(From left, Melissa Chin from Seattle City Attorney’s Office, Cheryl Bishop from ATF, Jill Otake from U.S. Attorney’s Office)
From tonight’s meeting of the West Seattle Crime Prevention Council at the Seattle Police Southwest Precinct, toplines on topics from the latest property-crime rate, to last fall’s White Center-area raids, to an impromptu primer on the criminal-justice system, with three guests (above), all ahead & more:
PROPERTY CRIME RATE DROPPING: “We’re putting a significant ‘ka-powie’ on the criminals out there,” declared Lt. Pierre Davis. He said the recent arrest rate and resultant property-crime rate represents a turnaround from months ago when “we were getting our butts handed to us.” Numbers: Auto thefts, burglaries, were running 20-30 per week back in December, “unheard of” – he blamed it on a ring working in various areas, “and we were not immune to that – they were just killing us out here.” So they “put together a comprehensive plan,” Lt. Davis explained, including prevention and warning info. “To date, I’m happy to report that out of our average, we’re down on every category, burglaries, auto theft, car prowls, residential burglaries, so low that we’re in the lower single digits” per week – one recent week, for example, had 8 burglaries, compared to 28 in December. “The task now is to make sure (arrested suspects) get the good credit for the things they’ve done” – in other words, tough sentencing, like 5-6 years per defendant, for example. “Hats off to the community as well,” he said, “and we need to keep that going.”
‘CENTER OF ATTENTION’: The recent multi-agency operation stretched from West Seattle to White Center, even though the latter community got most of the attention, and the most visible raids. (Coverage rom partner site White Center Now is here.) Assistant U.S. attorney Jill Otake and Cheryl Bishop from the ATF Violent Gang Task Force came to update the group about it. Otake provided background – the decision to launch a “hotspot initiative … flooding the area with law enforcement for 90 days.” 70 guns, 58 defendants (27 of them facing federal charges, including several “armed career criminals” – 3 drug trafficking and/or violent convictions, facing long sentences) and more than 50 pounds of drugs were among their net, along with increased community involvement. And as she noted, “the primary problem businesses in White Center are closing or closed” – (as first reported on WCN, Papa’s Pub in downtown White Center shut down two weeks ago). Asked what happens to the guns, Bishop replied that they’ll be destroyed. Are they still taking more information? Otake’s reply: “Yes.” Bishop called the operation “unique,” with as wide a net as they could cast during its 90-day duration, and an immense amount of teamwork and community involvement. She said community tips were vital, even down to specifics such as, a certain type of illegal transaction would usually happen in a certain place on a certain day at a certain time. Even the law enforcers, Bishop pointed out, are community members.
Regarding the task force’s future, Otake said they’re “continuing to work with the political powers in King County” regarding devoting resources to ongoing efforts – to paraphrase her explanation, you can’t just go in one time and make a strike, pull out, and “expect everything to be rainbows and unicorns” after that. Of those who were arrested, Otake said, she believes at least 80 percent are still in custody – and many of the others are on GPS monitoring. “Federal pre-trial supervision is no joke,” she elaborated, explaining that the feds have fewer cases and so are able to put people away for longer. Another question: Were most of the Center of Attention arrestees gang members? Some were, some weren’t, said Otake: “It was an equal-opportunity initiative.” Concern was expressed about the perception that some other federal operations hadn’t made a big dent, such as illegal-cigarette raids, and the ATF team reiterated, please let them know what’s happening – don’t assume they already know.
NEW PRECINCT LIAISON: Melissa Chin (right) introduced herself, noting that she is a Delridge resident, and saying she is not fully on the job yet, finishing up her work on domestic-violence cases, but once her current trials are over, within 2 weeks or so, she will be a full-time precinct liaison – though she reminded everyone, she is splitting her time between the Southwest and South Precincts. A meeting attendee asked why she, unlike the other newly announced liaisons, is handling two precincts; for one, she replied, the Southwest Precinct is not as crime-heavy as some other areas.
SIDE DISCUSSION OF THE CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM: Those in attendance wound up getting something of a primer on how the process from arrest to conviction works, as a sidetrack from a question that came up during the federal enforcers’ portion of the program. Chin explained the process – the 72-hour time limit for either charging someone or letting them go, following their arrest, then “the pre-trial stages where they can either plead guilty or be set for trial or have the case continued” – “And through all that process the person may or may not be in jail,” noted an attendee. “Yes, and we have 90 days to bring them to trial unless they waive their right to a speedy trial,” said Chin, adding that most defendants do waive that right “once or twice.” She also clarified that the City Attorney’s Office, for which she works, only deals with lower-level crimes; the more serious ones are handled by the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office. “So what kind of supervision is someone under if they have been released?” asked another attendee. Depends on their background, said Chin; they might even be checking in by phone. As the discussion went on to take a variety of unusual turns, the three-member SPD contingent at the meeting was asked their thoughts on gun crime, and Lt. Davis noted he is a former undercover gang detective. “That was a heck of a lot of guns” seized by the “Center of Attention” team, he noted, “but there’s a lot more out there.”
The West Seattle Crime Prevention Council meets the third Tuesday of the month, and it needs officers – first step, join the nominating committee! Next meeting is March 20th, 7 pm, at the Southwest Precinct as usual – there were a few new faces tonight, and the leadership is always happy to see more.