On Monday, April 29, Washington Governor Jay Inslee signed into law an important bill that aims to combat vehicle theft and other automobile-related property crimes by reconstituting a program for community supervision of persons convicted of such offenses after they are released from custody.

“Community Supervision” is a policy of the state Department of Corrections under which Community Corrections Officers (“CCOs”) closely monitor and communicate with offenders, as well as provide them with connections to social services as they reintegrate back into society. The Department of Corrections maintained a program for applying this policy to property crime offenders until 2008, when state budget cuts forced its elimination and left mainly violent crime and sex crime offenders eligible. Since then, Washington has been the only state in the nation that didn’t provide for supervision of motor vehicle felons upon release.

Nearly three years ago, Spokane City Council Member Lori Kinnear, a DSP Board member, began organizing coordinated lobbying efforts in the state legislature with Mayor Condon’s administration, Spokane Police Chief Craig Meidl, and regional partners from Spokane County to change that. At first, these efforts asked lawmakers to create a community supervision pilot program for vehicle theft offenders only in Spokane County. After lobbying through three sessions of the legislature, however, this hard work was rewarded with the passage of Senate Bill 5492, sponsored by 3rd District Senator Andy Billig of Spokane and others, which establishes a statewide pilot program for this purpose.

Governor Inslee’s signing of the bill represents a big win for Spokane, which has experienced high rates of automobile-related crime in recent years. Spokane Police Department statistics confirm that a substantial amount of vehicle-related property crimes are committed by repeat offenders. Subjecting released offenders with a history of these sorts of crimes to community supervision adds heightened levels of accountability to their lives, as violating supervision parameters can land offenders back in custody.

The entire Spokane community stands to benefit from the passage of this bill. It will help relieve the extensive burden that property crime offenses place on our police department, as well as provide past offenders the opportunities they need to reintegrate into our community without reoffending. As a result, our neighborhoods and downtown core will become safer, more vibrant places to live, work and do business.