Police agencies across the country are reporting an increase in attacks on officers serving eviction notices, with incidents becoming increasingly dangerous as COVID pandemic eviction moratoriums expire.
The most recent incident involved the shooting of a King County Sheriff’s Office detective, who was serving an eviction notice in Ballard at the time.
According to law enforcement officials, it is common for tenants to resist law enforcement officers who show up at their front door with an eviction notice.
Steve Strand, executive director of the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs, believes that police are seeing an increase in violence due to the pandemic, as well as economic and social factors.
“Society is under a great deal of stress. The pandemic, the economy, a lot of division. Law enforcement is in the middle,” Strand told KOMO News.
The dangers of serving eviction notices have been highlighted in several states. In New Jersey, a woman lit her home on fire after authorities served an eviction notice, killing herself and some of her cats.
In Oklahoma, a sheriff’s deputy was fatally shot while serving an eviction notice over the summer.
In October last year, a deputy constable and a landlord in New Orleans were both shot and injured while serving an eviction notice.
In one case, a woman in Massachusetts even tried to release a swarm of bees on law enforcement officials who were serving an eviction notice for someone else.
Police say the detective who was shot earlier this month was reportedly in critical but stable condition at the Harborview Medical Center.
Strand claimed that attacks against law enforcement officers over eviction notices in Washington State have increased by as much as 39% from 2021 to 2022 after the state ended its eviction moratorium.
However, Strand believes that since many police departments do not report such incidents to the FBI due to their being classified as civil disputes, data on such altercations may be underestimated.
Residents across the country are also reporting an increase in squatters refusing to leave properties they do not own.
According to Strand, serving an eviction notice is one of the most dangerous parts of the job.
“It’s an area of law enforcement that a lot of people don’t know much about. It’s a specific responsibility of sheriff’s offices to serve civil process,” he said.
However, he advised officers to try and maintain empathy during such interactions.
“Even with all the precautions, it also requires a tremendous amount of empathy because in a lot of those cases, like domestic violence, this is a person going through a very intense and emotional time,” Strand said.
At the same time, overall crime continues to surge in Washington.
The King County Sheriff’s Office reporting 384 homicides in 2022, surpassing the high of 336 in 2021, which was the highest amount recorded at the time.