Everett police look to creative solutions in fight against opioid crisis, crime

EVERETT, Wash. -- The issues aren’t unique to Everett.

Like many cities across Western Washington, Everett is in the throes of an opioid crisis that has taken far too many lives and landed people from all walks of life on the streets.

In one week in July, 57 people overdosed on opioids across Snohomish County, according to numbers from the Snohomish Health District. The majority of those – 21 – were reported to be in the city of Everett.

The Everett Police Department, like other law enforcement agencies, has tried to find a balance between compassion for those who are suffering and an approach that also addresses quality of life and criminal issues that can come along with drug use.

“If we can exercise and demonstrate compassion when we’re dealing with these individuals, and in the end it helps us maintain long-term law and order and improves quality of life long term, then we absolutely have to explore that,” Everett Police Chief Dan Templeman said.

Everett has joined cities like Seattle and Marysville in creating teams of officers that are embedded with social workers. In Everett, the approach is known as the Community Outreach and Enforcement Team (COET). It’s the job of COET to seek out those in crisis and connect them with services, with enforcement action used a last resort.

“It’s a great partnership because we’re able to find people, connect them, and get them where they need to go safely,” said Kelli Roark, a civilian social worker assigned to the team. I think it makes a lot of sense.”

As part of a week-long focus on the city of Everett, Q13 News went out with the team to get a first-hand look at the people and problems they encounter each day.

When Everett Mayor Cassie Franklin took office at the start of 2018, she declared youth gun and gang violence to be among her top priorities. At the forefront of her directive was to create innovative solutions to prevent the city’s youth from falling into a criminal lifestyle in the first place.

The mayor’s focus on prevention came as the city dealt with a spike in violent crime committed by youth in late 2016 and early 2017.

As part of its approach, the city is working to stand up a dedicated gang response team by the end of the month. It has also increased outreach and patrols in areas most impacted by gang violence, such as Casino Road.

"There's been a number of crime-related issues along that road over the past couple years,” said Everett Police Officer Ryan Hogue.

Q13 News drove along with Officer Hogue, who is part of the department’s Casino Road Outreach program, to get a look at day-to-day efforts to engage with community members, business owners, and youth in that area.