Centralia Police Department holds town hall for concerned residents to discuss community issues


Nearly 40 residents filled the city council chambers at Centralia City Hall on Wednesday, Oct. 25, for a town hall event hosted by the Centralia Police Department. 

Centralia Police Chief Stacy Denham discussed a number of topics, including: towing abandoned vehicles and parking enforcement, the city’s new Flock Safety cameras and mobile surveillance trailer, details of permanent supportive housing at the former Motel 6, and other issues raised by residents. 

A full story on discussions about permanent supportive housing plans in Centralia and Denham’s announcement of an investment firm purchasing the King Oscar Motel in Centralia can be found here: https://tinyurl.com/57rjnm52 

Denham was joined by Centralia Police Sergeant Buddy Croy along with Centralia Police Commanders Andy Caldwell and Paul Evers, who helped him answer resident questions. 


Towing abandoned RVs

Earlier this year, the city passed rules to make it easier for the police department to move abandoned RVs. Still, residents have been frustrated over the abandoned vehicles throughout the city.

The ordinance councilors passed effectively banned camping on city streets and being parked for more than 16 hours in one location earlier this year. 

Denham knows of people’s continued concerns, he said. The main issue is there is only one towing company — Grants Towing — willing to tow RVs for the city right now. 

Even then, Grants has limited space and due to state law, must legally process a towed RV before they can destroy it, Denham said. The process includes attempting to contact the legal owners and attempting to auction off the impounded vehicle. 

“The impound facility will have this vehicle in their custody anywhere between 60 and 90 days before they can do anything,” said Denham. 

For these reasons, he said, other towing companies simply refuse to tow abandoned RVs. As soon as Grants Towing has space the business can come get another RV. 

“That’s why you’re seeing them slowly disappear,” Denham said. 

In the meantime, Denham told town hall attendees the department is still looking for creative ways to cut down on RV camping on city streets.

In one recent case, he said, an officer cited and arrested an RV’s occupant for littering after they spread out their belongings on the street and sidewalk surrounding the RV. 

Once the occupant was released from jail, “the motorhome disappeared … and it hasn’t been back since,” Denham said. 


Flock Safety cameras and the new surveillance trailer 

A new public surveillance system designed to read license plates, Denham said, has been extremely successful in Centralia.

The police department recently set up “Flock Safety” cameras around the city. Recently, the city also purchased new mobile surveillance trailer, which currently sits in George Washington Park downtown.

Denham called the Flock cameras “license plate readers on steroids,” rather than surveillance cameras. 

“The little, old City of Centralia: We recover more stolen vehicles right now than any other city in the state,” Denham said. 

While state police reforms passed in 2020 restrict pursuits of stolen vehicles in certain situations, Denham said, the cameras allow police to track fleeing vehicles and confront the suspect later on. Should a stolen vehicle drive by a Flock camera, its license plate will be identified and the camera alerts Denham’s officers the vehicle has been spotted. 

“Typically, we know where it’s going, and it’s usually going to the outlet mall,” Denham said. 

Many stolen cars are currently being used by shoplifters to flee businesses with stolen merchandise. 

Once vehicles are there, police officers can place spike strips behind the stolen vehicle’s tires and wait for the suspect to return to the car. As soon as the car moves, the tires are blown and flattened. 

“Some of them still try to run, which is entertaining as the sparks are going,” Denham added. 

With the blown tires, his officers are able to easily apprehend most suspects and recover the stolen vehicles and merchandise, he said. 

Recently, he said, the cameras have aided the department with more serious crimes, including a recent drive-by shooting committed in Centralia, and a controlled substance homicide earlier this year. 

As for the new mobile surveillance trailer, he said it’s meant to help deter criminal activity in areas where activity is common and allow the city’s police officers to remotely monitor the area. 

The cameras on the trailer are solar-powered and use motion sensors to detect when someone is in the area. It also uses flashing red and blue lights to let people know they may be under surveillance. 

Denham explained he recently took a trip up to Seattle and noticed other surveillance trailers being utilized. 

“Everybody who applies these cameras in parking lots, and that’s where you see them a lot, all those parking lots at one time were crime-ridden,” said Denham. “Those cameras go in, crime goes away.” 

He said he understood crime often moves elsewhere in these instances, but said his department was not going to stand by while a park or parking lot became a hotspot for criminal activity. 

The camera will eventually be moved to other areas in the city seeing high crime rates. 

Since the trailer has been at George Washington Park, many of the transients who were in the park before have now left, Denham said. 

Denham said he plans to host another town hall in six months.