After expensive riot, Bellingham working to combat future chaos

BELLINGHAM, Wash. -- Bellingham's mayor doesn't want her city remembered as the place where they have riots, despite the October 12 riot that made news around the world.

"This is Bellingham, where we had a riot and we're doing everything we can to make sure we're prepared or don't have another one," said Mayor Kelli Linville.

Drunk partiers lobbed beer bottles and dishes at police, who used pepper spray and smoke grenades to disperse the off-campus rioters. The out-of-control crowd of hundreds cost the city more than $20,000 in property damage and extra staffing.

"The riot in Bellingham was just something that never should have happened. It should have never gotten to that point of out-of-control the way it was," said resident Max Archer.

Linville said city leaders have taken the necessary steps to keep a similar riot from happening in the future.

"We're not living under this cloud that this could happen any moment again because we're being proactive. We have a police chief that believes in prevention and community policing," she said.

The city also plans to add two more police officers in its 2014 budget.

"The violence that was perpetrated against our police offers that night was fairly stunning," Linville said.

Linville characterized Bellingham as a city of tolerance and a city that has always respected free speech and demonstrations.

"But one thing we don't tolerate is violence," she said.

Linville said a Downtown Public Health and Safety Work Group is coming up with several strategies to combat chaos. The group is discussing police cracking down on party houses that receive repeat complaints and not just student rentals.

Many of the rioters were Western Washington University students. Police want property owners to manage unruly rentals and are still considering repercussions if they don't.

"The new police chief is trying to make sure a stronger zero tolerance policy for problem property," Linville said.

She said the city and university police chiefs will also explain expectations and penalties for criminal behavior to incoming freshman and their parents at orientation.

"We want to make sure we're on the front end of it rather than the bottom," she said.