The Roundup: Police Arrest 149 Gang Members; Kent Ranks Ninth in Nation for Car Theft

A weekly roundup of regional news

• A massive, multi-agency, three-month-long anti-gang activity operation in the Puget Sound region has resulted in the arrest of 263 fugitives, 149 of whom are gang members or associates.

Multiple federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies — including police officers from Kent, Auburn, Federal Way, Tukwila, and Des Moines — targeted street gangs in Snohomish, King, and Pierce counties in what was dubbed “Operation Triple Beam Jet city.” Led by the U.S. Marshals Western District of Washington Fugitive Task Force, the operation ended Sept. 30.

Through the operation, law enforcement agencies seized 30 firearms; 0.608 pounds of heroin (with an approximate street value of $9,800); 108.38 grams of cocaine valued at $7,000; 9.14 pounds of methamphetamine valued at $60,000; $2,500 worth of Xanax pills; 263 doses of anabolic steroids valued at $1,000; five motor vehicles; and recovered two stolen vehicles.

“Operation Triple Beams’ success illustrates the extensive partnerships within the law enforcement community and their ability to combine their specialized skills,” said Jacob Green, acting U.S. Marshal for the Western District of Washington, in a Oct. 11 press release. “As a force multiplier Operation Triple Beam’s unique design is to bring immediate relief to communities ravaged by violence through this short-term anti-gang violent crime reduction methodology. The arrest of 263 offenders within a span of 90 days should send a message that we will not stop. We will continue to address the violence in our community.” — Kent Reporter

• According to a study released last month, Kent ranks fifth in the nation for car thefts, only coming behind cities like Tacoma, Portland, and Oakland., a security website that produces its own research, used FBI data from annual reports to estimate that roughly five cars were stolen per 1,000 people in Kent between 2015 and 2016. The most commonly stolen cars are dated models of the Honda Civic and Honda Accord. Per the study, the majority of the cities in the top 20 for car theft rates were in western states, while three of the top five are in Northern California.

Kent Police Chief Rafael Padilla said opioid addiction is one of the reasons fueling the high theft rates in Kent.

“One of the main driving factors is the opioid epidemic,” he said. “Addicts desperate to pay for their illicit narcotics often turn to criminal activity to do so. Another factor is our homeless population. It is not uncommon for our officers to come across stolen vehicles being used by the homeless as a means of shelter.”

Kent police formed a vehicle theft task force in 2017 and 2016 to focus on the issue, and police also conduct targeted patrols. However, limited law enforcement staffing remains an obstacle to getting a handle on the problem, Padilla said.

Despite limited resources, Padilla claimed that 2017’s car theft data will show a modest decline in the crime rate. “If our current rate of thefts this year holds, we will come in with about a 20 percent reduction from 2017,” he said. “That’s still a higher amount than we want to see, but a significant improvement nonetheless.” — Kent Reporter

Garbage, recycling and compost collection services for Waste Management customers in King and Snohomish counties was suspended on Oct. 11 after a natural gas pipeline ruptured in British Columbia.

A pipeline that connects Canadian natural gas lines to the American Pacific Northwest exploded on Oct. 9 about 600 miles northeast of Vancouver, B.C. No injuries were reported, but the explosion forced some 100 members of the Lheidli T’enneh First Nation from their homes, the Herald reported.

The rupture interrupted natural gas deliveries for Puget Sound Energy, which the agency uses for its collection trucks. The energy company has an estimated 800,000 customers in the Puget Sound area and serves Bellevue and other Eastside cities. The disruption has affected Eastside cities of Kirkland, Redmond, Snoqualmie, and unincorporated King and Snohomish counties.

As of Oct. 11, Puget Sound Energy officials said that repairs had stabilized the system and its power grid was returning to normal operations. Customers may resume regular gas usage. There was no loss of electric or natural gas service resulting from the explosion,PSE said. — Bothell-Kenmore Reporter