Safety

Plenty to discuss at Bellingham town hall on public safety

Virtual-only event happens May 16
May 11, 2022 at 5:30 a.m.
Bellingham police cars line State Street in January as officers respond to a call. The police department has acknowledged it can't keep up with the city's rising crime rate due to an officer shortage.
Bellingham police cars line State Street in January as officers respond to a call. The police department has acknowledged it can't keep up with the city's rising crime rate due to an officer shortage. (Hailey Hoffman/Cascadia Daily News)

By CDN Staff

Bellingham residents who participate May 16 in a virtual town hall on public safety will have a lot to talk about.

Public safety problems in Bellingham have gotten worse since the COVID-19 pandemic, city officials and business owners have said.

Property crimes are spiking, and a short-staffed police department acknowledges it can’t keep up with the criminals. Visible homelessness and graffiti have become a top concern of some downtown business owners. The swelling numbers of people experiencing homelessness reflect a crisis the city is unable to resolve given its current capacity for behavioral health care.

New outreach programs intended to help those who are regularly in crisis have helped, but more needs to be done, officials say. 

All this sets the stage for new police chief Rebecca Mertzig, who takes over the Bellingham Police Department June 1. Throughout the hiring process, many residents said they wanted a chief who would heed the calls for racial justice that came out of nationwide street protests in 2020.

The public will have an opportunity to weigh in on all of this at the Bellingham town hall meeting, which is scheduled to be 2.5 hours over Zoom, starting at 6 p.m. May 16. Details are available at cob.org.

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