Mountlake Terrace continues to be a safe community, police say during annual report

Mountlake Terrace Police Department. (Images courtesy of the City of Mountlake Terrace)

Mountlake Terrace Police Chief Pete Caw, with Commanders Mike Haynes and Scott King, presented the police department’s 2023 year-end report during the March 21 city council meeting.

The 2023 year-end report reviewed the department’s goals and analyzed progress toward achieving those goals, as well as 2023 crime statistics, calls for service and traffic enforcement efforts.

Caw told the city council that he was “happy to report that, overall, Mountlake Terrace continues to be a very safe community.”

2023 statistics
Caw reported that over the last three years, the city has seen a slight decrease in violent felony crime, with 39 reported in 2021, 23 in 2022, and 24 in 2023.

He said that statistics involving domestic violence remained consistent in the last three years, with 190 reported in 2021, 176 in 2022 and 179 in 2023.

There were 58 individual officer use-of-force applications during 30 incidents in 2023. All reported use-of-force cases were non-lethal or involved less-than-lethal measures.

In 2023, the officers had to physically control a suspect 47 times, compared to 34 in 2022 and 35 in 2021.

Commanders Mike Haynes and Scott King joined Police Chief Pete Caw for the MTPD 2023 year-end report. Caw explained to the city council that public safety factors must be considered before pursuing a suspect.

The use of a Taser stayed consistent, with three uses in 2023 and 2022, two uses in 2021, one use in 2020 during pandemic restrictions, and four times in 2019.

Caw reported that other types of force listed had one application during 2023: the use of a patrol car as a control device, FN (a non-lethal deterrent), a taser used as a coercive display, BOLA wrap, pepper ball ammunition, and a firearm pointed at a subject.

Force tactics not used during 2023 were leg restraints, batons, SAGE (a non-lethal deterrent) and K-9 patrol units.

136 cases were investigated in 2023:
Assault- Felony: 6 | Assault- Misdemeanor: 4
Burglary: 30 | Collision: 1
Child Protective Services: 7 | Death Investigation: 23
Fraud, Forgery, UIBC: 6 | Identity Theft 6
Missing Person Adult: 4 | Missing Person Juvenile (Runaway) 6
Rape 5 | Robbery 5
Sex Offenses 12 | Suspicious Circumstance 3
Felony Theft: 7 | Misdemeanor Theft: 5
Traffic Offense 1 | Felony Vehicle Prowl: 3
Vehicle Recovery: 1 | Vehicle Theft: 3
Weapons Violation: 1

There were no homicides or kidnappings.

Caw explained during the discussion session that death investigations occur whenever there’s a death, regardless of whether it is a natural death due to illness, an accident or other possibilities.

New hires and promotions
The department was also focused on recruiting a new generation of officers in 2023.

“We continue to look for the best and brightest candidates,” Caw said. “Cultural diversity is always a priority.”

Luther Russell and William Weigand, assigned to the graveyard shift, graduated from the Basic Law Enforcement Academy in 2023 and completed early field training.

Abdallah Alnsour, who is in field training, was hired as a certified lateral who came to Mountlake Terrace from King County. Alnsour is from Jordan and speaks Arabic and English.

Kiril Van Orman was hired as a certified lateral, completed his field training, and was assigned to the graveyard shift. Van Orman is from Ukraine and speaks Ukrainian, Russian, Hebrew, French and English.

Scott Covell is a new hire who will graduate from the law enforcement academy on March 26.

Jeff Zarnick is a new hire who started law enforcement academy on March 19.

Anjelica Rivera was hired as the police support specialist, and Marleena Moran was hired as a records specialist.

There were two promotions in 2023, which were a first for Mountlake Terrace. Megan Sheetz was promoted to become the Mountlake Terrace Police Department’s first female detective sergeant, and Eugene Shin became – through promotion – the department’s first Korean American sergeant.

Car thefts and pursuit
Haynes, who supervises the patrol division, said that despite the department’s “best efforts with emphasis on patrols and education, we saw a near 100% increase in vehicle thefts.”

He noted that this is not unique to Mountlake Terrace but a regional problem.

“Washington currently ranks third in the country for vehicle thefts per capita,” Haynes said.

He explained that the department recognizes the dangers associated with vehicle pursuits and, as a result, “have long been very conservative in our approach” to such pursuits.

