Lake Stevens Dollar Tree and Ace Hardware burglarizedBY PAM STEVENS | EDITOR Police sorting through evidence and leads
Even at that size, the police department had long outgrown the tiny building it had been housed in behind the library for more than 13 years.
Long before official annexation discussions began, the department was thinking about the future growth of the city. When planning to move from its location behind the library and construct a new building, the decision was made that the department would design the structure themselves and design it with the prospect of expansion in mind.
“When we constructed the new building for the police department, there was no annexation pending. The city just talked annexation. We just knew it was in the future,” Celori explained. “So, we designed it with the assumption it’d be temporary and with the intent that it could be easily adapted to be used as an office, a clinic, a dental office or a city hall after we moved to another location.”
The talk of annexation quickly turned into action and instant growth. With the city’s annexations of North Lake and Frontier Village in 2006, Lake Stevens’ population has nearly doubled from 2005’s population of 7,350 to the current 13,250 people.
With more than 80 percent of the needed petitions already received, it’s expected that Soper Hill will be annexed into the city by May, increasing Lake Stevens’ population by an approximate 900.
According to Celori, officers are already receiving three times as many calls and handling three times as many incidents as they were this time last year.
To match the needs of an ever-expanding city, the police department is simultaneously increasing its services and personnel.
“With Lake Stevens’ first major annexation of North Lake in January 2006, we were authorized to bring on three additional officers,” said Celori. “And with the Frontier Village annexation, we are authorized 22 new law enforcement positions.”
Another big change at the police department has been the implementation of specialized traffic and investigation sections.
“Prior to having an investigation section, officers who responded to a burglary or an assault or the like were responsible for investigating their own cases,” Celori said. “Now those can be referred to our detectives.”
Most complaints the department receives are traffic related, Celori said, and often pertain to speeding in neighborhoods and residential areas.
The traffic division was created to concentrate on this specific issue.
“We have one officer who works strictly with traffic enforcement,” Celori explained. “He’ll only work on back up calls.”
Additionally, other traffic officers will monitor problem neighborhoods to deter speeding and the department will set up a radar trailer in various locations. The radar trailer will be on an 18-month circuit in Lake Stevens, used to gather information about average speeds and notify officers of particularly hazardous areas.
The traffic and detective unit allows patrol officers to respond to calls, take initial reports and forward information to investigators for further research if needed, freeing the officers up to stay out on the streets.
“It all works together,” Celori said. “We want to do everything to be of service to the city and to keep the city safe. And it’s always satisfying when we catch a bad guy.”
As the department expands and more officers and staff are hired, their current building is beginning to feel smaller by the day. To create more office space, the conference room is being converted into additional offices and the evidence room is moving to another site so the officers can have another locker room.
“We’re looking at plans for building a new downtown civic center, where we’ll be building the new police station that will accommodate our future growth,” Celori said. “We’re trying to fast-track it and our goal is to be in the new building within three years. We need the additional space already.”
While Celori admits planning for the growth has been a big challenge, he’s quick to say it’s been a lot of fun too.
“I encourage annexation,” he said. “A municipal police agency can provide a customized law enforcement service to its community. A Sheriff’s office covers several different areas. Snohomish County does a great job, but they are spread thin because they have such a broad area to cover.”
The most challenging aspect of the department’s expansion has been ensuring ‘the right people get on board.’
“You don’t want to bring someone on who’s had problems somewhere else. Especially experienced officers,” Celori said. “Everyone has a reason for leaving and you want to get those officers that are leaving for the right reason. We’ve been very lucky and I’m very happy with everyone we’ve brought on. Things are working well. And we’ve been getting a lot of kudos from the public who are happy with the officers’ response times.”
With the projected population in Lake Stevens urban growth area estimated to jump to 50,000 by 2020, Celori says this is a prime opportunity for candidates from bigger cities who’ve not had the chance to move up in their departments to come and join an expanding department that will provide ample room to accelerate.
“Lake Stevens Police Department has great potential for additional responsibilities or moving up in the rank,” he concluded.