Block Watches band together: WS Crime Prevention Council report

From last night’s West Seattle Crime Prevention Council meeting: Big turnout – about 40 people – after the new West Seattle Blockwatch Captains’ Network put out the call for members to be there. Featured speaker was the man who helps coordinate Block Watch and other crime-prevention efforts for the Southwest Precinct, Benjamin Kinlow (who’s a Seattle Police Department civilian employee). That topped the agenda – with some other interest later including a discussion of the beer/wine license for which Walgreen’s has applied – read on:

While West Seattle has hundreds of Block Watches, they don’t have easy access to information about each other – a mailing list is kept by SPD but, for privacy reasons, not shared. So a grassroots effort has sprung up to help Block Watch captains find each other – and this Facebook group set up by Deb Greer and Karen Berge of the Hansen View Block Watch is the first step.

It’s a meeting worth Block Watch captains’ time anyway, since it always starts with a crime-trends briefing from the Southwest Precinct’s operations lieutenant, Lt. Norm James. No big news – he had an interesting aside about the “top calls” with which his precinct deals: #1, “suspicious circumstances”; #2, “disturbance”; #3, traffic accidents; #4, moving violations (tickets); #5, property destruction. Car prowls came in at #8; burglaries and violent crimes aren’t in the top 10. In terms of crime trends, most notably, Lt. James said, auto theft is down a bit, and residential burglaries are at their lowest rate in more than a year – though there’s been a recent spike in Highland Park. He had two crime-prevention points to hammer home: 1. Don’t be careless with your garage-door opener, as it could be used for a break-in; 2. don’t leave anything in your car.

A discussion of residential alarms ensued; Community Police Team Officer Kevin McDaniel recommended an audible alarm – saying they tend to scare the burglars away.

A woman who said she’d been a burglary victim stood up and also recommended preventive measures including dowels or metal bolts to use so that you can keep a window partly open while you’re home, without anyone being able to open it all the way from outside.

Then Ben Kinlow’s turn came, and he spoke about some of the elements of the Block Watch program, stressing that communication between neighbors is its most important element – he told the story of a burglary whose victims asked their neighbors afterward, “Did you see anything?”; the neighbors said they’d seen a moving van but didn’t think twice because they didn’t know their neighbors well enough to know they weren’t moving!

He stressed, as other precinct leaders always do, “When you see something suspicious, don’t hesitate to call 911.” And he too acknowledged that dispatchers may not be as receptive as police would like, so in that case, “don’t back down off the reason you called.”

With the weather warming up, he cautioned people about burglars driving through neighborhoods looking for someone working in their yard, knowing that person might have left a door open. “Or sometimes they work in pairs – one will distract you, the other person will sneak inside.” More than 40 percent of burglaries are through unlocked, unsecured doors/windows, he said.

If your block isn’t organized yet, he’d like to change that – so contact him through the info on his official webpage. (Several people in the room noted they already had meetings coming up with Kinlow booked to attend to talk about Block Watch.)

Next step for the Block Watch Captains’ group – in addition to growing their membership online (again, you can join by going to this Facebook page), they also are going to plan an organizational meeting – watch the page and also here at WSB for word of that meeting when it’s set.

And toward the end of the meeting, the group heard from a Liquor Control Board representative. He fielded questions and concerns including some about the application for beer/wine sales at multiple Walgreen’s stores in the area, including the one on 35th SW north of Morgan in High Point, and the one on the White Center border at 16th/Roxbury. The rep told the group that he was under the understanding that Walgreen’s did not intend to sell products such as fortified wines but instead was going to focus on products not sold in single servings. He also said that Walgreen’s has a policy in which products with minimum age requirements such as tobacco and alcohol can only be sold by people who were old enough to use those products themselves; they would be the ones checking ID at the register.

Still, some wondered about the application, and expressed concern. They also wanted to know how to stay in touch with what new liquor-license applications are filed for their neighborhoods. Two ways, was the answer – one, look for the orange posters that go up at locations where licenses are being sought; rules require that those posters stay up for two weeks. The second, watch the liquor-license applications section online – to find it, go here, then click “submit.” If there are lots of concerns about a license application, the rep said, the board is likely to take a closer look before making a decision on whether it’s going to be granted.

The West Seattle Crime Prevention Council meets the third Tuesday of every month at the Southwest Precinct (the meeting room is on the west side of the building, with an adjacent parking lot), at 7 pm. You can watch for the agendas and minutes at its new blog-format website – go to Minutes from last night’s meeting are already up – see them here.

2 Replies to "Block Watches band together: WS Crime Prevention Council report"

  • sarelly March 18, 2010 (7:22 pm)

    I worry that if they sell alcohol at Walgreen’s people will be hanging around in public, drinking and getting drunk at the bus stop, in the park, in the alley, etc. and there will be broken glass everywhere. It’s a recipe for problems.

  • sarelly March 18, 2010 (7:27 pm)

    According to the Liquor Control Board, that application has already been approved.

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