A  sparsely-populated county in WA State has come up with a unique, and eyebrow-raising proposal to the growing issue of homeless-related or vagrant crimes.

  Mason County proposes a unique idea

The county, which has a population of just over 68,000 people, is located in the Olympia National Forest area across Puget Sound from Seattle.

The only incorporated city in the county is Shelton, with a population of about 10,300, and is the western-most city on Puget Sound. According to MyNorthwest.com, the county and the city of Shelton, as well as other population areas, are dealing with growing misdemeanor and gross misdemeanor crimes.

City and County officials say they're having to deal with rapidly rising crime rates that include using illegal substances, defecating in streets, stripping or having sex in public, malicious mischief, theft, accusing people, and violating property rights.

Many of these crimes are associated with growing numbers of homeless persons. Now, officials have come up with a three-step approach to sentencing following arrests for these offenses.

They can plead guilty, pay a $1,000 fine and perform 40 hours of community service, immediately check themselves into a self-funded treatment facility, or leave the county. That third option is what's raising eyebrows. If the offender chooses option 3, they must leave the county and not return for 180 days or roughly 6 months.

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County and city officials say it's very different, but a lot cheaper than paying $300 a day to house and prosecute the suspect, which includes providing a public defender. They say it's a problem a lot of smaller towns and less-populated counties are having to deal with.

The city of Shelton, County and the Sheriff worked together on this proposal, which officials say is still being worked on and refined.

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Gallery Credit: Katelyn Leboff

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