Bremerton, Wa., population 37, 520, has one of the highest violent crime rates in Washington State. Among the reasons listed by the Kitsap Sun: It’s a city with heavy drug use, nighttime drunkards who like to brawl, an understaffed police force, a local jail with a “revolving door,” and a place whose landlords allegedly ignore renters' crimes. The violent crime rate rose from about 3.8 incidents per thousand residents in 1994 to an all-time high of about 11.2 incidents per thousand in 2005. “We're a very small city, but being close to Seattle and Tacoma, we have big city crime problems,” says Police Capt. Tom Wolfe.
Much of the violent crime is committed against criminals themselves, and very rarely are strangers the victims. Still, given new growth and commitment to economic development, city officials know they can ill afford to ignore the rise in Bremerton's violent crime statistics. Nationwide, there are about 2.3 police officers for every 1,000 people. The city would have to hire 25 officers to reach that average. Since 1986, the department has dropped from 64 to 62 while the number of 911 calls annually has increased 126 percent. The department plans to add two more officers soon.