'Crime tax' passing in Benton County

TRI-CITIES, Wash. -- New ballots still keep a higher sales tax approved by voters in Benton County. Franklin County passed a similar crime tax a couple years ago. It put more boots on the street and built a new jail. KEPR looked at how the boost in cash made a difference there, and how quickly you'll see changes in Benton County.

By paying three more cents on every $10 you spend, law enforcement across Benton County will take in over $9,000,000 a year.

"I'm happy that the citizens of Benton County decided it was important enough to vote for because as you know, taxes are not always the most popular thing, so very excited," said Benton County Sheriff Steve Keane.

The so-called "crime tax" will add dozens of officers across the region.
First on the list will be seven deputies, four corrections officers, and two booking clerks. A program will be added to help suspects who are mentally ill, instead of just throwing them in jail without treatment.

"I think with the additional police officers and deputies and addressing the mental health issue finally, those things will really help make our community safer," said Sheriff Keane.

Both Benton and Franklin County Sheriff's Departments say the tax should be beneficial in both counties because of how often they work together.

"The crime in this community, it flows throughout the whole community, so if they're given additional resources over there to address it, that's gonna be helpful for all of us," said Franklin County Sheriff Richard Lathim.

Franklin County passed a crime tax a couple years ago. The lion's share went to building a new jail and sheriff's office. Just a third was for operations, including the street crimes unit in Pasco.

"It created the opportunity for us to be able to meet the needs of our growing community and the need to keep people held accountable for their crimes," said Lathim.

The citizens of two counties choosing to raise taxes, to fight crime in the Tri-Cities.

It will still be a couple of weeks before election results become official. But the difference between approved and rejected is wide enough that the results aren't expected to change.