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Bellingham’s top crimes cut by over 50% since 2022

Extensive police efforts have seen significant decreases in vandalism, theft, data says

The chief and deputy chief of the Bellingham Police Department, Rebecca Mertzig and Don Almer, pose for a photo inside the Allied Arts Center, on March 6, 2024 in Bellingham, Wash. The police force states that the city’s two highest-ranking officers have been integral to helping reduce crime since the 2022 skyrocket, working as both coordinators and frontline actors in the campaign against vandalism and theft. // Photo by Adrian Heffelman

Bellingham’s two most frequent high-profile crimes, vandalism and theft, have seen a major decline by over half of monthly occurrences since March of 2022, according to local police and the city’s crime tracker.

The total number of incidents during March of 2022 was recorded as 194 vandalism and 336 theft occurrences, which, when compared to February of this year’s totals of 86 vandalism and 155 theft occurrences, are 55.67% and 53.87% decreases, respectively.

When it comes to theft, such a significant change in the city’s crime rates was made possible through a mass arrest campaign targeting repeat offenders, according to the Bellingham Police Department’s Public Information Officer Megan Peters.

“Many thefts are crimes of opportunity, but there are also cases of repeat offenders frequently targeting local businesses,” Peters said. “When you are able to identify, charge and convict a core group of offenders, the number of incidents can reduce exponentially.”

According to the police force, between June 2022 and May 2023, there were 1,374 total arrests made, a staggering figure that equates to roughly one in every 66 Bellingham residents when using the latest records from the United States Census Bureau.

2022-2024 Infographic.png

A visual comparison between Bellingham's monthly theft and vandalism rates recorded now and two years ago. According to the data gathered, both crimes in question have seen decreases by more than half since March of 2022. // Graphic by Ethan Blanchard via data from the City of Bellingham's online crime statistics tracker

In addition to supposedly catching a significant number of repeat theft perpetrators, the mass arrests also served as a key step in the BPD’s campaign to clamp down on vandalism, paving the way for an extensive clean-up effort utilizing extensive coordination between citizens and law enforcement.

“Our Deputy Chief Almer was asked to take a hard look at the real numbers for graffiti in 2022 because contacts in our community reported it was out of control,” Peters said. “Almer worked with local stakeholders and developed a plan to track the graffiti, encourage folks to report it, develop a clean-up plan and actively pursue investigations.”

At the center of this multifaceted campaign was an app called SeeClickFix, which allows citizens to report non-emergency issues to their local government electronically and on the go via an app that can be downloaded onto a smartphone.

This app is not new, with its establishment in September 2008 making it over a decade old. Since then, it has also significantly helped places across the country facing similar problems to Bellingham, with a short study from Syracuse University revealing that it assisted local metropolitan authorities in New Haven, Connecticut, in fixing a count of graffiti incidents totaling roughly 20,000 by May of 2011.  

However, SeeClickFix is recent in Bellingham, with the city government implementing it as part of their standard procedures in February 2021. The Bellingham Herald only briefly mentioned the initial introduction, and Cascadia Daily News didn’t release an article on it until mid-July of 2023, roughly two months after the BPD’s major mass arrest campaign ended.

While overall, the statistics point in the direction of crime reduction, not everyone in Bellingham is convinced that there was an actual decrease in the number of crimes. Tiegan Peace, who is the manager at the Corner Taphouse in Fairhaven, believes that socioeconomic factors likely caused more of an impact than the police, suggesting a disconnect between the perspectives of citizens and law enforcement.

“I think that the police do a good job, but what we have here is probably gentrification,” Peace said. “I bet you Ferndale's theft and vandalism incidents skyrocketed. They [local perpetrators] just took their crime elsewhere when it became too expensive to live in Bellingham.”

Skeptics like Peace also point to several very recent high-profile incidents, such as the break-in at the Neeter House of Luxury during the tail end of last year. Peace also mentioned another break-in at Colophon Cafe, in which the thieves stole a donation jar.

Incidents like this might suggest that there are either fresh memories in the minds of many citizens that make it hard to believe the statistics or that there are certain problems the BPD has missed that cause vandalism and theft to persist.

Ethan Blanchard

Ethan Blanchard (he/him) is a city news reporter for The Front this quarter. He is a transfer student, earning his AA at Clark Community College before coming to Western to finish his degree, majoring in history/social studies with a news/editorial minor. He enjoys creative writing and a good adventure, whether it be a hike through the wilderness or finding cool places around town. Ethan can be contacted at

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