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Posted on: March 29, 2018

Snohomish County communities launch North County Office of Neighborhoods unit

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Today leaders from across Snohomish County officially launched the North County unit of the Office of Neighborhoods and touted the recent passage of a county nuisance property ordinance at a press conference in the Lakewood/Smokey Point area.  The mayors and police chiefs of Marysville and Arlington joined Snohomish County Sheriff Ty Trenary and Snohomish County Councilmember Nate Nehring at the media event.

“We have learned very clearly that the traditional methods of arrest and incarceration do not solve our homeless crisis,” said Sheriff Trenary. “We need to hold drug dealers accountable, and we need to find treatment options for addicts.  These are not just law enforcement problems.  Responding to these complex societal issues requires partnerships that make our communities safer.”

Sheriff Trenary cited the success of the Office of Neighborhoods in Snohomish County, a unit he launched in 2015.  Based on similar programs in other parts of the country, the concept is to create teams of police and social workers who go to homeless encampments and nuisance properties and provide direct outreach to those who struggle with addiction and homelessness. This is the second time the unit has expanded since they added an east county unit, in collaboration with the City of Monroe, in 2017.  This latest agreement between the cities of Marysville and Arlington with the County is the result of months of planning and collaboration.

Marysville Mayor Jon Nehring explained why this approach makes sense.

"This is a compassionate community. And, like many communities, we have a real problem with drug-related crimes that is negatively impacting our collective quality of life," Mayor Nehring said. "This is a good public investment in turning people's lives around and helping them on a more successful, productive path. For those unwilling to accept help, however, I want to make it very clear that they will be dealt with through aggressive law enforcement as this community will not tolerate criminal behavior."

Arlington Mayor Barbara Tolbert said, "I am encouraged to be working with the City of Marysville and Snohomish County to offer a viable and compassionate solution. Each of our jurisdictions could have independently developed programs and services to address the issues of homelessness and addiction. Uniting our services and efforts will provide real help to those who want to accept it."

Since 2015, the Office of Neighborhoods has arranged for 222 chemical dependency assessments for individuals, as well as secured 265 beds in detox centers and 224 beds in addiction treatment centers. They have helped secure housing for more than 165 individuals. The team is comprised of one sergeant, six deputies and police officers, and five law enforcement embedded social workers.  

Today’s official launch of the new Office of Neighborhoods unit follows on the heels of the Snohomish County Council’s unanimous vote yesterday in favor of a nuisance property ordinance. The ordinance provides clear definitions as to what constitutes a “nuisance” property and spells out the enforcement and penalties those who violate the ordinance may face.

“While we are focused on helping those struggling with addiction, we will absolutely not tolerate, and we certainly will not enable, a lifestyle of heroin and opioid abuse, of committing property crimes, and of destroying neighborhoods in our communities,” said Snohomish County Councilmember Nate Nehring. “This commitment to community safety is made clear by recent legislation that the County Council has adopted, including the chronic nuisance ordinance and the ban on heroin injection sites.”

The county has been collaborating to tackle nuisance properties since 2013 after the Snohomish Regional Drug and Gang Task Force responded to numerous – and similar – complaints in South Snohomish County including drug use and trafficking, trespassing, prostitution, and theft . By partnering with other public safety agencies, code enforcement, health and human services, and fire inspectors, teams were able to provide relief to neighborhoods overrun by squatters. However, there were several gaps in the existing county code that made enforcement on these properties lengthy and cumbersome.

"This new ordinance will give law enforcement better tools to more effectively and efficiently address the nuisance homes and encampments that are bringing crime and drugs into Snohomish County neighborhoods," said Sheriff Trenary. The Task Force has opened more than 300 nuisance property investigations since 2014.


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