Opinion: Members of the Washington State Legislature need to stop tying the hands of law enforcement officers

Clark County Today Editor Ken Vance discusses the rise in property crime in Clark County and Washington state

Clark County Today Editor Ken Vance discusses the rise in property crime in Clark County and Washington state

Ken Vance, editor
Clark County Today

It’s time we citizens tell our lawmakers that we’ve had enough of the mercurial rise of property crimes in Clark County and that they need to pass legislation that will allow law enforcement officers to do the job they want to do.

An act of property crime hit a little too close to home last week. Criminals in multiple vehicles entered the site of the US Digital office building located at 1400 NE 136th Ave. in Vancouver on Thursday (Feb. 16). While one vehicle remained at the gate of the site as a lookout, the other traveled to the back parking lot where several trailers and other vehicles were parked. A white or light grey SUV, caught on video surveillance, hitched and stole a trailer in broad daylight around 3 p.m.

Editor Ken Vance
Editor Ken Vance

The trailer belonged to the nonprofit Flash Love and contained approximately $14,000 worth of gear and equipment for the Spartan Challenge. The cameras at US Digital were able to catch video of the vehicle associated with the theft (the white SUV has damage on the passenger side with no or covered license plates). The vehicle appears to be the same used in the theft of the Goldie’s BBQ trailer earlier in the week. The Flash Love trailer was seen near Mall 205 in Portland still attached to the SUV Thursday evening, but it has still not been located at the time of this report. The Flash Love trailer has been seen as listed for sale on Facebook Marketplace.

After Thursday’s theft was discovered, the nonprofit Child Evangelism Fellowship discovered that it was also the victim of a property theft crime on Feb. 7 at 1:30 p.m. at the US Digital location.

This is certainly not my only recent experience with property crime. My community has repeatedly experienced mailbox theft and I’ve had neighbors who have been victims of catalytic converter thefts. 

I’m sure each of you have had similar experiences in recent years. If that’s the case, then you are likely feeling very similar to the way I feel right now. That said, our feelings likely pale in comparison to the way Flash Love Founder Andrey Ivanov feels right now.

“It’s infuriating,’’ Ivanov stated firmly. “It’s the simple fact that for some people it is their work vehicle, work trailer and tools, or in Goldie’s case it was a $100,000 barbecue trailer. In our case, we’re working with youth. Our entire buildup of gear and equipment over the past few years was in that trailer. We are in the middle of training right now and we can’t even finish the class we are in. We won’t quit on our youth, so we will find a way to carry through but it’s devastating.’’

Since Thursday’s theft, Ivanov and his team have worked tirelessly to try to hand law enforcement officials evidence that could help Flash Love get its trailer and equipment back. 

“We’ve pinpointed it to within a 5-mile radius of where he lives,’’ Ivanov said of the suspect. “He lives out in Gresham (Oregon).’’

Ivanov said the photo that the suspect used to advertise the trailer as “For Sale’’ on Facebook Marketplace gave them evidence that suggested the photo was taken at a Fred Meyer located near the suspect’s residence.

Ivanov and his team contacted the individual who placed the advertisement, posing as potential buyers.

“He got very paranoid and he backed out of our meeting and pulled the entire article down within an hour of posting it,’’ Ivanov said.

Ivanov said he is aware of evidence that suggests this suspect, or suspects, have used the light colored SUV (identified as a Lincoln Navigator) in many similar property theft crimes in Clark County.

“We are working with authorities in Gresham trying to get a video or image of him,’’ Ivanov said. “We want to narrow it down to where he’s taken all these vehicles he’s stolen. We give them (Gresham police officers) all the leads we get but they are so overwhelmed with all their own stuff.

“More emphasis has to be put on removing these kinds of predators and bottom feeders from our community,’’ Ivanov said.

‘Make my day’

US Digital Founder and Owner David Madore shares the sentiments expressed by Ivanov.

“I want to be proactive to make sure trailer theft doesn’t continue to happen at US Digital,’’ said Madore, who on Monday spoke with a representative of the Vancouver Police Department about how to deter future property theft crimes at the US Digital location.

“She basically said that property crimes are not prosecuted in this county or in Washington state,’’ Madore reported of his conversation with the VPD spokesperson. “They will not stop the vehicle, can’t stop the vehicle. The criminals know they won’t be stopped so they just keep going. And, even if they do stop them, they might be able to retrieve your vehicle if you have first filled out a police report. But, if they did arrest them, they would be out on the street the next day. The judges don’t do anything. The prosecutors don’t do anything. Any property crime in Washington state, it is scot-free. They can arrest you, but there are no consequences. There are vehicles stolen every day and they can’t do anything about it. Law enforcement is powerless to do anything about property crime in this state. It’s unbelievable.’’

Madore said the VPD spokesperson recommended placing a GPS tracker on all vehicles, which helps the police locate the vehicle. “Maybe they can get the vehicle back, but the criminal goes free.’’ The spokesperson also recommended wheel locking devices.

Madore said he refuses to give in to the rising property theft. He promises to do everything in his power to deter theft at the US Digital location.

