Cheney Free Press -

Finding ways to make people pay for their crimes

In Our Opinion


Why 23-year-old Joseph Knop broke into the Lake Assembly Church in Medical Lake Jan. 13 and did an estimated $50,000 in damage still remains a mystery.

Doors destroyed, shattered glass vases and windows. Electronics and musical instruments ruined and items stolen with church volunteers called upon to put things back in order so that services could resume.

Conjecture ranges from Knop being angry at the church where he reportedly attended in his youth to being high on drugs, or both. Knop would later confess to the crime.

But bigger questions surround both Knop, and others in the community who do these types of property crimes. Who ends up paying for the damage, and why are some of the perpetrators out walking the streets in the first place?

In Knop’s case, he had just appeared before a judge days before his destructive detour from a late night walk by the church on charges of second-degree theft and car theft. Because he had no criminal past, the unnamed judge released him on his own recognizance.

On the do-over when Knop appeared before that same judge on charges stemming from his sabotage in the sanctuary, a price tag of $10,000 bail was attached to his release.

The Medical Lake damage pales in comparison to the estimated $100,000 in damage some teenagers in the Spokane Valley caused during their reckless rampage back in September of last year at a home.

“It’s the worst case of vandalism we’ve ever seen,” Spokane County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Deputy Craig Chamberlin said. “The sad thing is they had absolutely no reason to do it. It was just something to do.”

Repeated requests for answers from the Spokane County court system as to what the fate of the Valley vandals was, if they’ve had their day in court, or who pays for damage from senseless vandalism, have yet to be answered.

Generally speaking it seems to be the victim’s homeowner’s insurance that gets the tab. So we all pay with higher policy premiums.

The church seems to be taking the classic “turn the other cheek” approach. But can one really accept the fact that someone did tens of thousands of dollars of damage that others have to repay?

Since vandals generally do not have the resources with which to pay for their crimes, doing community service is part of many sentences.

But with property crimes such as these, what’s wrong making those offenders do their community service with the people who were harmed? This is providing of course the victims are OK with that.

And there’s always punishment from good old public shame. There are many cases of that form of punishment going a long way to cure idiotic behavior, ranging from standing on a street corner with a sign to having to wash dozens of windows on a cold and windy winter day.

In Knop’s case – and of course the teen vandals – how about spending hours alongside the road, dressed in special easily identifiable jumpsuits picking up litter? Let the public see justice at work.

As for repeat criminal offenders like Charles R. Wallace who we so often see back in the court system, what can be done is a more complex issue?

Wallace was the reputed drug trafficker who was also released on his own recognizance.

That was last summer when he later shot and wounded two sheriff’s deputies before killing himself in a crazy day of police pursuits.

Some may say the good thing is we don’t have to worry about Wallace paying his debt to society.

But that he was allowed the opportunity to put the public, and law enforcement at risk, is a topic for continued discussion.

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