Navy’s security

Jackson Park Military Housing Area might just qualify as the perfect community.

Most neighbors are so close they know the birth dates of each others children.

Around dinner time, hundreds of kids file out to ride their bikes or skateboards or play tag in the 230-acre community.

Residents don’t have fences in their front yards, and they leave their play equipment on the grass or in their car ports without fear of theft.

Additionally, the community has 24-hour, year-round security guards roaming outside their houses. Sometimes they check their doors or windows to make sure they are locked. They are always nearby.

Until now.

Starting Oct. 1, the 1,900 residents of the Navy housing complex will lose their primary security service, provided by Johnson Controls.

In its place, Bremerton Police Department (BPD) will answer serious calls, like attempted murders or burglaries in progress, and they will have the option of answering less dangerous calls, like if a bike is stolen.

The change comes as a shock to residents, most of whom have found solace in the 24-hour surveillance while their loved ones are away at sea.

Even though BPD will offer priority service, Puget Sound Naval Shipyard police will handle things like animal control, gun licensing and other basic services.

Not only has the the Navy’s move to discontinue primary services upset residents, it has also irked council members.

The city council had to vote on the new pact at their Wednesday night meeting.

“It is quite apparent that the Navy has operated in an arrogant and dictatorial manner to the city of Bremerton,” said a furious Mike Shepherd, district 5 representative.

“There’s no (navy representative) even here. It’s a huge issue and there’s no public process.”

According to a letter sent to concerned Jackson Park residents on June 19, former Commanding Officer of Navy Region Northwest Steve Kremer said the level of service the residents were receiving was above and beyond the norm.

“There is no Navy requirement to provide 24-hour, on-scene security in off-base Navy housing areas — which means that our current contract exceeds Navy expectations,” Kremer said.

Even though Jackson Park is owned by the Navy and the city receives no property tax revenue from it, the area still lies within the city limits.

Police Chief Rob Forbes was flabbergasted when he got a phone call in January saying that security would end in 60 days.

He scrambled to begin negotiations with Kremer to push the timeline back further.

The Jackson Park residents didn’t find out about the changeover until five months later, when a local newspaper article was printed in late May about the issue.

They expressed their anger to Kremer in a town hall meeting in early June.

“It was thrown in our faces,” said Shannon Owen, who attended the meeting.

“There was no choice. They had already done it.”

Kremer later apologized to the residents for having so poorly communicated the Navy’s plans.

“In retrospect, there are many things we could have done to better communicate our plans and the reasons behind them ... .” he said in another letter.

Ever since Forbes received the phone call, he has spent numerous hours with Navy representatives, Assistant City Attorney Simon Stoker and Finance Director Michael Wilson to draft a memorandum of understanding (MOU), that outlines the police and Navy’s obligations.

“Priority ones and twos are calls that would indicate that life or property is in immediate danger,” Forbes said. “We call them hot calls. We drop whatever we do and respond to them.”

Priority three through five calls include things like property damage, such as broken windows or even domestic violence disputes.

Those will either be taken by the BPD or PSNS police. “We have the option to respond to those,” Forbes told the city council members during the Tuesday operations meeting this week.

Last year, there were a total of 3,500 calls for service in Jackson Park. Of those, 252 police reports were written up, based on the seriousness of the call.

In the rest of the city of Bremerton, there were a total of 55,000 calls for service. 16,000 of those warranted police reports.

Forbes says it is impossible to determine what kind of impact on the city’s financial resources covering Jackson Park will be.

“The issues in Jackson Park are similar to those elsewhere in the city. You’ve got domestic violence and you’ve got car prowls, burglaries and thefts. I am cautious because we are looking at 870 units with the potential of upwards of 2,600 people,” he said.

The Jackson Park area will be included in part of the BPD’s west district. Forbes calls the beat the least concentrated in the city.

Only one officer patrols a beat in the city. The most officers on patrol at one time are nine.

The most active time from 2 p.m. to 2 a.m., Forbes said.

Forbes said officers are usually assigned to a certain beat for a number of months.

“The reason we do that is to try to establish the relationship with the officer and the community,” he said.

Back in Jackson Park, Shannon Owen said she hasn’t talked to one person that is satisfied with the changeover.

“Everybody is dreading it,” she said. “Nobody wants to see the security go. Even the security guards don’t want to see it go,” she said.

Owens is a mother of three, whose husband is aboard a Bangor-based submarine. She cherishes the security in their community because sometimes her husband is away from home for six months or more. Additionally, when they go on a vacation for two weeks or more, they can call the security officers to arrange to have their house checked on every day.

“I definitely think we are going to see an increase in crime after this,” she said.

Forbes realizes that there are many frustrated residents in Jackson Park. He said his department is in the law enforcement business, not security, and won’t be able to provide what they are used to.

“I am not going to be able to replace that,” Forbes said.

The BPD and Navy Region Northwest completed their final draft of the MOU document before the city council’s fiscal and operations committee meeting on Sept. 23. The city council approved the draft the next day, with a 5-1 margin. Shepherd offered the dissenting vote.

So far, no date has been set for the next town meeting at Jackson Park, when residents will be notified of the MOU.

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