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Prosecutor asks for less in 2013 budget request

Kitsap County Prosecutor Russ Hauge isn’t asking for anything extra for next year’s budget. In fact he’s asking for a little less.

“Our budget position is simple: We have what we need,” Hauge wrote in his recently released annual report.

Hauge gauged necessity on what he said is a mostly static crime rate and the need to keep county resources held at current levels.

“We have to hold onto the portion of the county’s resources that we now have, but right now we don’t need to ask for more.”

In a 2013 budget submitted to The Board of Kitsap County Commissioners, Hauge asked for $7,854,538. The prosecutor’s adopted budget for 2012 was $7,975,000 and the total budget for 2011 was $7,907,000.

Hauge says that his office faired relatively well, losing about 12 employees, compared to other departments in the years since the economy went south starting in 2008.

“In the depths of the recession we had to make substantial layoffs,” Hauge said. “Everybody has been dramatically cut. We’re fortunate in that in the same time we’ve had to take budget cuts, the number of cases coming in the door has stayed pretty steady.”

Between 2002 and 2011, countywide burglaries and thefts trended up slightly, but the DUIs, drugs and the violent stuff such as weapons, assaults, domestic violence cases, rapes, child abuse, robberies and murders were all less in number.

“The large spikes in crime we saw in the 1980’s and 1990’s were due to the introduction of crack cocaine and methamphetamine, respectively,” Hauge noted. “There may be some new, highly addictive drug under development in a lab somewhere.”

Hauge said that a large drug related spike could return to the county with business methods that involve theft and violence but that would be dealt with then.

In the meantime, the prosecutor’s office has handled major events and crimes as they have occurred. Hauge noted such examples as the last February’s fatal shooting of Washington State Trooper Tony Radulescu, a murder in Poulsbo, the emergence of a likely serial killer in Bremerton, an officer-involved shooting that resulted in a death at a tire store in Poulsbo and an accidental shooting at Bremerton’s Armin Jahr Elementary School that left Amina Bowman critically wounded and a nine-year-old classmate in the Juvenile Detention Center.

“We have to plan and prepare for these storms,” Hauge said. “They are natural disasters just like floods and earthquakes. We are responsible, together with our police agencies, for controlling the damage.”

One of the big ways that the prosecutor’s office has been able to find efficiencies has been by beginning all felony cases by filing complaints in Kitsap County District Court.

A felony charge can only be resolved in Superior Court, so this may sound like we are adding steps rather than streamlining the process,” Hauge said. “However, because of the limited nature of the District Court’s jurisdiction, we face fewer hearings in that court.”

Hauge said that after years of discussion, the change was instituted in late 2009 and early 2010.

“If we file a felony charge directly in Kitsap County Superior Court, we would face at least four hearings before trial, many taking an hour or more,” Hauge said. “Often we were forced into seven or more hearings before disposition. In the District Court, we have two or three hearings at the most. And the result of those hearings is usually an agreement by the defendant to plead guilty.”

Under the new system, Hauge notes that there is often only one hearing in Superior Court: entry of plea and sentencing. He says that the net result is a 50-percent reduction in the number of felonies set for trial in Kitsap County Superior Court. That time savings, in turn, means that civil cases can to to trial in a reasonable period of time.

Including unpaid interns, the prosecutor’s office has about 90 employees, and Hauge said he anticipates no more layoffs.

 

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