File - Simon Sefzik

Simon Sefzik

(The Center Square) – A half-dozen law enforcement officials will join Washington state Sen. Simon Sefzik, R-Ferndale, on Thursday for a public safety forum at the Meridian High School Auditorium in Bellingham, from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.

Sefzik represents the 42nd Legislative District in the northernmost part of the state that includes Bellingham, Blaine, Everson, Ferndale, Lynden, Nooksack, and Sumas.

Others attending include Whatcom County Prosecutor Eric Richey, Whatcom County Sheriff Bill Elfo, Bellingham Police Chief Rebecca Mertzig, Ferndale Police Chief Kevin Turner, Lynden Police Chief Steve Taylor, and Nooksack Tribal Police Chief Francisco Sanchez.

“I’m honored to be joined by our law enforcement officers. I believe it’s critical that the public and elected officials hear directly from law enforcement, not politicians, on the causes of increasing crime in Whatcom County and the solutions to restoring public safety,” Sefzik said in a statement. “My conversations with law enforcement have been incredibly enlightening and valuable to me and I wanted to share them with you.”

Topics to be addressed at the forum: Whatcom County’s need for a new jail, the impact of legislation limiting when police can pursue or use force against suspects, and how those two factors are exacerbating homelessness in the county.

Whatcom County saw an overall decrease in the number of crimes reported in 2021, but violent crimes countywide increased by more than a third last year.

The county’s eight law enforcement agencies – not including the Lummi Nation Police Department and Nooksack Tribal Police – received a combined total of 13,970 crime reports in 2021, according to annual National Incident-Based Reporting System crime data released in July by the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs.

That was down 3.4% from the 14,465 reported crimes reported in 2020.

However, more reported crimes were considered violent, with Whatcom County seeing a nearly 34% increase in violent crime.

Meridian High School is located at 194 West Laurel Rd. in Bellingham.

The forum is open to the public and will be live streamed by Bellingham Metro News.

Staff Reporter

Brett Davis reports on Washington state government for The Center Square. He previously worked for public policy organizations the Freedom Foundation and Washington Farm Bureau, as well as various community newspapers.