By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
Crime trends and self-protection were on the agenda as the West Seattle Crime Prevention Council returned from summer break.
Last night’s meeting started with Southwest Precinct Captain Pierre Davis briefing those in attendance. “The summer was … the summer. In West Seattle, it’s typical for us to have a riproaring summer, but it wasn’t out of control.” He talked about the importance of the recently developed “microcommunity” policing plans, and the importance of feedback on them.
It’s been five months since Capt. Davis returned to West Seattle as precinct commander; he noted that some categories of crime were spiking back then, but they’ve been “strateg(izing)” how to fight them, and have had success. For one, he said, they’ve put together what is in effect “a posse to go out and hunt our bad guys … (those responsible) for auto thefts, burglaries, other crimes that have plagued neighborhoods.”
The City Attorney’s precinct liaison Matthew York, who was present at the meeting, has helped with that, Davis continued, as they identified “85 of our more prolific bad guys who are rolling around West Seattle.” Since ID’ing them, they’ve arrested “a multitude of them … we’ve gotten at least 25 of them off the street.” While previously they might seem to get out of jail almost as fast as they got in, police have “put together a pretty good campaign against these guys,” and they’re getting a lot of help from citizens who are tipping them to specific suspects. And they’re able to link them to multiple crimes, which means more time in jail “the difference between two days and two weeks to … five years.” With that, “the crime problems plummet,” and, Davis says, they have – as have the problems south of the city limits in unincorporated North Highline (we can attest to that from crime-stats briefings at the North Highline Unincorporated Area Council meetings we cover for partner site White Center Now).
Now, to the numbers Capt. Davis presented last night. In the SW Precinct (West Seattle and South Park) in the last 28 days:
Robberies – year to date, 9 over last year (a 10 percent increase, when earlier in the year it was up 30 percent) – “this seems to be the new crime wave right now,” Capt. Davis says, regionally as well as locally
Aggravated Assaults – Down 29 percent
Residential burglaries – Down 9 percent. “As soon as we start seeing a spike, we look at who’s in and out of jail,” and look for patterns that might match certain suspects that they’d want to keep a look out for.
Motor-vehicle thefts – Down citywide, 6 percent in this area. “We’re holding our own,” said Capt. Davis.
Car prowls – Rate is “holding steady,” neither up nor down.
Some of this summer’s arrests, according to Capt. Davis, are people responsible for crimes in multiple categories – car prowls, car thefts, burglaries. Often they’ll steal a car, take it somewhere, commit a burglary, then take another car to move on to their next target, and might be accountable for up to three car thefts a day. He voiced appreciation for citizen tips and said, bottom line, “If you see something, say something.”
COMMUNITY CONCERNS: The issue of RVs “camping” on city streets came up. Technically, York said, RVs aren’t allowed to park overnight on city streets. SPD does not have an overnight parking-enforcement officer in this precinct, but if you call in to complain, an officer could be dispatched if available. One attendee suggested reporting via Find It, Fix It, but York pointed out that using the app won’t “build the same statistics” as calling police will.
Another attendee mentioned that with school starting again, that might rekindle the trouble spot by Hiawatha/Admiral Safeway, so will police patrol that area? Capt. Davis said yes, “we’re going to be placing as much resources as we can out there,” as well as by the nearby McDonald’s. However, he added, “unfortunately, we’ve taken a hit in resources” – so they haven’t been able to deploy bicycle officers as much as they hoped.
Some discussion centered around the upcoming mayoral visit to Delridge for a Find It, Fix It community walk (October 3rd, as first announced in July), the second one in this precinct, following the one in South Park earlier this month (with cleanups resulting, for starters).
The issue of drug violations came up and some discussion of what sort of problem you’re seeing if you see particular types of discarded items – small plastic bags might be heroin or meth; if you see bits of foil, it’s often a sign of Oxycontin abuse. Also in the substance-abuse realm, alcohol theft at Westwood was mentioned, and Capt. Davis said the Community Police Team is continuing to work on that issue in cooperation with stores at Westwood Village. Speaking of which …
COMMUNITY POLICE TEAM STATUS: It’s still down to 2 officers in the Southwest Precinct – Officer Jon Flores (who was at last night’s meeting) and Officer Kevin McDaniel (who focuses on High Point). Longtime Southwest CPT Officer Jon Kiehn is working on the department-wide “Dashboard” project, and Erin Nicholson is now an acting sergeant “due for a promotion,” said Capt. Davis. He says they’ll eventually get back up to four but they have to be careful where they draw from because that’s just pulling from other resources in the precinct. Lots of challenges to the resource levels right now, Capt. Davis says, including retirements – three in just the past few months.
SPOTLIGHT TOPIC – PERSONAL DEVICE ITEMS: This was the discussion topic chosen by WSCPC leadership, and all of the following comes with the disclaimer that police are not telling citizens what they can and can’t do or use. It was a discussion involving attendees as well as the police who were present, with no formal presentation or recommendations. Overall, though, asked for advice: Capt. Davis urged “common sense” – if you pull something out, make sure you’re prepared to use it, don’t just threaten, as it can be turned against you. York said, from a prosecutorial perspective – he used to work in the KC Prosecuting Attorney’s office – “If you have a device on you, knife, gun, pepper spray, assuming it’s legal to begin with, you can only respond to someone with reasonable force. If you go beyond that, you could be facing a crime yourself. If someone punches you, you can’t pull out a gun and shoot them.” He recalled a case in which somebody was charged with murder for a stabbing that happened following a scuffle between two groups of people. “It’s always better to be charged with a crime than to be in a coffin, but I would always advise caution.” He clarified that if something is clearly threatening your life – knife, gun, choking – you have all options open to you. But if not, use caution.
In other parts of the discussion, even a “command voice” can be useful in some circumstances, attendees agreed, as did Capt. Davis, who noted that “Mr. Bad Guy sizes up his target as well.” York reminded people that some items are fully illegal – brass knuckles, for example – and that if you have a concealed weapon, you need to have a concealed-weapon permit. One attendee who identified himself as an NRA-certified firearms instructor said that if you use your weapon, it might at the very least wind up costing you money – so know what you’re doing and why you’re pulling it out. The instructor also talked about the first rule of self-protection – watch out where you’re going. Is there any “don’t go” place in West Seattle? Nobody specified any particular location other than observing that Seattle has a relatively low percentage of violent crime.
One memorable tidbit: York said he’d read a suggestion of keeping car keys at bedside so you can hit the panic button (triggering noise outside, at least). The firearms instructor said, keep your phone charged – if you have to call 911, you might be on for a long time talking them in, and that’s when you don’t want to be running out of power.
The West Seattle Crime Prevention Council meets on third Tuesdays, so the next meeting is October 20th, 7 pm, SW Precinct.