March 1, 2017

Archives for July 2011

Emergency Management? Never Heard of It.

By Doug Dahl

When I tell people I work for the Sheriff’s Office in emergency management the usual response is, “Emergency wha . . .?”  Many people don’t even know there is a Division of Emergency Management in the Sheriff’s Office, much less what we do.

Here’s a simple answer to that question: We’re the people that get involved when an event is too big for the capabilities of the responding agency.  We handle things like community notification, coordinating multiple response organizations, finding more resources and personnel, and managing the recovery process.  Essentially we provide support to responders in the field.

Do we ever have those kinds of emergencies?  You bet we do.  Here’s a reminder of a few of them:

2011 Flood

2010 Wind Storm

2010 Flood

2009 Landslide

2009 Flood

Whatcom Middle School Fire

Tanker Rollover

Olympic Pipeline Explosion

If you’d like more information about how to prepare for disasters, visit our website at www.whatcomready.org or come see us at the Northwest Washington Fair August 15-20.

Five Reasons to Have a Traffic Unit

“With all the real crimes in our community, doesn’t the Sheriff’s Office have better things to do than write tickets to decent citizens for minor traffic violations?”  Any cop that’s made more than two traffic stops has probably been asked that question.  And you may have asked it too.  While traffic enforcement has been a critical function of the Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office for many years, in 2004 the agency formed a traffic unit to provide a coordinated effort to increase safety on Whatcom County roadways.  Operating from a mission to provide safe roadways to the citizens of Whatcom County, here’s what the WCSO traffic unit does to serve the community:

  1. Reduce crashes: The best way to reduce injuries and death from traffic crashes is through enforcement.  Many drivers choose to obey traffic laws because they want to be safe, but for drivers who lack that intrinsic motivation, someone needs to be the hammer.  Enforcement in historically high crash areas consistently reduces crashes.  The WCSO traffic unit relies on crash statistics to identify priority locations for traffic enforcement.
  2. Investigate crashes: Maybe back in 1950 a cop could show up to a crash and conclude, “Yep, you wrecked your car,” but today collision investigators rely on both technology and solid communication to reach the most accurate conclusion about a crash.  Using math, science, specialized equipment and good observation skills, deputies can determine approximate speeds before the crash, actions the driver took to avoid or contribute to the crash and how the vehicles ended up at their final resting places.
  3. Arrest impaired drivers:  Less than 2% of drivers on the road are impaired, but nearly one third of all traffic fatalities involved impaired drivers.  In 2010 that meant over 10,000 deaths in theUnited States.  Since 1998 WCSO and other law enforcement agencies in the county have partnered together as the Whatcom County Traffic Safety Task Force to target impaired drivers.  Focused enforcement has led to reductions in DUI crashes, injuries and deaths.
  4. Educate motorists: Not every traffic stop results in a ticket.  Often it is an opportunity for deputies to provide a memorable reminder about the applicable traffic law.  For many of us it’s been a while since we’ve read the driver’s guide.
  5. Catch bad guys: Traffic cops contact a lot of people for bad driving choices.  And guess what?  Criminals tend to make more bad driving decisions than the average citizen.  That means traffic stops often turn into arrests for a variety of crimes.  The traffic unit has caught drug smugglers, burglars, rapists and murderers as the result of “routine” traffic stops.

Traffic crashes cause more injuries, deaths and financial impacts than all other crimes combined.  At the WCSO we believe that kind of data demands a highly skilled unit dedicated to keeping our roads safe.

Escaped Work Release Inmate Captured by off-duty Corrections Deputy

An alert Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office Corrections Deputy spotted escapee Michael Williams in downtown Bellingham last night around 6:00 PM. 

Corrections Deputy Mark Reis was in the area to get a haircut when he noticed the escaped offender walking nearby.  Deputy Reis, who is familiar with Williams from contact with him at the Jail Work Center immediately confronted and physically detained Williams until the Bellingham Police Department arrived to assist.

 Deputy Reis, although off-duty, did an outstanding job and did not hesitate to take action when he saw Williams, who has been at large since he walked away from the work crew on June 27th.

 Williams was returned to custody and is being held without bail in the Whatcom County Jail for Escape Second Degree.

Sheriff’s Office Makes Drug Arrest and Large Cash Seizure

On Saturday, July 2, at about 12:00 PM, a Whatcom County Sheriff’s Deputy observed a woman driving while texting. The Deputy was able to stop the woman just south of the County line on Interstate 5 in Skagit County.  The woman, who was from California and operating a Nevada plated vehicle, appeared extremely nervous.  The Deputy deployed a narcotics-detection canine in the area of the vehicle for a “routine sniff” and the dog alerted to the presence of narcotics.

 Subsequent investigation revealed that the woman was in possession of $400,000 in United States currency.  The initial investigation at the scene of the traffic stop revealed that Methamphetamine had been present in the vehicle and the currency was seized as part of the investigation.

The investigation is continuing and no additional details will be released at this time.

Sheriff Elfo said: “The I-5 corridor is a major pipeline for transporting methamphetamine, cocaine and heroin.  Since March, the Sheriff’s Office has stopped four separate vehicles on I-5 and seized millions in drugs and cash.  Criminal enterprises carrying such valuable cargo put our entire community at risk for violence”