By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
This month’s West Seattle Crime Prevention Council meeting began with the formal introduction of the Southwest Precinct‘s new leadership, and quickly moved on to a series of hot topics – including one citizen concern that already has led to action.
And until the citizen concerns were all spoken, the new precinct commander remained at the meeting with a larger accompanying contingent than is usually seen at the meetings – members of the Anti-Crime Team (ACT).
(Photo by WSB’s Patrick Sand)
“I’m Captain Davis, current Southwest Precinct commander.” Pierre Davis (at right in photo above) introduced himself for the first time since the two promotions reported here last week – his elevation from lieutenant, and previous commander Joe Kessler‘s promotion to assistant chief. He also introduced Lt. Ron Smith as the new operations lieutenant (second-in-command), and explained the black-uniformed ACT members filling the northwest corner of the room: “These are our bird-dogs, these are the individuals who go out and make things happen, they are our strike team, if you will.”
No current crime spikes, he said, and one particular category is half its usual rate – while burglaries run “10-12 a week” this time of year, “right now they’re at five or six.” He attributed that to the arrest of multiple suspects, which he described as “a crew that was just devastating our area.”
Next, the community concern that seems to already have led to action: Ryan Cox is back in jail, for the third time in two months.
Two attendees asked Tuesday night about the status of Cox, the repeat offender who has been arrested in the past for incidents involving vandalism and assault. They told police that local businesses suspect him in repeat cases of vandalism and have video/photo proof, but hadn’t been able to reach a particular detective to come get it. “We are angry, we are frustrated, we are frightened …” Capt. Davis promised the Anti-Crime Team would get on the case immediately, and if there was cause to arrest him, it would happen.
And it did: The King County Jail Register shows Cox is in jail, arrested this afternoon on a warrant related to his most recent assault case. That case, first reported here December 18th, put him behind bars for two-thirds of the month of December. He was released on New Year’s Eve; ten days later, he was in jail again, on a warrant related to the same case. On January 13th, he was out again, and now, after another ten days, he’s back. He’s being held in lieu of $25,000 bail, and is scheduled for a hearing in city Mental Health Court tomorrow.
OTHER CONCERNS: A Highland Park resident said there are two trouble houses on his block – vacant/foreclosed and beset by squatters. Capt. Davis asked him to provide information privately later so it can be checked out. One other resident stood up simply to say she had a concern she wanted to talk to police about, and was also assured she could talk to them one-on-one after the meeting.
In summary: “We want to put the best foot forward in 2014 .. and make it a quiet 2014,” said Capt. Davis.
(One note – his role as precinct commander is not a permanent appointment, yet; much is still in flux at SPD.)
Next, the night’s featured guest:
SEATTLE ANIMAL SHELTER: Ann Graves, a West Seattle-born high-ranking manager in SAS – aka “animal control,” among other roles – explained how the agency’s role has evolved. “Our officers are now not just referred to as animal control officers, but also animal law enforcement officers – our officers, like police officers, are out there investigating crimes involving animals.” She said their number of incoming animals is decreasing, and the amount of resources they have to help animals – “animals that would have been put to sleep a few years ago; we have resources” to help them get better.
She manages the field services, with 12 officers and one supervisor covering 7 days a week, 10 hours a day (9 am-7 pm) – they pick up dead animals, either domestic or wildlife; they pick up stray animals; responses are “complaint-based,” so if you see something, say something. One officer per shift handles dispatching. Speaking of which: Would you call 911 to report an animal problem? she was asked. No – call 206-386-PETS unless it’s a life-threatening emergency, in which case, yes, call 911.
She mentioned increasing concerns about “dog-flipping.” Few acknowledged recognizing the term. She said that it involves people posting that they want to find a new home for their pet – somebody who sounds well-meaning takes it, and then turns around and posts it for sale. This can be a crime if the animal is procured under such false pretenses, Graves said – it would become property theft, and police would have to deal with it. Same if animal cruelty is involved – dog-flippers might amass a house full of animals, and that might constitute animal cruelty.
Some people are “stealing dogs right out of front yards,” said Graves. “So first thing you can do, don’t leave your dogs unattended.” In case your pet does get stolen – make sure you can prove you’re the owner (chip, licensing, etc.).”
Why can’t officers just sweep in and seize an animal if it’s dangerous, being abused, etc.? Regarding investigations, she said, it takes a while, to find out what’s going on, compile evidence, prepare citations – they can’t just march in and take an animal away.
What kind of training do SAS officers get? There is a specific training academy, Graves said; she teaches the “sheltering” segment there every year, in fact. But an increasing amount of training is done online, with webinars, for example. Most of their officers “come with a vet-tech background,” so they have some animal-medicine background. But they also learn from police – how to write a report, for example.
She fielded questions such as “what about animals in grocery stores?” Graves suggested consulting the Office of Civil Rights explanation of service animals. “This was a ‘purse’ animal,” the person who asked the question clarified. But, anyone can say an animal is a service animal, and there are limits to what you can ask about it. Graves said, “It’s unfortunate to see (some people abuse that),” and yes, it’s “uncomfortable to see an animal walking around the vegetable aisle.”
“The animal menace in my neighborhood are raccoons and coyotes – do you handle that too?” an attendee asked. No, they don’t deal with nuisance wildlife, said Graves, repeating advice given by wildlife experts – please don’t feed pets outside, seal up holes in your basement and attic to keep them from nesting indoors, and check out the “co-existing with wildlife” information available from the state. It is not illegal to set a humane trap for nuisance wildlife on your property, Graves said, but once you trap it, you either have to set it free on your own property or you need to kill it. The problem with just killing nuisance wildlife is that they will be replaced – unless you solve the root problem that’s attracting them.
How about dog waste on your property? If you identify whose animal it is and can tell Animal Control about that, they can go to the house and talk to the owner. She also mentioned that you are required to clean up your own property at least once every 24 hours – so if you have a neighbor who doesn’t clean up, you can report them, not just violating the scoop law, but also for possible animal cruelty. How about people who throw their dog waste in your trash? Graves acknowledges that’s frustrating. “There’s not a simple solution.”
(At that point, Operations Lt. Smith said that vicious-dog calls have gone down dramatically in recent years in West Seattle.)
if you are filing a complaint about someone you saw violate the leash law, you have to sign that you will testify under penalty of perjury “sometimes people are not comfortable with that – I can’t issue a ticket for something you saw that I didn’t see without that statement.”
Speaking of which – what are the penalties for that and other violations? Graves was asked. A few samples:
*Leash law in a neighborhood – $54
*Dog bite, broken skin – $269
*If not vaccinated for rabies, $54 more
She declared she had “had a lot of fun” speaking to the group. Find out more about the Seattle Animal Shelter at seattleanimalshelter.org.
The West Seattle Crime Prevention Council meets most months on the third Tuesday, 7 pm, Southwest Precinct.