The West Seattle Crime Prevention Council has just concluded a busy week with two events – its regular meeting May 21st, and a Lincoln Park safety walk last night. Walk participants and organizers are in our photo abaove along with, at right, SPD Community Police Team Officer Jon Flores, and, third from left, Seattle Parks’ Carol Baker. Both said that by far, the most-serious crime problem at the park is car break-ins; too many people drive to the park and leave valuables in their vehicles in plain sight. Otherwise, the only other trouble of note involved occasional vandalism, per Baker, and late-night partying during summer months, per Officer Flores.
Ahead, toplines from last week’s regular WSCPC meeting:
CRIME TRENDS: From the precinct’s Operations Lt. Pierre Davis: There’s been an increase in robberies most recently – “there are individuals who are opportunists out there who are going for iPods, cell phones, things like that” … he says they are keeping an eye on patterns and suspects. Same goes for burglaries. “This month, we’ve just been … killing ’em … because citizens for whatever reason are calling 911 again.” But don’t get confident – “warm summer months are going to bring Mr. Bad Guy out there again … but we’re here to win.” In fact, he said he was late to the meeting because he was dealing with another arrest. Asked about auto theft, Lt. Davis mentions that the car of choice right now is the Subaru, because of the shaved keys thieves have, among other factors.
One man says he’s here because his area in the 39th/40th/Bradford area has had five burglaries in the past two months. “Our neighborhood now is just asking … who’s going to be next.” Lt. Davis brings up the Predictive Policing software that should help with something like that but nothing beats making sure that everything is reported to police. “But we have made a lot of burglary arrests in the last month and I would not be surprised if some of the individuals we’ve gotten our hands on in the last month are responsible for that area.”
Assaults have “picked up” lately too, says Lt. Davis.
SPECIAL GUEST, SW PRECINCT BURGLARY DETECTIVE JILL VANSKIKE: She works in eastern West Seattle. “When I first came on as detective, our burglars were pretty lazy … local, sold their stuff local, pretty easy to find.” But now, they’re mobile – they may come from far away, and sell their stuff elsewhere.
She added that it’s often juveniles in a group of two or three – they case someplace, decide it looks like no one home, knock on the door, someone’s a lookout, someone goes around back to enter – they’re looking for open windows “or any kind of easy method to get in.” Electronics, jewelry, cash, guns are what they’re after, she said.
At some scenes, they don’t find fingerprints, because gloves are being worn … but if they do find prints, they might belong to juveniles with no record, but they go into a database and if and when the burglars are arrested for something – there’s a match.
What happens if there’s a particular neighborhood that’s getting hit often? she was asked. “Often it might be someone who’s comfortable in the neighborhood and so stays close,” she explained. Predictive Policing should help, she said, “predicting crime based on these kinds of things.” Another man, saying he lived in Seaview in an area of dead-end streets heading toward Lincoln Park, got hit repeatedly in the past month. “Last Thursday,” he added, while he and a neighbor who were both home, the neighbor got hit even while he was in the garage. “They’re opportunists,” confirmed the detective. Anything that’s in sight when a criminal happens by could wind up being a target. (The man later talked about harassment by a group of people. Officer Kiehn advised, get your Block Watch involved and make sure everybody knows what’s going on so that it’s not obvious if just one person reports something.)
She also mentioned the Repeat Burglar Initiative launched by the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office. “They’re targeting these people and giving them longer sentences, and we’ve gotten some major players off the street and they’re getting some major hard time now,” same as the PAO’s auto-theft initiative.
Another meeting participant suggested to the resident that his block start keeping a log of everything that happens.
Officer Kiehn, in the meantime, told everyone about the city’s online crime maps and how you can check reported incidents on your block related to the rest of the city. “One of the things about West Seattle is that we have a lot of access to crime information.”
One attendee asked whether police could help with a “sting” type operation in his neighborhood. First, Lt. Davis stressed, the most important tool neighbors could have is a thriving Block Watch, and the precinct is always happy to help with that.
Crime Prevention Officer Mark Solomon – who can help Block Watches get set up, and promised at this meeting that he’ll attend organizational gatherings, as he so often does – recapped some of the tips he has shared previously regarding reducing your chances of becoming a burglary victim (published here last year).
And just in case burglars strike, despite prevention efforts:
Officer Kiehn reiterated, you have to “document the things you have” if you have any hope of getting items back if and when they are recovered.
Det. Vanskike reiterated, marking your property – etching a social-security number, for example – will help. Other advice:
–write down serial numbers
–don’t keep your Social Security card any place where it might get stolen
–take photos of your belongings and send to yourself on cloud E-mail account (Gmail, Yahoo! mail, outlook.com, etc.), don’t just keep photos on your computer
–photos more helpful than video, if investigators need it
–cell phones and gold are also big targets for thieves
One more note: Burglaries are a daytime crime, car prowls are a nighttime crime.
The West Seattle Crime Prevention Council’s regular meetings – except for some summer and holiday exceptions – are on the third Tuesdays, 7 pm, SW Precinct; next meeting, June 18th. Watch wscpc.blogspot.com for announcements between meetings.