Twisp police keep close eye on known users, dealers
By Laurelle Walsh
The Twisp Police Department has been working hard to reduce drug crime in the community, so much so that several of the worst offenders have moved out of his jurisdiction, according to Twisp Police Chief Paul Budrow.
“They know we’re hitting them hard,” so drug users and dealers have moved out of Twisp and into Pateros, Brewster, Malott and even Winthrop, Budrow said. “We let them know that we know. We’re watching them,” he said.
“Ninety percent of the crimes I deal with are committed by the same 10 percent of the population,” Budrow told last week’s meeting of the Community Roundtable. “And most of those are drug- or alcohol-related,” he added.
The primary problems are methamphetamine and heroine, and drug abusers in the valley are typically using both, Budrow said. Besides addiction, overdoses and “bad drugs” are the main dangers, he said.
Cocaine is very rare in the Methow because of its high price, and Budrow has seen a decline in prescription drug abuse, he said. “The prescription drop box [located at the Twisp Police Department office] has been a huge help, and doctors and pharmacists are being held accountable,” Budrow said.
However, there are still known “drug houses” in the area, and citizens need to keep their eyes open for possible drug activity in their neighborhoods, he said. Citizen reporting is essential because “as soon as I show up, the drug activity stops,” he noted.
Programs like Neighborhood Watch really work to reduce crime, but in order for drug convictions to occur, the reporting party must be a credible witness, be willing to be identified and be willing to testify in court, Budrow said. “Ninety percent of the time drug reporting involves no retaliation. They [the drug dealers] generally leave town a soon as pressure is put on them,” Budrow said.
A tremendous amount of time is involved in building a case to prove that a location is a drug house, including documenting drug activity for over a year, the chief said. Surveillance cameras record comings and goings, and although police officers cannot stop a suspicious vehicle without probable cause, “if they’re driving down the street there’s always something I can stop them for,” like not coming to a complete stop or driving with a headlight out, he said.
“We’ve been hitting it hard in Twisp,” but because of problems with the criminal justice system, Budrow often sees offenders returning to the community after their arrest, he said.
“Half the problem is our judicial system,” Budrow said. “There are so many cases and so few people to prosecute.” People jailed for drug violations must have a court date within 30 days of arrest, and often get out early by making plea deals, he said. Overcrowded jails add to the problem, he said.
Chief Budrow lauded his department’s relationship with the Winthrop Marshal’s Office and the Okanogan County Sheriff’s Department. “We have a great working relationship and regularly respond to each other’s calls,” he said.
Although the drug problem in the area has not gotten worse, it is still a major factor in Methow Valley crime, Budrow said. And “legalizing marijuana is not helping anything,” he said.
“Marijuana is absolutely a gateway drug,” Budrow said, the most common scenario being that young people smoke pot at parties, where they may be around older people using “harder” drugs. Because marijuana inhibits judgment, kids are more likely to try other drugs when under the influence, he said.
Another growing problem is children getting into “edibles,” marijuana added to foods or candies, Budrow said. “We’re seeing it a lot more now than ever before,” and the higher THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) concentration in marijuana today — anywhere from 10 to 25 times higher than in the 1960s, according to the federal government — makes it more dangerous, he said.
Chief Budrow plans to offer drug education programs for Methow Valley School District students and staff in the fall, he said.
Citizens helping citizens
“The best thing about the Methow is we all know each other,” Budrow said, and citizens can get involved in making the valley a safer place.
Before coming to the Methow, Budrow headed up a Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) in Skagit County. He has been actively working to start a CERT program in this valley as well, and has a core group of people ready to start training at the end of the month, he said.
The FEMA-certified CERT program is designed to prepare citizens to cope with and respond effectively during disasters. As Budrow sees it, a person must first be able to take care of themselves, then their neighbors and then their community. “You have to be able to survive until emergency help can get to you,” and that help, as the Methow Valley discovered last summer, can be stretched very thin during community-wide disasters, Budrow said.
There are still spaces available in the Methow Valley’s first CERT training class, which will be held on May 29-31. Chief Budrow is also seeking grant money to help purchase personal emergency supply bags for participants in the program — about $50 per student, he estimates.
For more information about CERT training, call the Twisp Police Department at 997-6112.