Public Safety

Published on Thu, Oct 16, 2003
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Public Safety

Blaine Police Department

The Blaine police department has seen several shifts in staff over the last year, including the placement of Mike Haslip (an employee for more than 25 years) as the police chief, replacing Bill Elfo who moved on to the Whatcom County sheriff�s office.

In addition to the changes, several members of the police department were also awarded for their work efforts. Office Mike Munden and his K-9 pal Yoschi, a three-year-old German shepherd, are now at the top of the certification ranks for K-9 units in the state. As of September 6, Munden is officially known as a K-9 master handler.

On the fraud front, senior police officer Doug Balmer was recognized at Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) headquarters in Surrey, B.C. recently for his work in fraud schemes targeting the elderly, such as lotteries and credit card scams. In addition to Balmer, Dan Sartain and Mike Haslip were also invited to the ceremony, and received written commendations for their participation.

The city of Blaine is feeling the effects of the overcrowding within the Whatcom County jail, a big problem county-wide.

According to Blaine police chief Mike Haslip, 78 people in the Blaine city limits could have and should have been booked into Whatcom County jail, but were not because of jail overcrowding during the month of March. The police force logged every incident during that month to audit the overcrowding effects. About 70 percent of those individuals were from Blaine or Whatcom County.

To address gun safety, the department just received a shipment of 600 safety locks for guns to protect the community. Anyone seeking information on this or other issues, can call the Blaine police department at 332-6769.

Other information is available online at www.cityofblaine.com.

U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary, Flotilla 19

Earlier this year, Blaine�s Flotilla 19 of the Coast Guard Auxiliary added yet another dimension to its list of duties. America�s Volunteer Lifesavers are now involved along with law enforcement and public safety units when responding to emergency calls from vessels in distress.

Working under the direction of their Coast Guard brothers and sisters, the Blaine unit is now a �first responder� in a number of routine safety and emergency cases in the North Puget Sound area. This close cooperation helps lessen the workload of the Coast Guard regulars in Bellingham and other locations throughout Puget Sound.�It is all part of a nation wide effort to use the talents and experience of over 30,000 volunteers to augment the Coast Guard men and women who have been involved in activities supporting the war in Iraq and security precautions involving international terrorism.

Lead by Hoyt Hatfield, the Flotilla 19 commander and his staff, the Flotilla members have helped the Coast Guard and other federal, state and county/city agencies deal with vessels in distress, false Mayday calls and grounded vessels.�Under the direction of the Coast Guard District 13 Commander, Admiral Jeffrey M. Garrett, the Flotilla is part of a five state area-wide response to the increased role of the Coast Guard brought about by the events of September 11, 2001.

Based at the Port of Bellingham Blaine Harbor, Flotilla 19 has 55 members ranging in age from 17 to 83.�These men and women volunteer their time and talents to provide boating safety education, vessel safety checks and a variety of training to hone seamanship skills of their members and the community. Flotilla 19 was officially chartered on August 22, 2002 and is part of Division 1 of the 13th district.�

Along with other local units in Anacortes, Everett and Stevens Lake, WA, Flotilla 19 assists the efforts of Coast Guard station Bellingham.�

North Whatcom Fire & Rescue Services

North Whatcom Fire and Rescue Services is a fire and emergency response agency formed by a cooperative interlocal agreement of fire districts 3, 5 and 13, and the city of Blaine working together, to accomplish shared goals.�

NWFRS was formed in 1999 to share costs and supply the public with quality fire and rescue services amid the increasing demand for service throughout northwest Whatcom County.

Each of the three districts has its own unique service characteristics. District 3 (Lynden) covers a larger area and must meet the special needs of the agriculture in the area. District 5 (Point Roberts) has border issues and, like District 13 (Blaine/Birch Bay), a seasonal jump in responses in the summer months with emphasis in ambulance service and marine fire fighting.�District 13 shares similarities to both 3 and 5 such as, agricultural response, marine firefighting, and transportation hazards from I-5 and railways.

For more information, visit online at www.nwfrs.org. Division 3 can be reached at 318-9933, division 5 at 945-3473 and division 13 at 371-2533.

Department of Homeland Security

A lot has changed in the post 9/11 world. As of March 1, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) became the government�s 15th cabinet-level agency, consolidating 22 previously disparate agencies with more than 170,000 employees.

Agencies such as the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) and United States Customs Service ceased to exist, and the DHS assumed both immigration and customs functions in the United States. Three bureaus now perform border and immigration functions:
� Bureau of Citizen and Immigration Services (BCIS) performs immigration benefits such as adjudications, permanent residence, naturalization, asylum, and service centers.
� Bureau of Customs and Border Protection (BCBP) protects the ports of entry, performs inspections and border patrol.
� Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (BICE) is comprised of enforcement functions such as investigations, detention and removal.

DHS began its life on January 24, 2003, when Governor Tom Ridge of Pennsylvania was sworn in as the first secretary of the new DHS. This was the largest reorganization in the federal government since the Department of Defense was created in 1947.

For more information, visit online at www.dhs.gov. The Blaine port of entry can be reached at 332-5771.

Whatcom County Sheriff�s Office

The Whatcom County Sheriff�s Office (WCSO) provides law enforcement services in an area covering over 2,150 square miles.

Through technology and partnerships with the private sector and local fire districts, they have created a series of reporting stations throughout the county where deputies report for duty, conduct interviews, access information from headquarters and perform other functions. Paperwork requirements are being reduced and deputies are encouraged to spend more time solving problems in the communities they serve.

The WCSO is currently battling the problems of overcrowding within the county jail and the rise of methamphetamine labs and use within the county.

The jail�s been on booking restrictions for 10 years, and currently those individuals on misdemeanor through assault charges are turned back into the community because of the overcrowding.

�We have been, for a long time, releasing prisoners,� sheriff Elfo said. �It�s cause for outrage for us. We�re releasing people who shouldn�t be released.�

The county jail, erected in 1983, was built to hold 138 inmates, but lately that number has been 250. The WCSO is working cooperatively with the county to find a quick-fix mandate including a temporary warehouse building in Bellingham that would house minimum-offense individuals.

Methamphetamine is becoming a big problem within the county, and the number of labs being discovered are increasing � and often WCSO officials cannot respond to many of the reported labs. To combat this problem, Elfo is seeking a civilian employee to help with fielding these cases, and another person to be on the road responding to complaints and discouraging use.

Visit online at www.co.whatcom.wa.us or call 676-6650.

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