however, residents were less familiar with the more troublesome gangs─the street gangs.

With names like the South Side Whittier Tokers, 18th Street, La Raza Playboys, West Side Piru, and Brown Pride Sureno, these gangs are responsible for most of the graffiti seen in the county, as well as a significant amount of crime, including violent crime.

Many in county law enforcement initially viewed these early gang members as “busters”─a gang term for kids who identify themselves as gang members, use gang monikers,  wear gang clothing, and flash gang signs, but who lack the “street credit” of the hardcore gang members in the big cities.

This view began to change as local gang members became increasingly active in drug dealing, assaults, robberies, burglaries─even rape and murder.  The dynamics of the area also began to change as hardened gang members, primarily from California, but also from Chicago, Texas, Oklahoma, Missouri and Mexico, moved to the county and either established gangs or joined existing gangs.

Today, there are at least thirty-eight active gangs in the county accounting for more than 400 members.  These include the Bandidos, street gangs like the Bloods, Crips, and Surenos, and the more loosely defined gangs like the Juggalos and the various white supremacist groups.

Recognizing a gang member based on appearance alone can be problematic.  One of the biggest giveaways is gang-related tattoos.  Locally, these might include the number “13” and the word “Sur” or “Sureno,”  which are identifiers for Hispanic gang members associated with the Sureno gang movement.  Surenos account for at least ten local gangs and more than 200 gang members.

Recognizing gang graffiti is relatively easy.  The same identifiers for Surenos apply, though the “13” might be written as “XIII” or “X3”.  Other gang tags include the “18” or “XVIII” of the Sureno gang, 18th Street; anything with “Piru” indicates a Blood gang; references to South Side, West Side, East Side, or an area code like 360 are also gang identifiers.  As a rule, any graffiti with a number in it is likely gang related.


Mental Illness, Our Jail and Community Follow Up

Sheriff Bill Elfo

Jaculine J. Mitchell, Whatcom County Health Department and Sheriff Bill Elfo

The percentage of inmates housed in jail with diagnosed mental health issues ranges from 12-26% of the total jail population on any given day. Last year 7800 people were booked into jail and over 2700 were referred for mental health services. For many individuals, the first time that they are diagnosed with a mental disorder is the first time that they are booked into jail. Although the data reflects total bookings and referrals that may include some repeat bookings and services for the same person, it demonstrates the tremendous volume of work which takes place in the jail on behalf of people with mental illness.


Many offenders are stabilized after receiving jail-based mental health services. However, once released back into the community, treatment often stops and results in another crime and another arrest that is at least partially driven by the person’s untreated mental illness.

Reductions in community based mental health programs have made this situation worse. The federal exclusion rule exacerbates the problem because it suspends Medicaid/Medicare benefits for mental health services once a recipient is booked into jail. Not only are treatment costs transferred to the local government for the period of incarceration, but many offenders lack the wherewithal to re-enroll in these programs once released, and don’t receive needed mental health services in the community.

Acting on recommendations of the County Behavioral Health Revenue Advisory Committee, the Whatcom County Council chose to strengthen an existing Jail Mental Health Professional (JMHP) program, and create a Re-Entry Service program in the jail for those offenders with mental health issues.

The goal of the JMHP is to assure crisis stabilization and symptom management of offenders with acute mental illness. Services consist of screening, assessment, treatment and coordination of care with community providers upon release. The program is overseen through a partnership between the County Health Department and the Sheriff’s Office.

[Read more…]

Operation Hopeline

Issued by: Sheriff Bill Elfo

The Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office is pleased to participate in the Whatcom County Police Chiefs’ and Sheriff Associations’ support of Operation HopeLine. The program is being led by the Association’s President, Chief Michael Knapp of the Ferndale Police Department.

HopeLine collects used wireless phones and accessories, regardless of service provider, make, model or technology. The used phones are refurbished or recycled. The refurbished phones are sold, and Verizon Wireless uses the proceeds from the sale of any donated phone to fund non-profit agencies and to purchase other wireless phones for victims of domestic violence. Older, unsalvageable phones are disposed of in an environmentally sound way through an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-certified salvage company.
The Association will be competing against other law enforcement agencies from around the country to collect equipment. If it succeeds in collecting the highest volume of telephones, local domestic violence service providers will be eligible for Verizon grants.

Sheriff Elfo said: “Hopeline will ensure that all victims of domestic violence have the ability to call for help and receive services from agencies such as Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Services of Whatcom County.”

The Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office will be collecting used phone equipment at its front desk during business hours. Other local police departments are participating and will serve as collection points.

Sheriff’s Office and Fire Marshal investigate pattern of crimes at Yew Street Road Church

Case Number: 11A05169

Incident Type: Arson / Criminal Investigations

Issued By: Sheriff Bill Elfo

The Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office, assisted by the Whatcom County Fire Marshal is investigating a possible Arson that occurred early Saturday morning, March 19th at 2224 Yew Street Road.

