By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
From this month’s West Seattle Crime Prevention Council meeting:
CRIME/SAFETY TRENDS: Capt. Pierre Davis of the Southwest Precinct said key categories of crime are seeing “steep drops” lately because of “some specific arrests.” He referred to the recent “robbery spike” (two last weekend on Alki; here’s our latest report), mentioning that it’s happening in the early-morning hours, saying they’re checking on specific “individuals … who have a propensity toward that type of thing.”
About Alki overall, Capt. Davis said a “comprehensive emphasis” is planned for summer, including bicycle officers. “If our plan is not working and you’re seeing something out of the ordinary … let us know … we can revamp our plans and take a closer look at your neighborhood.” One attendee asked for an update on what was the Bamboo Grill and is now Alki Huddle; Community Police Team Officer Jon Flores said the name is different, the ownership the same, butname but that they haven’t had serious problems for quite some time.
One attendee from North Admiral said that locking the Hamilton Viewpoint Park gate at night has helped cut down on nighttime trouble but there’s still some in the daytime.
Capt. Davis referred people to the SPD website to check specific crime-stat numbers and also encouraged people to keep vigilant and keep reporting what happens. And he said he’s hoping Assistant Chief Steve Wilske – his predecessor as SW Precinct commander – “will bless us with more resources.”
After his briefing, it was on to the featured guests at the meeting (held this past Tuesday night in the community room at the precinct):
FORMER GANG MEMBERS: WSCPC president Richard Miller brought four people, all self-identified as former gang members, to speak to and with the group. They were from a program affiliated with the Top Hat branch of Victory Outreach, a church with locations in more than 20 states, founded almost half a century ago.
One man said he’d spent 16 years in prison; he got involved in drugs, and that helped lead him onto the wrong road. He said Victory Outreach helped him find a better way, and he graduated from its program and became a minister. They go through White Center “reaching out to men to pull them off the streets,” he said, and are currently working with two dozen people.
He said the criminal-justice system helped him learn discipline. He also said “There’s a lot of gang activity” in the area of their church, and though they try their best to combat it, “there’s not enough of us” – they need help, and “more programs to help youth.” He and his wife “look after” 20 men who he says are on a “new path.” They do community service work while getting back into society, he said. “There is hope for those guys” who come out of gangs and drugs – “don’t give up on them,” he exhorted. He said their program has a 70 percent success rate.
How did he wind up in gangs in the first place? He said his siblings were gang members, his parents were heroin addicts, and “I thought that was life” – though that “life” had included being shot five times, he noted later, and many of his “old friends” are already dead.
Another man had a similar backstory, saying he had been “born into gangs … because my home was messed up, I decided to go get some training somewhere … six months ago, I was (at the) Salvation Army to satisfy the courts … I remembered where Victory Outreach was in Ballard, and walked from Rainier to Ballard, found out the house wasn’t there, then walked from Ballard to West Seattle, and they said ‘Come on in’. … If I’d had this chance when I was younger … there’s a lot that needs to be fixed within us.” In addition to spiritual assistance, he said he had addressed the source of anger within him. He said he’d been at VO for six months
The third speaker said he too had grown up in a dysfunctional family. “Next thing you know you’re doing things a real family wouldn’t do.” He said he was strung out on drugs and then “one day I was tired of being a loser … found myself on the phone with a guy who graduated (from the VO) program … and within 15 minutes talked me into going into the program.” He said it was “awkward at first” to have people caring about him so much, but then he found himself giving back.
And the fourth speaker said he too had grown up in a dysfunctional family with a rough upbringing and found himself looking “for love and fellowship on the streets,” and wound up involved in gangs, having “to fight other kids just to walk down my own block.” He said he too had been involved in drugs and through the church he’s now “saved” and making changes in his life.
How do they get the word out about the program? Word-of-mouth, said the minister, as well as doing odd jobs in the neighborhood like yard work – that, he said, is where some of their funding comes from, as well as car washes and house painting. And they also try to be a positive force in the neighborhood, including dealing with nearby trouble. They also talk to parole/probation officers to look for potential program members.
The program supervised by the minister is a first step, it was explained; in the second step, members have to get jobs, and VO works with local businesses to facilitate that – from metal-fabrication shops to sports organizations.
Did you have trouble with the gangs letting you leave? a meeting attendee asked.
You just disappear, said one man. The minister said he has a brother who’s still involved, and he counsels him as best he can. He added that they try to move participants around so that they’re not tempted or approached by people they knew.
Why do gang members tag? was another question. Reply: To announce their presence at a particular location, and/or give someone a warning.
Who’s not eligible for the program? Reply: Exclusions include anyone with a sex-crime or arson background.
If you’re interested in anything from referring someone to VO to donating – they said items are welcome from toiletries to clothing – you can reach the Top Hat location at 206-781-1655.
WSCPC NEEDS YOU: If you are interested in helping this group continue – it’s been limping along with little volunteer help, not even someone to update its bare-bones website – please contact Richard Miller, who’s been keeping it going despite serious health challenges. Come to the next meeting (June 16th, last one before summer break) and/or contact him via e-mail – firstname.lastname@example.org.