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Calls to police dropped with pandemic

Washington police officers pose for a photo with the City Council. (Caitlin Yamada/ The Union)
Washington police officers pose for a photo with the City Council. (Caitlin Yamada/ The Union)

WASHINGTON — The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on crime was shown in Washington Police Department data.

In April, the police received 184 calls for service, a decrease of 104 calls from the previous year. The incidents increased until it hit a peak in August with 464 calls, an almost 100 call increase from 2019.

Police Chief Jim Lester presented the annual report during the Feb. 17 City Council meeting. The following information is from the presentation.

Regarding calls for service, the police department handled 40 drug offenses and 30 drug paraphernalia offenses in 2020. The main controlled substances seen through the year were marijuana, methamphetamine, cocaine and prescription drugs.

The most common offense was theft, including shoplifting. Of the 439 offenses in the year, 139 fell into this category.

The police department has various staff changes through the year. In January, investigator Ron See retired and in March Officer Eric Kephart joined the department.

In July, Officer Shamus Altenhofen was promoted to lieutenant, Officer Jason Chalupa was promoted to sergeant and Officer Ben Altenhofen was promoted to sergeant.

Kephart was appointed the K-9 handler in June. Dex and Kephart responded to five incidents, four of which involved a controlled substance.

“We would also like to acknowledge and thank retired WPD K-9 Handler Brett Sorrells for his knowledge and expertise in working with Officer Kephart and Dex to help them learn together and achieve their initial certification in less than a month,” Lester said in the report.

A few standout events in the year included monitoring three protests, visiting kids at school and moving into the newly renovated police station.

Lester said the department adapted well to the changing COVID-19 pandemic.

“Throughout the pandemic and the events of the summer, officers appreciated the many kind gestures of support including an anonymous monetary gift designated for the purchase of external vest carriers for each member of the department,” Lester said.