Fewer police officers doesn't lead to more crime in the Tri-Cities

TRI-CITIES, Wash. -- The number of police on Tri-Cities streets may be smaller than it was years ago, but they are no less effective.

"Everyone knew their neighbors, everyone knew what was going on in the neighborhood."

Linda Shephard wistfully remembers the Kennewick she knew in the 80's.
Since then there are more people, more homes, but not necessarily more crimes.

"I don't want anything to happen. I like to remain calm and safe," Shephard tells KEPR.

When Shephard moved to her neighborhood, 90,000 people lived in the entire Tri-Cities. Today it's triple that. Local police frequently complain their stretched too thin. The proof is in the numbers.

Each police department has fewer officers per thousand people than what they had a decade ago. Pasco has shown the biggest decline compared to growth.

Conventional wisdom would suggest violent crime would go up with fewer officers on our streets, but KEPR discovered that's not the case. Far from it in fact.

A quick check of the numbers show Kennewick and Pasco actually had more violent crime ten years ago. In fact, only Richland has more crime now.

Police say by beefing up patrols of violent crime, they've caused an overall drop in the crime rate, even with fewer officers on the beat.

"We have to be on the offense... We don't want to be on the defense," says Sgt. Ken Lattin, Kennewick Police.

Pasco expects to hire four-new officers next year, while Kennewick will hire three. Police tell KEPR they always need the manpower to stay one step ahead of criminals. Even with the new hires, it won't match the ranks of ten years ago, but they'll keep doing all they can to keep you safe.