City Council Summary: March 28, 2022

The meeting began with a review of proposed improvements to the Fort Steilacoom Park baseball fields by Parks & Recreation Director Mary Dodsworth. The largest field would host the Pierce College Raiders baseball program, regional tournaments, and public play.

In the original proposal, $3.2 million in improvements would be half-funded by Pierce College and half-funded by the City. Pierce College has proposed an enhanced project with a $6.08 million budget. The college would contribute $4.50 million, so the enhanced proposal does not require additional investment from the City. The enhanced proposal includes synthetic turf, lighting, bleachers, bullpens, dugouts, a batting facility, press box, storage, and additional improvements.

Proposed improvements at the Fort Steilacoom Park baseball fields will include turf surfaces

For the project to move forward, City Council must achieve consensus on the project’s enhanced scope. The project will be discussed at a special meeting of the Parks & Recreation Advisory Board scheduled for Tuesday, April 12 at 5:30 p.m. at the Fort Steilacoom Park Pavilion. Public comment will be invited.

UPDATE: The April 12 PRAB meeting is likely to be rescheduled due to member availability.

Lakewood Police Department Chief Mike Zaro presented the Q4 2021 Police Report and the 2021 Annual Police Report. Quarterly crimes show substantial variations. Person crime fell by 22.94% from Q3 to Q4, while property crime increased by 43.38%. Vehicle thefts increased by 79.8% from Q3 to Q4.

Total crime increased by 2.93% in 2021. Property crimes (e.g. theft, vandalism) increased by 7.54%, and person crimes (e.g. murder, assault) increased by 5.92%. Total accident reports increased by 20.16%. Lakewood’s total crime rate remains far below rates from the 2000’s and prior.

The department was dispatched for 36,865 calls in 2021:

  • 2,485 domestic violence
  • 2,544 suspicious person/vehicle
  • 2,901 unwanted person
  • 4,139 welfare checks

LPD experienced many challenges in 2021. The department lost 20% of its personnel to a wave of retirements, but recently hired a new class of 20 officers to restore the department to full strength. COVID-19-related jail booking restrictions kept some habitual offenders free – a factor in the increase in property crime. New legislation often inhibited officers from detaining suspects and limited their ability to pursue or restrain them.

The department noted a huge increase in evasions. New legislation was passed to restrict pursuits, and attempts to elude police have increased tenfold since. 31 suspects attempted to elude LPD in December 2021, compared to a monthly average of 2.73 elusions in the three years prior.

LPD has a specialized unit where an officer is dispatched with a mental health professional to respond to individuals in crisis. The Behavioral Health Contact Team (BHCT) responded to 347 episodes, and helped facilitate 185 admissions to behavioral health resources.