Statistics Don't Support Fear of Crime at New Casino

Casino security a big-ticket item for Nooksacks, fighting public perception


Aug. 24--Opponents of the new Northwood Crossing Casino have claimed that casinos attract drugs and crime, but crime statistics from the Nooksack Indian Tribe's existing casino don't clearly support the theory.

From Jan. 1, 2001, to May 15, 2006, the Whatcom County Sheriff's Office responded to 554 incidents in a 1-square-mile area that includes the Nooksack River Casino, the tribe's Deming casino.

But that area also includes Mount Baker High School, surrounding houses and the tribe's gas station, liquor store and market, which means some of the incidents are not related to the casino.

"It's very difficult to trace," said Whatcom County Sheriff Bill Elfo. "I don't know where we can affirmatively say (the casino) has had a significant impact on crime. I have heard from residents in Deming who are more concerned about the noise and traffic."

Nooksack Tribal Police reported 28 incidents in 2005 and 12 incidents up to June 2006 for an area including the Nooksack River Casino and other businesses.

Of the 12 incidents reported in 2006, seven were related to the casino and included two cases of domestic violence, one case of theft in the parking lot, one crash into a parked car, two requests for help and one case where police had to remove a problem customer.

"We spend hundreds of thousands of dollars a year on surveillance, security training," said Mike Wootan, manager of the Nooksack River Casino. "We want our customers to come, park their cars and feel safe."

The Nooksack River Casino, however, isn't an equal comparison to the tribe's new casino. The Deming casino is located on a state highway in a more populated area, while the new casino is being built in a more isolated, agricultural area.

"We do have concerns about the propensity for (crime)" Elfo said. "Any time you have drinking or gambling going on, there's always the potential for any type of criminal activity."

Casino customers aren't criminals, Wootan said. During the day, they tend to be people in their 60s, often retired. While the age group skews a little younger at night, Wootan said customers tend to be in their 50s.

Larry Mount, chief of the Nooksack Tribal Police, said crime at the Nooksack River Casino is no more or less than at shopping centers with large parking lots that attract car prowlers.

"The casino itself works very hard at making it a safe place for their patrons," Mount said.

Lummi Nation did not provide crime statistics for its Silver Reef Casino after requests by The Bellingham Herald.

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This is a Whatcom County Sheriff's incident report from Jan. 1, 2001 to May 15, 2006. The calls occurred in a 1-square-mile area that includes the Nooksack River Casino, the Mount Baker High School, the tribe's gas station and the Nooksack Market Centre. The Sheriff's Office responded to 554 incidents during this time period.

Incident 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006

Custodial Interference 1 1

Theft of Gasoline 1

Aggravated Assault 1 2 1

Burglary 2 1 1 2

Theft 6 3 2 1 6

Auto Theft 1 1 1

Fraud 1 1

Forgery 2 1 1 1 4

Indecent Liberties 1

Simple Assault 3 1 1 2 1 2

Shoplifting 1 3

Death Investigation 1 1

Malicious Mischief 3 1 5 3 1

Weapons 1 1

Drugs -- Felony 1 1 1

Liquor Law Violation 1 1 1

Recovered Stolen Vehicle 2 4

Vehicle Prowl 1 2 3 1 3

Disorderly Person 1

Prowler 1

Person with Weapon 2

Fight 2 1 1 1

Trespass 1 1 1 2 4

Shots Fired 1 1 2

Violation of a Domestic Order 2 3 1 1 1

Obstructing 1 1

Verbal Domestic 1

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