Snohomish County Sees Big Jump In Violent Crime

The grisly discovery of Sun Nyo Lee's skull in a ravine south of Monroe; the brutal killing of armored-car guard Peter Berg during an armed robbery outside a Fred Meyer store in Lynnwood; the rape of a pregnant woman while walking her dog near Mill Creek.

Those were just three victims of the 1,228 violent crimes committed last year in Snohomish County. Countywide, the number of murders, robberies, forcible rapes and aggravated assaults shot up 18.4 percent last year, according to the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs. Property crimes in the county increased 7.4 percent.

In contrast, violent crime statewide rose only 7.1 percent, while property crime rose 2.8 percent.

Lynnwood Police Chief Larry Kalsbeek attributed part of that disparity to Snohomish County's burgeoning population. The coun-ty is the fastest growing in the state.

Berg's death during Lynnwood's armored-car robbery was the city's only murder last year, and one of seven in the county. The $34,000 heist was among 48 robberies in Lynnwood, and the shooting of Berg's partner, Jeffery Pease of Edmonds, was one of 58 aggravated assaults.

"I'd rather be a statistic like Donald Trump being one of the richest people in America," Pease said yesterday.

Although Lynnwood showed one of the smallest crime increases in the county - 5.5 percent overall - the city's crime rate per capita is the county's highest. About 110 crimes are committed for every

1,000 residents.

"That's not unusual," Kalsbeek said. "Look at the kind of community we are, with the commercialization of our area. Most of our crime is bad checks or shoplifts or car prowls. It's not people in our community; it's people who come into our community to shop that are creating the problem."

Near the other end of the spectrum are Mukilteo and Brier, which both have a low number of crimes per capita but saw a startling increase in crime percentages last year. Crime rose more than 67.3 percent in Mukilteo and 40.3 percent in Brier.

However, statistics sometimes look more dramatic than they really are.

For instance, Brier's violent crime rate rose 40 percent. But that reflects only two more crimes, both aggravated assaults, over 1990. The city's 40.3 percent rise in property crime was caused by 14 more burglaries and 10 more thefts than were reported in '90.

Many police departments yesterday attributed fluctuations such as those to chance, but Brier police Sgt. Dan Elfenson said it's a trend.

"The world seems to be a little more violent than it was. It's evident to me that as you look around the world, violent crime is definitely on the upswing, and most property crimes are drug-related," Elfenson said.

Mukilteo's 44.4 percent jump in violent crime was based on one more rape, one more robbery and two more aggravated assaults than in 1990. The city's 68.6 percent increase in property crime was due largely to the city's annexation of Harbour Pointe, which nearly doubled Mukilteo's size.

Marysville posted the county's greatest increase in violent crime last year - 58.8 percent - due primarily to a jump in rapes from zero to nine. Police did not return telephone calls yesterday.

Everett survived the year with one of the county's smallest increases in overall crime - 5.2 percent - but had a 21.5 increase in violent crime despite a declining murder rate. Police spokesman Ken Murray said the city's murder rate dips and climbs every year, and no pattern is apparent. One of the city's two reported murders in 1991 was the death of a 6-year-old girl who died from burns suffered in a house fire started by her 7-year-old brother, he said.

Everett's rape rate rose 18.4 percent, with 14 more rapes than the year before. Murray attributed that rise to increased reporting of date rape and acquaintance rape. The 35.8 percent increase in robberies was caused by teenagers forcibly taking each other's clothing, such as gang-related robberies of Los Angeles Raiders jackets and caps, he said.

Mountlake Terrace police Sgt. Joe Gese also attributed a rising aggravated assault rate in his city to gang-related robberies among teenagers. Aggravated assaults soared 144.4 percent, with an increase from nine to 22 incidents.

Mountlake Terrace showed the county's only decrease in property crime, with a 1.3 percent drop. That helped the city report a total crime increase of only two-tenths of a percent, despite a 42.9 percent increase in violent crime, caused by the aggravated assaults.

"We're down because of the crime watch and neighborhood watch people," Gese said. "In the last four years, the numbers of volunteers have increased dramatically, (as well as) the number of programs they do," like patrolling the city's park-and-ride lot and checking the houses of people on vacation.

In unincorporated Snohomish County, the overall crime rate rose 9.3 percent, with a 10.8 percent increase in violent crime and a 9.2 percent increase in property crime.

The murder rate dropped 42.9 percent, with four murders last year compared with seven in 1990.