Haynes said that in 2021, state laws restricted law enforcement from initiating pursuits, which affected their ability to apprehend individuals involved in nonviolent offenses, requiring probable cause for a violent offense.

“Suspected offenders quickly learned that they could drive away, and there was little that we could do,” Haynes said. “Vehicle thefts, burglaries, and other property crimes all spiked when the law went into effect in mid-2023.”

The law was modified to lower the standard to reasonable suspicion instead of probable cause for violent offenses, which also had little to no effect on crime overall.

Haynes said that Initiative 2113 was approved by the state Legislature and will go into effect in June 2024. It will lower the threshold to reasonable suspicion of a law violation, which he said “essentially will put us back to where we started prior to the law going into effect in 2021.”

During the discussion with the councilmembers, Caw said, “We’re still going to be very conservative in our analysis of pursuits; there’s a balancing act.”

He explained that the crime and the danger it creates in the community must be analyzed compared to the threat made by initiating a pursuit.

The two most stolen cars are Kia and Hyundai. Owners of the brands often use steering wheel locking devices.

Some Hyundai Sonata owners have replaced their car badges with trademark blue Ford Oval to throw off thieves since a 2021 social media video showed how easy it was to steal a 2015-19 Hyundai or Kia.

Hot-wiring a Hyundai vehicle.

Both manufacturers lacked electronic immobilizers, typically standard on most cars and would prevent thieves from bypassing the ignition system.

King gave the city council an analysis of the car chase involving officers in October 2023.

The initial call came reporting a red sedan stolen from the Northern Light Apartments on Oct. 21 at 5:01 a.m. and a patrol was dispatched.

A Mountlake Terrace officer arrived in the area, she saw a collision involving the suspected stolen vehicle — a red Kia — and saw the occupants flee from the scene.

The Kia and a gold Saturn crashed at the intersection of 212th Street Southwest and 44th Avenue West.

The investigation found that the Saturn had been driving safely on westbound 212th Street Southwest when the Kia broadsided it as it fled from the Northern Lights Apartments.

The driver and passenger of the Kia fled north from the accident, while the driver of the Saturn was extracted by medics and transported to Harborview Medical Center.

Officers set a perimeter to locate the suspects. Once the perimeter was set, the K-9 track was started. The K-9 team located the two suspects at the Embassy Suites near the accident location.

The two suspects were detained until a witness positively identified them as the two had fled from the Kia. One of those two was identified as a suspect who had been involved in a serious assault that had occurred earlier in the year. Both suspects were placed under arrest and transported to the police department.

The Kia involved in the collision was confirmed to have been stolen from the Northern Lights Apartments. Officers also located another stolen red Kia still parked at the apartments, which the suspects had abandoned before stealing the second Kia.

It was later found that the second Kia had been involved in at least one burglary, and both vehicles had ignition damage consistent with the USB method of key thefts.

Detectives responded to the scene; however, law requires that the juvenile suspects must consult with the legal consultant and legal counsel before being interviewed.

One suspect chose not to speak, while the other denied involvement in the crime. Denney Juvenile Center accepted both suspects for booking. Before booking, photographs of the suspects, including the shoes, were taken.

The detectives began photographing to preserve the evidence at the scene, and a Mountlake Terrace drone operator responded that morning to assist with scene documentation.

“Drones are critical tools in crime scene perspective preservation.”

Detectives photographed the yard and located footprints where the witness stated the suspects had jumped over her fence. Later, they compared these to the suspect’s shoes, and the design matched both sets of shoes.

The vehicles were moved to a dedicated inspection area to methodically search the vehicles, where they found stolen property in both cars.

The two juvenile suspects were booked on charges related to the collision. Their actions had caused a man to sustain multiple serious injuries, keeping him in the hospital for a prolonged period.

— By Rick Sinnett

  1. Thank you for this article.
    A question: it mentions above 3 vehicle thefts investigated in 2023. Yet I have seen more vehicle thefts in one week of the regular police reports articles?

    1. Hi Ruth: Response from MLT police —
      “The slide she is referencing is a breakdown of investigations assigned only to the detectives division. We investigate all vehicle thefts, but occasionally, depending on circumstances, a vehicle theft may be assigned to detectives in lieu of patrol officers.”

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