Even before Tuesday night’s West Seattle Crime Prevention Council meeting, Southwest Precinct police leaders had promised that the Roxhill Park/Westwood Village area would be one of three emphasis spots for beefed-up summertime prevention/enforcement efforts. Westwood in particular dominated the discussion, though precinct commander Capt. Steve Wilske said his “summer plan” had not yet won final approval from department leadership.
SUMMER PLAN: With the recent warm weather, “Alki’s starting to get real busy for us,” Capt. Wilske began, saying he plans to have extra officers there on Friday and Saturday nights for starters, as well as increased patrols for Roxhill/Westwood and for Lincoln Park.
One of his strategies, also mentioned at earlier community meetings, is to get officers onto bicycles, at least part-time. He said he’s hoping to have bikes and gear for up to 12 officers. “They’ll be patrol officers, I can’t exempt them from 911 response, (but) they’ll have bikes so when they have down time they’ll be able to get into one of these emphasis areas and start riding.”
WESTWOOD VILLAGE: Community Police Team Officer Jon Kiehn said the recent trouble with shoplifting, threats, and more, tends to involve “the same people over and over again.”
SPD has been working with Westwood management and businesses, he said, to encourage them to use the tools they have to “disallow” troublemakers – such as the “trespass” policy – but “they historically haven’t been using that authority to assist us in dealing with the crime there (so) we’re trying to figure out ways we can work smarter and better with the kids (who are) causing trouble.” In the past month, he said, they’ve made progress: “We’re in a much better place than we were a month ago, trying to identify who they are and why they are there – it’s just a matter of continuing to communicate with businesses and property owners.” Later, he added that SPD has been working with some of the big stores that carry liquor and that at least two stores are beefing up the security of their liquor areas, to deter shoplifting.
STREET ROBBERIES: If you are a regular reader here, you know – even without looking up stats – there’ve been more street robberies reported in recent months than before, and Capt. Wilske acknowledged “a significant increase.” He called them generally “crimes of opportunity, (so) the best way to deal with them is to try to prevent them.” The robbers will notice potential victims using their devices, then “punch them and grab (the device) and they’re gone, we don’t get good descriptions because they usually assault the (victims).” The entire city is seeing an increase in this, he said, so they are working with the department’s Robbery Unit to see “if we can identify or arrest some of these folks (and) get the ACT (Anti-Crime Team) involved – a number of them around Westwood Village, we know who they are; our crime analysis officer has identified (them) so we’ve got a bulletin out … The thing I can’t stress enough is prevention – prevent it by being alert – if you have to use your phone, use it but … don’t be so preoccupied that you’re not looking up and making eye contact with people.” Officer Kiehn added that if it’s late at night and you’re staring at your bright phone screen, then you hear something and look up, your eyes are still getting adjusted and you’re not likely to get a good look at a potential robber.
OTHER CRIMES: Car prowls and burglaries have been at an average level recently, he said, while warning against complacency as summer kicks in. If you’re going somewhere and have to leave something of value in your car, hide it before you get to your destination, so you’re not seen hiding it. And if you choose to leave anything visible – even a bag you know contains only, say, dirty gym clothes – would-be thieves will take 15 seconds to do “$700 worth of damage” to check it out by breaking your vehicle window.
GRAFFITI: An extensive discussion ensued, with frustrated neighbors wondering “what’s happening and why, and why aren’t they getting caught?” There were no easy answers. One particularly prolific tagger, Officer Kiehn said, whose four-letter name starting with “M” is legion, is known to officers, though he wasn’t sure where the vandal’s prosecution stood; he hasn’t seen many new tags recently with that vandal’s handle. Overall, said an attendee, “it’s just getting to be insufferable.” Another attendee advised him to call the city’s graffiti hotline, because the property owner will be required to clean it up within 10 days if it’s private property, or if it’s public property, she said, someone will be sent out within 10 days to clean it up. Capt. Wilske did acknowledge that since graffiti vandalism is generally “misdemeanor property damage,” the penalty for anyone convicted of it is probably less than community members would want to see. “In terms of prosecution, we really rely on public tips,” added Officer Kiehn.
JUVENILE SUSPECTS: In a spinoff from the Westwood Village discussions, an attendee mentioned hearing about employees worried that juvenile troublemakers were waiting nearby to “jump” them, and that led to a discussion about what happens when juveniles are arrested in those circumstances. Whether they are booked into the Youth Service Center or not depends on the “ultimate authority” of screeners at the facility, said Capt. Wilske, but even if they are not booked, and released to their parents, that doesn’t mean they’re getting off without prosecution – police still file reports and prosecutors review them for charges. There’s also a “complex system” of potential services to try to get young offenders back on track.
‘PICKUP HIT BY BULLETS’ CASE: The SPD reps were asked about the circumstances surrounding the recent case of a pickup truck hit by gunfire, described on SPD Blotter (as reported here) as likely “related to ongoing gang activity.” CPT Officer Jon Flores said the concern in the area had involved “particularly one apartment complex (and) kids who may or may not have been gang members,” with police educating property managers there about their ability to kick out non-residents. He added that “the victim whose vehicle got shot was not willing to provide a whole lot of information.”
PROBLEM VEHICLE: An attendee brought up the recent WSB Forums discussion of an aggressive driver, and asked if it were really true that nothing could be done unless an officer actually witnessed the aggressive-driving behavior. The attendee said she believed police were aware of the driver because a dispatcher had been heard (via scanner) mentioning a specific plate number. It was explained that without catching the driver in the act, police wouldn’t be able to prove who was driving; however, given information about the vehicle and owner, they could potentially make a “social contact,” aka a “knock and talk.” The attendee planned to follow up with the Community Police Team.
MORE TO COME: The meeting did turn out to have a special guest – from the Crisis Clinic – and we’ll write separately about the information she provided.