NESPELEM – The Colville Tribal Police Department will be set up, June 25 and June 27 at the Nespelem Head Start building, to photograph and document items of personal property “that are ceremonial in nature and have no serial numbers or have no other means to be identified,” according to release from the force distributed via tribal broadcast system this week.

The release continues to note a tribal officer will also have an engraver on hand to engrave other items for owners.

The release suggests items to be documented such as beaded items, moccasins, gloves, medallions, hats, regalia, roaches, wing dresses, conch belts, bustles, hand made items, twined baskets, twined bags, tulle mats and other cultural items. 

The release further notes items that can be engraved include chainsaws, televisions, “and anything with a hard surface (i.e. metal, aluminum, some plastics).”

CTPD Chief of Police Dustin Best and CTPD Assistant Chief of Police Julie Edwards handed the notification out at the Inchelium District Meeting, Wednesday. 

The intent is to both assist police in responding to burglary and theft as well as to provide an opportunity for tribal members to better share information with insurance companies.

Three CTPD officers joined the two.

Best also presented to the district an idea to strengthen the Colville Tribes’ Criminal Code.

“We have a lot of feedback in the community about people committing crimes and returning right back to the streets,” said Best. “They go to jail. They go to court, and people see they get a $5 fine and get out the next day. They’re not held accountable for their crimes. We want to look at the code to make it more stringent, strengthen the code, whether that’s with mandatory sentencing or mandatory fines. To get to that point, we need to have community involvement.”

The police officers are equally as frustrated, said Best.

“Until we get good judges in our court system that are consistent, that consistently apply the law and do not pick and choose who they are going to ding and who they are not, we are still going to have this issue,” said Colville tribal member Debra Wulff. “We need to be focusing more on prosecution. Everybody needs to be tried. We have seen preferential treatment for people being prosecuted, for a DUI for example. One of our managers got through the system and nothing happened. If that would have been me or someone else here, we would have got a ticket and got thrown in jail.”

Since January, Best said, there have been 28 cases of burglary or theft in Inchelium, and CTPD Officer Roy Bradshaw stated the previous night he responded to three additional burglaries in the community.

“We’re seeing a rise in burglaries across the reservation,” said Best. “I contacted the counties. They’re having the same issue too.”

“My nephew is the one stealing and doing what you say what they are doing,” said Colville member Julie Simpson. “Everyone knows. It’s no secret. It’s all over Facebook. My concern is if he continues to get off. He continues to do what he is doing because he got off. It’s an evil cycle. He’s hooked on drugs. You all know that … That is another issue. In order to feed his habit he has to steal, to get the money to buy the drugs again. It’s a vicious cycle… 

“We’re not helping them if we are not prosecuting them,” continued Simpson. “We’re actually putting them in more danger, because now we have people saying, ‘If they steal from me, we’re going to shoot them.’ I don’t want my nephew shot.”

Best is working to organize a board to look at code changes that would improve the problem, he said.

Best and others further noted when restitution goes unpaid, victims can take charged perpetrators to civil court to recover financial loses related to successfully prosecuted crimes. 

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