At approximately 5:00 AM, A 10 x 12 foot storage shed located at the Center for Spiritual Living Church was reported by a witness, who was working at a nearby radio station, to be on fire. The South Whatcom Fire Authority responded as well as the Fire Marshal. The shed, containing equipment and tools was completely burned and the estimated loss is $2000.00. Total damage for all incidents is nearly $5000.00

A Church representative reported a series of suspicious incidents to the fire investigators who returned to the scene on Monday for follow up processing. The Sheriff’s Office has assigned a detective to the case as well. The Fire Marshal has listed the cause of the shed fire as undetermined and suspicious in nature.

Investigators are looking at a series of incident reports, reported by the Church, starting in December of 2009 which include malicious mischief and burglary. One of the incidents involved the partial burning of a 3 ft. carved wooden statue of an angel, and swastikas and satanic symbols spray painted on the church building.

There are no identified suspects in these cases at this time. The Sheriff’s Office is asking for the public’s assistance with any information pertaining to these investigations, The public is encouraged to report any further suspicious activity noticed in the neighborhood using 911 for in-progress situations.

Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office Detective Division can be reached at 360-676-6650.
The phone numbers for reporting crime tips are:
(360) 715-7459 or toll free 1-866-456-2157.
As this is a voicemail system, you are able to remain anonymous if you wish, or you can leave your personal information and a Detective will return your call if needed.

Our Vision, Mission and Values


The Office of Sheriff:  Dedicated to making Whatcom County the safest in the State through excellence in public safety.


We will provide the highest quality law enforcement, corrections and emergency management services possible.


We are committed to delivering an extraordinary level of service by performing to the best of our abilities and seeking solutions that are practical, innovative, timely and effective.

We will maintain credibility with each other and our constituents through honesty, consistency, loyalty and accountability.

We believe success is achieved by working together and in partnership with our community with openness, humility, resolve and respect.


Recent Legislative Action that May Cause Local Jail Populations to Swell

Sheriff Bill Elfo

Sheriff Bill Elfo

In last week’s Blog, I discussed the impact state legislation has on local jail populations.  Bills recently proposed in Olympia illustrate this point.

State forecasters issued more grim financial news on March 17th, projecting an additional state revenue short fall of approximately $780 million.

To close the gap, some Legislators are proposing further reductions to the State Department of Corrections budget that will result in the early release of additional of inmates from state prisons.   This policy will undoubtedly affect the safety of our communities and county jail populations.

The Legislature has already reduced or eliminated prison based treatment programs, community supervision, offender re-entry programs and increased the early release time an offender may receive by 50%.  As these offenders are released early and without adequate services, history has demonstrated that many will soon end up in county jails, charged with new offenses or violating the terms of their release.

The Governor was asked to state her position on the issue:

“It’s the last place I’d go.  Washington State, I think, has stood strong in truth in sentencing.  That’s very important when you are looking at a victim as a prosecutor and to tell that victim there is truth in sentencing in Washington State.  I didn’t do it.  I don’t want the people of the State of Washington to think we are going to jeopardize their safety in any way, shape, or form.  It would be absolutely the last place I’d go.”

I applaud the Governor for standing firm on this matter.

[Read more…]

About the WCSO Foundation

WCSO Foundation: Promoting Excellence in Public Safety

In 2009, a group of concerned citizens approached Sheriff Elfo with the idea of helping the Sheriffs Office provide excellence in public safety by creating a non-profit 501(3)(c) charitable corporation to fund Sheriffs Office project that were not funded in the county budget.

A board of directors was elected consisting of Mr. Cody J. Chamber, President, Michael Kent, Vice President, Robert C. Pittman, Counsel, Perry T. Sikes, Treasurer, and Marvin M. Wolff, Secretary. The Board established a bank account so that donations could be made for general purposes or for specific functions such as the Sheriffs Office Honor Guard, Emergency Management, Deputy Sheriff Reserve program, Operations and other activities.  The Foundation has been the beneficiary of funds and equipment from individuals, corporations and other non-profits.

The financial activities of the Foundation are conducted in a business-like manner and reviewed by a Certified Public Accountant. All disbursements require the signatures of at least two Board members.

Anyone wishing to help with this worthwhile program can contact the Board President Cody Chambers at cchambers@jerrychambers.com or Perry Sikes at perrytsikes@msn.com . Communications may also be addressed to Marvin Wolff at mnmwolff@comcast.net.  Donations may be made by sending a check to the Whatcom County Sheriffs Support Foundation c/o Cody Chambers Chambers Chevrolet

3891 Northwest Avenue

Bellingham, WA 98226

Donors will receive a receipt and may designate as to any specific program they wish for their donation to apply.


About this site

Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office Foundation Site

This site is owned and maintained by the Whatcom Sheriffs Support Foundation.  The Foundation was formed as a charitable 501(3)(c) corporation by a group of citizens concerned about public safety and budgetary challenges faced by the Sheriffs Office.

