VANCOUVER, Wash. — Clark County sheriff's deputies will no longer respond to lower-level crimes, beginning March 31, Sheriff Chuck Atkins announced, citing staffing shortages within the agency.
That includes crimes like trespassing, simple assaults, fraud, minor thefts, and traffic and parking complaints. They will also stop doing welfare checks on people who are unhoused.
Tessa Van Boxtel has lived in Clark County, Washington for more than two decades. She would not have it any other way.
"One of the best communities I've seen along the West Coast," she said. "It's just an amazing place to raise a family. It's an amazing place to be because it is so safe."
Van Boxtel worries the county will become less safe.
"It makes me feel less safe and concerned," Van Boxtel said. "Our community may not be as safe as it has since I've lived here."
"I'm worried we're just at the beginning of this," said Brian Kessel, with the Clark County Deputy Sheriff's Guild. He said inadequate hiring bonuses and incentive packages are to blame for the staffing shortage, and ultimately, the service cuts.
"Hopefully our community members see these things and reach out to our council members and urge them to make some changes and see how we can get through this," Kessel said.
In the meantime, people living in Clark County can expect to see more crime, according to Brian Higgins, adjunct professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York.
"It is going to be less safe," Higgins said. "That doesn't have to be someone's opinion. We've seen these statistics already. We've seen it since the defund the police movement."
It is troubling to Van Boxtel. She says it is now up to her and her neighbors to be vigilant.
"It's good knowing our neighbors are looking after each other and I think we'll have to do that even more and I do hope the county council will be able to come up with a solution," Van Boxtel said.
"The Clark County Council supports and values all employees, including those who work in our Sheriff’s Office. It is sincerely unfortunate that the recent public communications do not accurately reflect that sentiment," said Clark County Council Chair Karen Dill Bowerman in a statement. "The Sheriff’s Office administration has been informed by the Council, County Manager and Human Resources that the Council fully supports the Sheriff’s Office – with both verbal affirmation as well as establishing financial parameters. There are legally mandated processes that must be followed."
Sheriff Atkins was not available for an interview, but released a statement through the sheriff's office.
"Never in my forty-year law enforcement career, until last year, would I have imagined the Clark County Sheriff’s Office having to take such measures," the statement read. "As a public safety servant, I am responsible to ensure that we have the resources necessary to fully serve the public safety needs of the Clark County community. I have communicated to the County Council the urgency of taking immediate action with staffing solutions so that we can adequately protect and safeguard our community."