Big group at Tuesday night’s West Seattle Crime Prevention Council meeting – so big that president Dot Beard exclaimed not once, but twice, how great it was to see them all. No special guest on the agenda, just an hour-plus of information about crime trends, questions/answers about crime concerns, an update from the local State Liquor Control Board officer, and word that West Seattle’s police force is growing – highlights ahead:
CRIME TRENDS: Car prowls, car thefts and commercial burglaries are down, according to Lt. Steve Paulsen (photo at right), but residential burglaries are still 20 percent above normal – the average month might be in the low 50s, but last month saw 62, he said. With nine burglary arrests in that same time, he’s hopeful they’re making a dent, however. He says Southwest Precinct burglary detectives are leading the investigation into the citywide string of dental/medical burglaries, with “persons of interest” having been caught here (WSB coverage). And he’s hopeful they’ve cut into car thefts, too, with Community Police Team Officer Kevin McDaniel having arrested what Lt. Paulsen called a “prolific car thief.” (That announcement brought applause.) He also recapped the arrest of a burglary suspect reported here 2 weeks ago – the man whose alleged crime raised fears because of some similarities to the South Park murder/rape case, which hadn’t been solved at the time.
QUESTIONS FOR LT. PAULSEN: These were numerous. A Junction-area woman who said she’d been the victim of various crimes – burglary, mail theft – asked about suspicious solicitors (our report from Monday night’s Fairmount Springs meeting has the best info on that, though Lt. Paulsen reiterated, “we’ve apprehended some of our best burglars” by being wary of suspicious “solicitors”).
WHAT ABOUT 911? Also a frequent question. He addressed it before it was even asked: “Sometimes you’ll call 911 and you won’t get the attentiveness you expect. We’re working with them (dispatchers, who are county employees, not city) and we want to hear about it.” And he reiterated the advice we have repeated often here: Call 911 about something suspicious. He mentioned a recent arrest of suspected mail thieves, resulting from a call to 911 when “kids looked like they were skulking around …” in an area where mail had been getting stolen during the day. He says police don’t mind “going up and saying hi” if you report someone suspicious – “that’s a normal street-contact interview.”
When asked by another Junction-area resident (45th/Alaska) about the possibility of “step(ping) up patrols” to deter crime – the resident had been victimized four times recently — that’s when Lt. Paulsen, whose role as second-in-command for the precinct includes logistics and staff deployment, said a two-officer team will be focusing on patroling The Junction, working more proactively than reactively, and developing relationships with business owners. Later, when asked about staffing (by a man who said he works for the Fire Department and therefore understands city budget challenges), Lt. Paulsen said first that West Seattle has “more cops than when I started 24 years ago,” and then went on to say that two more officers are on the way: “We’re getting priority despite being one of the smallest precincts.”
WHAT CAN YOU DO TO FIGHT CRIME? Community Police Team Officer Ken Mazzuca sounded some of the same themes he’d brought to Monday night’s Fairmount Springs meeting (here’s our report again) – “Talk about it, get the information out, look, see, report, those are the best tools, have a Community Block Watch, know your neighbors, take those first steps.” Added Lt. Paulsen: “Just the fact that you’re here, means you care.”
CORRELATION BETWEEN CRIME AND BUS ROUTES? Lt. Paulsen answered this question with, “We’ve seen an increase in a transient population coming into West Seattle in the daytime, even though we don’t have any shelters here. Then they mysteriously disappear, we don’t know where they go.”
DOES AN ALARM WORK TO DETER BURGLARS? Lt. Paulsen’s opinion – yes, but so would a sticker that said you’ve got an alarm, whether you do or don’t.
GET A DESCRIPTION! If you’re calling 911 with those suspicious circumstances and people, make sure you get a license plate if you can – even if they’re gone before police arrived, Lt. Paulsen explained, “We’ll have a record of the plate, the vehicle, and that might be the vehicle that’s doing the burglaries in that neighborhood.”
WHERE IS STOLEN PROPERTY GOING? With the closure of the used-items storefront on Delridge, one attendee wondered, has someplace else popped up where people might look for lost/stolen items? No place is currently on officers’ radar, Lt. Paulsen said, though they’re on the lookout. There’s also a new emphasis on keeping close watch on pawn shops, he added in response to another question, saying they were the subject of discussion at a command meeting downtown earlier Tuesday. And this brought another one of police’s frequent reminders: Mark your valuables by etching them, or at least knowing their serial number, so that if they’re recovered, you can prove they’re yours and get them back.
DO SURVEILLANCE CAMERAS DO ANY GOOD? They might, but deputy city attorney Beth Gappert warned camera users to be mindful that state law prohibits audio recordings without permission – you can record silent video, but no sound.
WHY ISN’T THERE ALWAYS SOMEONE AT THE FRONT DESK AT THE PRECINCT? Also something we’ve reported before, but it’s worth repeating: Having officers out on patrol is the top priority, Lt. Paulsen says, so if the officer who would be staffing the front desk is needed in the field, that’s where she/he is going to go. They do try to consistently have someone on duty from early morning until at least mid-afternoon, on weekdays.
LIQUOR ENFORCEMENT: After attendees were finally out of questions for police, Liquor Control Board officer David Stitt introduced himself, explaining most people in his job have a couple hundred “premises” to work with, so that means they tend to respond to complaints more than initiate something themselves. He’s been “doing work up and down the California (Avenue SW) corridor,” he said, without naming specific establishments. “We know of some places that needed some attention and surveillance, so we’re doing that … also working more closely with police.” He said they watch for sale/service to minors and for “disorderly conduct” out in front of establishments, so “if you see guys standing on a street corner drinking, it’s more of a police issue than ours.” To file a complaint, by the way, go here.
GREAT-GRANDMOTHERLY PRIDE: Toward the end of the meeting, WSCPC president Dot Beard said she just couldn’t help herself – “We have so much crime and stuff to talk about, I have to show you my first great-grandchild.” And out came a photo of the baby … putting everything in perspective.
WHAT’S NEXT: The West Seattle Crime Prevention Council meets on the third Tuesday of the month, so its next meeting will be 7 pm November 17th, Southwest Precinct meeting room.
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