As resources and technical support become scarcer, the Foundation recognized the value of taking advantage of social media and blogs as a means of keeping citizens informed.  Other law enforcement agencies and public entities have enjoyed success with these communication mediums.

By ordinance, the Whatcom County web-site is the official site of all county government.  However, the Foundation site has extended capabilities and will enhance the quality and quantity of information the Sheriffs Office is able to disseminate to the citizens of Whatcom County.

This site will provide our citizens and the press with news releases, information about crime trends and wanted criminals and will do short features on various units of the Sheriffs Office.

The site will also contain a weekly blog in which the Sheriff Elfo, another Sheriffs Office official or an invitee from another will publish a short essay on an important public safety issue.

We hope you find the site useful and invite your comments.


Patrol Leads the Way

Patrol is the most visible and recognizable division within the Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office.  The Patrol division is the backbone of the Bureau of Enforcement and Investigative Services. Patrol deputies have primary responsibility for the initial response to emergency situations and criminal activity. They are available 24/7 to patrol and respond to Whatcom County’s vast geographical area, which spans approximately 2150 square miles. While patrolling their assigned areas, deputies prevent and deter crime by their visible presence. Patrol deputies are first responders and “lead the way” when a call is made to 911 requesting assistance.

The Patrol division is made up of a dedicated and highly trained group of men and women, committed to providing the highest quality law enforcement services possible. Patrol deputies are trained to safely respond and investigate calls for service and criminal activity.  Based on their assessment of the nature of the call, patrol deputies may request the assistance of the Detectives division or Crime Scene Investigators to thoroughly investigate a case or process a crime scene. 

In addition to deputies whose primary responsibility is to handle calls for service, the Patrol Division includes specialty units with deputies assigned to Traffic, K-9, the Criminal Interdiction Team (CIT), as well as Resident and Neighborhood Deputy positions. Both Traffic and the Criminal Interdiction Team provide a proactive enforcement capability, allowing them to interdict habitual offenders and deter crime before it occurs. Traffic deputies focus their efforts on areas with a high incidence of collisions, as well as school zones and requests for enforcement by local residents.  All Patrol-based specialty assignment deputies are available for and respond to calls for service when other patrol deputies are tied up on other calls.  The Criminal Interdiction Team has been highly successful in identifying and focusing their efforts on those offenders that are regularly involved in serious crimes, including narcotics trafficking, aggravated assaults, burglaries, thefts and gang activity.  The Resident and Neighborhood Deputy positions provide a community-oriented emphasis within their areas of responsibility.  This allows the deputy to become familiar with the citizens, as well as the geographical area and associated criminal activity.  The deputy and the community can then work together to prevent, deter and reduce crime within their neighborhoods.

All patrol deputies and specialty units assigned to patrol duties are supported by the Crime Analysis Unit.  Our Crime Analyst provides deputies with information related to habitual offenders, emerging crime trends and “hotspots” of criminal activity.  Deputies utilize this information to coordinate enforcement efforts and deploy resources where they are most needed. The men and women of the Patrol division serve proudly and are dedicated to making Whatcom County the safest in the State through excellence in Public Safety.

Look for features on the specialty patrol units coming soon.

Drug Bust in Sudden Valley

Whatcom County Sheriff Bill Elfo, speaking on behalf of the Northwest Regional Drug Task Force, announced the arrest of two individuals on March 16th involved in the trafficking and sale of marijuana in a Sudden Valley neighborhood.  Sheriff Elfo said: “Any drug trafficking operation presents risks for innocent bystanders.  We are particularly concerned when these transactions occur in our neighborhoods.”

Undercover agents of the Northwest Regional Drug Task Force purchased four pounds of marijuana from the occupant of a residence on Alder Court in Sudden Valley (value $8100).  Todd Newlun of Selma, Oregon was arrested for two counts Delivery of a Controlled Substance and Possession of Marijuana (>40 Grams) with Intent to Deliver.  The agents recovered the currency used to purchase the marijuana and located an additional $11,250 in currency plus an additional quantity of marijuana.

As officers were awaiting a search warrant prior to arresting Newlun and searching his home, they observed a vehicle occupied by Eric Shaheed Pitts of Bellingham and located an additional 4.2 pounds of marijuana from the residence.

Arrested were:

Todd F. Newlun (10-15-68) of Selma Oregon, 2 counts Delivery of a Controlled Substance and Possession of Marijuana (>40 Grams) with Intent to Deliver
Eric Shaheed Pitts (11-22-81) of Bellingham,  Delivery of a Controlled Substance and Possession of Marijuana (>40 Grams) with Intent to Deliver.

The Northwest Regional Drug Task Force is a joint consortium of law enforcement agencies from Whatcom County including the Whatcom County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, the Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office, the Bellingham Police Department, the Washington State Patrol and the United States Department of Homeland Security (Border Patrol and Homeland Security Investigations Office).