“One thing they (VPD spokesperson) did say, supposed we were able to catch the guys in the act and close the gate on them,’’ Madore said. “The police can go through the motions and arrest the guys but the criminals will walk out the next day. We are pretty much on our own. The only thing we can do is make it so criminals cannot take the stuff.

“We are inventors. Our engineering will make crime not pay here. Not any more,’’ Madore said. “They will not figure out what went wrong. This is going to be the place not to hit. Go ahead and try it. Make my day.’’

Call on lawmakers

When questioned about his recent experience, Madore stated the obvious. Members of the Washington State Legislature need to stop tying the hands of law enforcement officers.

“What the lawmakers have done to Washington and Oregon, and it has been this way since COVID, since 2020, the hands of police are tied. It’s an exercise in futility. Property crime pays in these two states. They can arrest them, but they end up scot-free the next day. There needs to be enough outcry from the public for our lawmakers to be interested in property crimes.

“The No 1 role of government is to provide safety and protect our private property; that’s the No.1 role,’’ Madore said. That’s the thing they are negligent about. They are part of the problem.  Lawmakers tie the hands of our law enforcement agencies so they cannot do their job. Lawmakers cannot make crime pay. They cannot be soft on crime and expect crime to stop. These lawmakers need to make laws to empower the fundamentals of property rights.’’

Madore referred to law enforcement officers as “superheroes.’’

“I can’t imagine being an officer these days,’’ Madore said. “They know these guys (criminals). They know who they are and yet they can’t do anything about them. I can’t imagine going to work and that’s your job and feeling like it’s meaningless. If it was me, I would be there because I wanted to protect citizens against the bad guys. I would want to make sure crime does not pay. And, if I can’t do that job, then what am I doing? Police officers want to go save the world. Let them do it. Don’t tie their hands.’’

Substitute House Bill 1363

Legislation recently passed out of a House committee to loosen restrictions on police pursuits in Washington state has drawn tepid support from some Republicans because they believe it doesn’t go far enough, according to a Monday report by The Center Square Washington.

Substitute House Bill 1363 would allow officers to go after suspects if there is reasonable suspicion of the following: a violent crime, sex offense, vehicular assault, domestic violence, escape, or driving under the influence. The original House Bill 1363 would have allowed pursuits for any crimes, assuming an officer had reasonable suspicion.

SHB 1363 would change existing law, passed in 2021, that only allows for the pursuit of DUI suspects with a reasonable suspicion standard, and only allows pursuits with probable cause for violent crimes, sexual offenses, and escapes.

Republican lawmakers don’t believe SHB 1363 has enough teeth to give law enforcement officials the power that Madore is emphatically stating they need.

Contacting your legislators

The League of Women Voters of Clark County publishes an annual brochure that provides contact information for all the elected officials in Clark County, including those serving in the Washington State Legislature.

The “They Represent You!” brochure is available online and also in printed form. Go to League of Women Voters Clark County for more information.

Should Washington lawmakers pass police pursuit reform to provide law enforcement officers fewer restrictions for pursuing suspected criminals?*
376 votes

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  1. Margaret

    Vehicle theft is a big problem in Clark County now, especially since lax laws that make it easier for criminals to keep stealing cars, trucks, trailers etc. I appreciate the prevention tips. Thieves can hack a key FOB to get into a car. Putting your key in a metal box like a cookie tin is a low cost recommendation I’ve read about.
    More tips here and here.

    10 commandments, #8, Thou Shalt NOT steal

  2. Gary Wilson

    Sad to hear about this happening to Flash Love and Spartan’s Challenge. Shows how badly they are needed. CEF is also a great Christian organization. Obviously these thieves are targeting Christian organizations at US Digital. Our legislature wants to take our guns and leave the police helpless. For now, all we can do is pray.

  3. Sharon Corner

    Property damage, all kinds of theft and especially vehicle theft is a big problem in our area (Clark County/Vancouver incorporated and unincorporated) Not a day goes by that I do not read about an auto theft, break in or some kind of theft has happened to one of my neighbors on NextDoor. I have lived in my house for 31 years and this is just terrible, makes me want to move. Police need to be able to do the job they are paid for and protect the public.

  4. Ann Donnelly

    It is so crucial that the legislature pass Vehicle Pursuit reform this year. We can’t wait for two more years of out of control crime. Substitute House Bill 1363 somewhat narrowed the reform, and some conservatives have spoken out against it as “watered down” but they need to support it – that is my strong recommendation after studying this issue for weeks now. The Substitute Bill is a huge improvement over the current “probable cause” standard that has been a disaster. The WA Assoc of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs supports the Substitute Bill and I’m hoping our good conservative leaders will get behind it as the very best that can be done this year. The problem is in the Senate where much too powerful Sen. Dhingra is holding the companion bill up. We need big help there.

  5. Jack Thompson

    Our mail box has been opened on a regular basis. We look up the road and see numerous others open as well. Living our in the unincorporated county almost leaves us to act and take care of ourselves.

  6. John Laird

    Journalism malpractice: Unless I missed it, nowhere in this personal opinion column does Vance mention that Madore is his boss. (Disclosure: I am no longer a resident of Clark County.)


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