Was 2017 the year of growth?
It might has well be crowned that, as all facets of the Gig Harbor and Key Peninsula communities saw growth in area of police enforcement, school enrollment and housing sales.
An overall look at numbers in 2017 from the Gig Harbor Police Department, Pierce County Sheriff’s Department, Peninsula School District and Northwest Multiple Listing Service paints a picture of a growing community with a rise in home sales, a successful yet evolving school district and the possibility of lower crime rates in 2018.
Crime in Gig Harbor stayed relatively stagnant, even with an increase in population, according to Gig Harbor Police Chief Kelly Busey.
“Our department has responded well to growth,” Busey said. “Our officers really are invested in this community.”
Busey is hopeful that adding more officers to his department will also aid in helping problem areas.
According to raw statistics provided by Busey:
▪ Calls for service rose to 10,040 in 2017 from 9,363 the previous year.
▪ Reports written by officers rose slightly, from 2,087 in 2016 to 2,226 in 2017.
▪ In 2017 there was 216 car crashes reported to Gig Harbor police and 5,085 enforcement contacts. Enforcement contacts include infractions, citations and verbal warnings handed out by officers.
▪ Felony arrests didn’t see significant changes, rising to 56 last year, an increase of three versus 2016. Misdemeanor arrests also did not see a significant increase; 553 in 2016 compared to 546 last year.
▪ DUI arrests saw a significant decrease last year with just 96, down from 140 in 2016.
▪ Warrant arrests saw a slight change, with 66 last year versus with 53 in 2016. Total arrests in 2017 were 764, down from 798 2016.
▪ The number of aggravated assaults (2) and domestic violence cases (21) also dropped in 2017.
▪ Identity theft cases jumped to 93 last year, an increase of 63 cases versus 2016, and retail theft cases also rose, staying a consistent issue for the city police, from 158 cases in 2016 to 191 cases in 2017.
Retail theft is still the department’s main issue in the city, with most of the thefts being committed by suspects based outside of Gig Harbor, Busey said.
“A majority of these people come from the other side of the bridge,” the chief said. “There are organized gangs stealing merchandise. We broke up a couple rings last year and we are working with the prosecutor’s office. We are hoping to do more work with the retailers to change their shoplifting policies to help us this year.”
The secret about the quality teachers and staff at the Peninsula School District is out, and it’s attracting more families to the area. Although the district is looking to pass a $220 million bond to fix infrastructure and overcrowding, issues with the buildings hasn’t slowed down growth or graduation numbers for the district. According to numbers from the district office:
▪ Current enrollment as of Dec. 1 was 8,685, with a 8,896 headcount.
▪ Average enrollment for 2016-17 was 8,535, up from the average enrollment for 2015-16, which was 8,393. This means the district has increased by 309 students in the past two years.
▪ There were 605 kindergarten students enrolled for 2016-17. This was the largest kinder class in many years and is about 50 more than what the district typically has enrolled. The last time PSD had a kinder class this large was 2003-04.
▪ Elementary enrollment is increasing. The district has grown by 211 students over the past two years.
▪ Middle schools have also seen growth. They have increased by 139 students over the past two years.
▪ The district served 462,451 lunches during 2016-17, an average of 2,570 per day.
▪ School buses transporting students from home to school drove a recorded 1,410,078 miles, a combined average of 7,838 miles per school day.
▪ Gig Harbor High School had 359 students graduate on time, a 90.9-percent graduation rate in 2017.
▪ Henderson Bay High School had 16 students graduate on time, giving it a 30.2-percent graduation rate.
▪ Peninsula High School had 294 students graduate on time in 2017, giving it a 90.5-percent graduation rate.
▪ Peninsula School District as a whole had 669 students graduate on time at an 86.5-percent graduation rate.
Some students are using portable classrooms to deal with overcrowding and lack of space, but not all of the portables have amenities such as bathrooms. High school theaters and science labs are being used for general education courses as well.
“We had a lot of young families move into the area recently,” Superintendent Rob Manahan said. “I see them in the neighborhoods. More young families are coming in and that is going to affect our district.”
The new year is already a busy year for the district, which is handling this growth by proposing a $220 million bond to start working on $400 million worth of work to handle the new students. If the bond passes it would include funding for a new elementary school in the Gig Harbor North area.
All of the crime and education statistics can be boiled down to one main change in the recent year: more people want to live on the peninsula. According to numbers provided by Northwest Multiple Listing Service, Gig Harbor saw a high number of homes sold in 2017.
▪ Total number of home sales in 2017 was 1,373. June saw the highest number of monthly sales with 158 homes sold.
▪ The average price of homes sold in Gig Harbor was $506,989. In June, the average price was $499,505.
▪ The median price of homes sold in Gig Harbor was $467,900.
▪ According to data showing the distribution of sales by price ranges shows that most homes in 2017, 170 to be exact, sold for $450,000 to $500,000. That was closely followed by 169 homes being sold between $350,000 and $400,000.
At the top of the list, two homes sold in 2017 for over $2.5 million.
For the MLS area overall, inventory shrunk 19 percent, from 10,569 active listings at the end of 2016 to last month’s figure of 8,553, according to Northwest MLS. That’s the smallest selection for any month in the past decade.
Despite the paltry supply, last month’s sales remained remarkably strong, with closings up slightly, 0.88 percent, from a year ago. Northwest MLS members reported 7,642 closed sales, about the same volume as a year ago when completed transactions totaled 7,575. Northwest MLS covers Pierce, Kitsap and King counties.
Year-over-year pending sales of single family homes and condos, combined, fell about 3 percent, from 6,390 to 6,198, but far outgained the number of new listings added to inventory.
“December, which has historically been a slower month, picked up momentum and never let up,” reported George Moorhead, designated broker at Bentley Properties, said in a press release from Northwest MLS. “December drew aggressive buyers, some motivated by expectations of a flattening market, with others trying to beat anticipated interest rate hikes.”
This flux in the housing market creates waves in a community and has started to have effect on Gig Harbor and the peninsula.
Busey said technically the crime rate in Gig Harbor has decreased since the number of crimes has remained steady, despite the rise in population. Either way, his police are historically busier than how it was when Busey first began his career.
“Gone are the times where we got 10 calls a day,” Busey said. “We have to start responding more to calls. We don’t have the luxury to sit and run a speed radar.”
To help with growth, Busey said in 2017 the department received more grant money, which has led to hiring three more police officers. Calls for service has risen by 7 percent, with more than 10,000 calls in 2017.
The growth has an obvious effect on the school district, where many elementary students have become used to using portable buildings as classrooms and having their science equipment stored on a moving cart.
“We are a successful district when it comes to graduation rates,” board member Deborah Krishnadasan said in a previous interview with the Gateway. “Our teachers and students go above and beyond. But the facilities are affecting our students’ daily lives.”
The new year may bring changes, including the possible passage of a new bond and a rise in police enforcement. Realtors are also expecting to see steady sales of homes in the new year.
“As we look forward to 2018 we continue to believe this is a great time to buy real estate,” the Northwest MLS release stated. “We see only positive returns for homeowners and real estate investors this year and likely for several years to come.”