West Seattle Crime Watch: Burglary trends; ‘it’s OK to call 911’

Just out of the WSB inbox, the latest newsletter from Southwest Precinct Crime Prevention Coordinator Mark Solomon. And this one’s full of news you can use – first, the latest burglary-method trends; second, if you still don’t believe us for all the times we’ve quoted police as saying “It’s OK to call 911 – please do! – when you see/hear something suspicious” – here it is, direct from the source. Plus: Advice on how to make sure someone who looks official (non-law-enforcement), and turns up on your doorstep, really IS official. Read on:

As with previous years, we noted an increase in residential burglary through open windows and unlocked doors for the period of June 1st – September 1st. This is the prevailing trend during the warm weather months and it held true again this year. In some neighborhoods, “no forced entry” burglaries, meaning no force was applied to gain entry into the home and there was no apparent damage to doors and windows, accounted for 45% of all the burglaries. Other areas of the South and Southwest Precincts fared better at 24%, but most areas experienced a non-force burglary rate of 30-33%. This means that in roughly one in three of all reported burglaries, the burglar came through an unlocked or open window, or an unlocked door.

What you can do about this.
Burglary is often a crime of opportunity. If you remove the opportunity, you reduce the chances of the crime. As simple as it sounds, any time you leave the home, even if it’s just for a few minutes, close and lock all doors and windows, even those windows that are above ground level.

Reporting Crime
In reading incident reports, I note how often a witness will report seeing a suspicious vehicle or an unknown person in the area at the time of the burglary. Sometimes they call it in to 911 right away; other times, they report not calling 911 because they felt they were overreacting. In many cases where the call to 911 was made, officers were able to get in to the area locate a suspicious person and an associated vehicle, which led to connections with other area burglaries. Without the alert neighbor taking action and making the call, officers would not have been in the area, nor would they be able to identify the suspicious people or the vehicle, because they would not have had descriptions of either.

It’s okay to use 911.
It’s not just for life threatening emergencies; it is for reporting crime in progress or suspicious activity. If you see something that doesn’t seem right, and you get an unsettled feeling about it, it’s probably suspicious. You know what’s suspicious in your neighborhood better than an officer does because you live there; the officer doesn’t. If you have a doubt as to whether something merits a 911 call, call 911. We’d rather get the call, come and investigate and find out it’s no big deal than to not get the call and find out later that it was a big deal.

Officers are dispatched to areas where the calls for service demand their presence. Otherwise, officers wouldn’t know there is a concern in that area. It is your information and descriptions that give them the reason to stop someone and talk to them. Put simply: if you don’t tell us, we don’t know; if you don’t call us, we don’t show.

People Wearing Safety Vests
One trend we’ve seen over the past few months is a number of people wearing the orange and yellow safety vests (sometimes the orange & yellow pants, as well), even though they are not associated with any safety, road or work crew. You may also notice joggers and bikers wearing the safety vests to increase their visibility to others. We want to bring this to your attention so that you can be aware that some individuals wearing these garments have no official status as part of a safety crew.

What to do
If someone comes to your home claiming to be a safety worker or part of a work crew, or claiming to be from a public utility, cable or phone company, ask to see their picture ID. Every employee of a municipality, public utility or telecom provider should have a valid picture ID – showing who they represent – on their person. If they don’t, send them away and report them immediately to 911.

P.S. The West Seattle Crime Prevention Council is back in action this month too – 7 pm September 20th, Southwest Precinct (Delridge/Webster).

16 Replies to "West Seattle Crime Watch: Burglary trends; 'it's OK to call 911'"

  • Recall McGinn September 7, 2011 (5:31 pm)

    It’s ok to call 911, but don’t expect a prompt response.

  • Bill Brewer September 7, 2011 (7:40 pm)

    It’s okay to call 911 but don’t expect ANY response. That’s been my experience over the past 4 years.

  • Call them September 7, 2011 (8:00 pm)

    Please DO call despite reports that they do not show. We called last week about prowl and SPD came right away. Our street (orchard ravine area) has had at least three different prowls (car/home) lately so maybe we are on their radar.

