"I rarely if ever see police officers patrolling," said a mother frustrated after seeing adolescents and 20-somethings using drugs at the skate park. "What should I do when I see it, call you?" she asked Sheriff Nou at last night's Town Hall meeting about Drugs, Domestic Violence and DUIs.
"Yes," he said. "We need all the eyes and ears out there."
Her response a bit later in the meeting. "It's not my job."
The Community Room at Skagit Valley Community College San Juan Center was packed March 14 with citizens concerned about crime including drug trafficking, driving under the influence of drugs and alcohol, and domestic violence.
While they wanted the Sheriff's deputies to crack down on everything related to the top three items, they expressed displeasure with the enforcement of traffic laws. Some thought the manpower could be focused elsewhere, some did not like the attitude of the officer who stopped them, "this isn't the mainland" so it isn't a safety issue were reasons for the complaints.
Sheriff Nou said personnel complaints are not handled in a public forum, but individuals who have a complaint should contact him.
He stressed the importance of enforcement of laws against speeding in a school zone, speeding in residential areas, rolling through stop signs by sharing a traffic fatality he investigated 19 years ago.
A 7-year-old boy rode his bike out of his grandmother's driveway and was hit by a car going 30 mph. It was a residential area with a speed limit of 25 mph.
At the scene after the funeral home had picked up the body, Nou and other officers were still investigating. He picked up a shard of the boy's femur. It was three hours before he could take it to the funeral home to be placed with the rest of the boy's body.
"If the driver was going 25 mph he would have had time to stop," Nou said.
The final part of the meeting focused exclusively on the problem with illegal use of drugs in San Juan County. There is an anonymous tip line 370.7629. In the past 370 days, there have been 37 calls. Most people did not know the number, several said it hadn't been advertised.
The anonymous number is checked once a day, Monday through Friday. It is not to be used in place of 9-1-1 or the business line 378.4151. Both of those numbers are answered immediately by dispatchers.
Nou said, "If you seen something happening right now, call 911."
Kevin Roth suggested the county purchase drug-sniffing dogs. "How do we get the funds to get a dog, to do here, Orcas and Lopez randomly." He suggested officers can figure out ways to stop people and then the dog could sniff the car and easily discover the drugs. "You guys know these guys, you can be creative."
Nou agreed a dog is "an amazing tool to have" but noted it would be 40 hours a week and probably not in the right place/island at the right time.
Lisa Brown told Nou she contacted a researcher in Oregon, a few years ago, who can determine the amount of drug use in a community by testing a tiny amount of effluent from the waste water system. The researcher agreed to put Friday Harbor in the study. Brown told Nou her request for a sample was denied by the town. Now Dr. James, the county health officer, is working with her on this. "He's really excited about this. He said it was brilliant," Brown said. Lopez and Eastsound's waste water systems will be included.
San Juan Grange 235 sponsored the Town Hall. Minnie Knych said other forums will be held and the prosecutor and judges will be invited to one of them.