March 6 | Parking Ordinance and Police Statistics
Posted on 03/14/2018

The Newcastle City Council roundups offer a digest of notable items for those who can't make it to the regular meetings. Listen to the audio from the March 6 meeting here and view the meeting agenda packet here.

Council to Reconsider Parking Ordinance

After listening to resident concerns during public comment, the Newcastle City Council put the brakes on proposed amendments to the city's parking regulations.

Under the current code (RCW 46.55), cars left abandoned on a public street are subject to removal and/or citation. In Newcastle, this is enforced primarily on a complaint-only basis. When the police department receives a complaint about a parked vehicle left abandoned, officers will look to find the vehicle's owner and/or issue a 24-hour notice to move the vehicle before it is towed and/or cited.

Based on the current regulations, the driver of the offending vehicle could "move" their car just a few inches to avoid a ticket. The proposed ordinance aims to close that loophole by requiring the owner to move the vehicle to a different city block. The ordinance also includes a provision to raise the fine for parking violations from $25 to $40.

The issue was brought to the City Council after the city received multiple complaints regarding vehicles that remain parked on city streets within the same block for extended periods of time. The main goal of the proposed ordinance is to close the loophole and encourage the drivers of reported vehicles to truly move the car from the street. These amendments would not change the current complaint-based enforcement of this regulation.

After hearing citizens' concerns, the City Council did not take any action on the ordinance and instead decided to gather more information and revisit the issue at an upcoming meeting.

“This is probably the perfect template for a policy discussion on your parking ordinance and what you would like to see and not see,” City Attorney Dawn Reitan told the City Council during the meeting.

Police Chief Melinda Irvine Presents 2017 Police Statistics

The city saw a dramatic decrease in the number of Part I crimes (which include burglary, larceny, robbery and auto theft) in the fourth quarter of 2017. There were 47 Part 1 crimes in the final three months of the year, down from 62 in the third quarter of 2017.

Overall, the city’s crime rate (a calculation of the number of Part I crimes divided by population in thousands) continues to go down. In 2017, there were 22 Part I crimes per 1,000 residents, compared to 24 in 2016, 25 in 2015 and 33 in 2014.

King County prosecutors recently announced they will not file charges in 1,500 misdemeanor cases from 2017 to focus the office’s limited resources on more serious violations. During the presentation, Police Chief Melinda Irvine made it clear that’s not the case in Newcastle. She assured the council that the City of Newcastle will continue to aggressively prosecute low-level crimes.

“We have a great prosecutor who works very hard to identify responses to crimes,” Chief Irvine said. “None of our cases are being dismissed, and we hope the criminal element hears that and realizes that Newcastle is not the place to commit crimes.”

“Newcastle will continue to prosecute misdemeanors and it’s going to continue to improve our crime rates as compared to other jurisdictions,” Detective Chris Leyba added.

View Chief Irvine’s presentation the council here and the 2017 police statistics here.

Other Notes

• Toward the end of the meeting, the City Council explored options for its annual training program. City staff shared educational opportunities for webinars and conferences touching on a variety of subjects, including budgeting and emergency management. An entire council trained to the same level creates a valuable synergy of ideas, a common dialogue and a highly-performing group making decisions based on shared knowledge and best practices. This year, staff is recommending all councilmembers work toward attaining an Association of Washington Cities Certificate of Municipal Leadership.

• New King County Sheriff Mitzi Johanknecht briefly introduced herself to the City Council before the meeting. Read the sheriff’s bio here.

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