  • crime reporter September 7, 2011 (8:32 pm)

    they were very responsive the one time I called to report a burglary in progress. a few spd cars showed up within minutes, while I was still on the phone with 911 dispatcher. caught the burglars ‘red-handed’

  • Melissa September 7, 2011 (8:44 pm)

    Both police and fire have been prompt, courteous, and efficient when I’ve needed to call.

  • Brian September 7, 2011 (10:27 pm)

    The strength in our community relies upon everyone making use of the tools at hand. 911 is a proven and effective tool for a community to use against crime.

    I had to call 911 this summer on my cell phone when I witnessed a knife-fight in progress. I was no more than halfway down the block when the police arrived.

    Ignore the cranks and do what the professionals advise: call it in!

  • Helen September 7, 2011 (10:39 pm)

    I called in a stolen car that had been towed and left on my block earlier this summer, on a Saturday night no less. SPD was on the scene promptly. I’m between Delridge and SSCC.

  • bridge to somewhere September 7, 2011 (10:43 pm)

    I think it is easy to get frustrated when you call 911 but no police show up–until you realize you live in a very big city with finite resources and the police should get dispatched to the biggest issues first. I don’t think any of us would believe that spd wouldn’t–and doesn’t–drop everything and swarm when there has been a shooting for example. Priorities.

  • RichWSeattle September 7, 2011 (11:49 pm)

    I’ll bet when prowlers and trespassers know they’ve been detected they rely on us *not* to call 911 and don’t go that far away. One time we had a drunken fool in our yard terrorizing our dogs. I told him to go away, he yelled a few things at me, I went inside and called 911 and he took off. The police were busy that night but did show up after 20 minutes or so and asked some questions. Two patrol cars started looking for the dude and caught him not a block away.

  • KS September 8, 2011 (2:23 am)

    What about a neighbor who plays music so loud that it could be suspicious? Suspicious because it could be covering another crime… Should you call then?

  • ketchup September 8, 2011 (7:20 am)

    I’ve seen questionable people wearing the safety vests before. I was caught off guard by this guy who was talking to himself and then cussing at a deli store worker who didn’t jump to assist him. I was thinking surely this person is not involved with any road work/safety around here. Upon closer inspection he was very disheveled and dirty despite his “professional” vest. Sure enough I saw him leave the deli, walk up Delridge and stroll off into a wooded area, which by the way is frightening. Below this wooded area there is a stretch of overgrown sidewalk near that bus stop where the rats run in and out. I can’t seem to find out who owns this area but I suspect the city as it surrounds the bus stop area. Hate walking through there with the stroller, usually have to walk in the street to avoid it or pick the kid up while passing.

  • higgins September 8, 2011 (10:23 am)

    A couple times a month on weekend nights I see 6 or 8 fancy modified Civics gather in the parking lot at Cycle U and then (loudly) speed off north on Fauntleroy. I suspect that they are headed down to W Marginal or over the bridge to race. I suppose they could just be getting together for innocent purposes, but I kind of doubt it. I’m not sure if a call to the police would be in order, although I know they sometimes stake out W Marginal and watch for racers, so they might appreciate a heads up. Advice, anybody?

  • Resident3 September 8, 2011 (5:12 pm)

    @ ketchup-
    Based on a complaint I have filed in my area, I think if you can prove it is dangerous- forcing you to push a stroller into the street off the sidewalk- the city might help. Worth a shot- check out http://www.kingcounty.gov/health

  • Interrobang September 9, 2011 (9:14 pm)

    @KS Depends on the crime you suspect?

  • Todd September 12, 2011 (3:28 pm)

    I want to take a moment and thank the Police.
    It is a tough job that I would not want…
    When I see someone doing something potentially violent I go the other way, but these guys and gals go right to it.
    Thank YOU SPD!

  • ketchup September 12, 2011 (5:42 pm)

    Thanks Resident3.

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