Cities and communities regionally and nationally, including Bellingham, are facing public safety challenges including increasing drug use and distribution, mental health crises, property theft, trespassing and other crimes, while at the same time facing staffing shortages in law enforcement and service agencies. In addition, court decisions regarding drug laws and legislative changes have forced change and disrupted systems. Coupled with an inadequate jail, court backlogs, and other factors, these circumstances contribute to community members expressing concerns about crime and safety.
City leaders are working diligently to address these concerns in many ways and are making steady progress. Steps taken to understand public safety needs and actions to address them are discussed regularly at Bellingham City Council meetings, during public presentations, at neighborhood meetings, in the news media, and in articles for various publications. Listed below are some key resources to learn more:
- Addressing public safety needs (Article by Bellingham Mayor Seth Fleetwood, Fall 2022)
- City ‘working diligently’ to hire police, dispatchers: Shortages are recruiting challenge, not budget problem (Article by Bellingham Mayor Seth Fleetwood, November 30, 2022)
- Addressing priorities in public safety: Challenges are recruiting and retaining officers, not lack of funding (Article by Bellingham City Council Public Safety Committee, December 2, 2022)
- New Program to Address Bellingham 911 Calls for Mental Health, Social Welfare (Whatcom County Health Department news release, January 18, 2023.
- Bellingham Police using new recruiting techniques to fill vacancies (News release, October 13, 2022)
- Introductory presentation at Community Voices on Public Safety: Town Hall Meeting May 16, 2022 (Meeting agenda and video recording, Bellingham City Council)
- Presentations by Whatcom County Prosecuting Attorney Eric Richey and Deputy Police Chief Don Almer, May 9, 2022 (Meeting agenda and video recording, Bellingham City Council, Committee of the Whole)
- Lens on Law Enforcement Town Hall Meeting September 22, 2022 (Meeting video, hosted by Downtown Bellingham Partnership and Bellingham Regional Chamber of Commerce)