Clallam County Prosecutor Mark Nichols was the guest program at the West End Business morning meeting and the Forks Chamber noon meeting last Wednesday in Forks.
Nichols shared a slide presentation about prosecution trends, current issues and what is working in the fight against crime in our county. Nichols said that the backlog of cases has shrunk but due to certain circumstances there will always be a backlog. The issue being that many cases need more research or maybe witnesses are not ready to cooperate.
Before Nichols took office the backlog was around 300 cases and there are around 100 at this point in time.
An emerging issue facing our county and many others is mental health. “People not mentally sound and lacking the capacity to understand what is happening to them has become a major problem for the system,” Nichols said.
“Many need mental health professionals, not lawyers,” Nichols added.
“I think we have the existing resources for ‘mental health court’ we just need to create the framework, it would help those that are not criminal at heart, maybe never diagnosed, or off medications and just need therapy.”
Nichols said if the trend in suicides continues for 2018 we could have as many as 30 this year. “Clallam county is seeing a higher suicide rate than any other rural Washington County, ” Nichols stated. Surprisingly the ages of suicide victims varies and May has the most suicides.
As far as overdose deaths go Nichols shared that the state crime lab is so backed up the county does not currently have a good statistic to go by. But they have seemed to have been reduced by the use of Narcan and other anti-OD medications that many law enforcement agencies now carry.
“Working on all these issues with collaboration and cooperation with police, public defenders etc. saves the county money.”
Nichols encouraged Neighborhood Watch programs, community forums, town halls and cities working with mental health/drug rehab facilities as a way to help reduce crime in our communities.