By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
Crime trends come and go but one thing is constant – the need for more police. Attendees and SPD leadership both pointed that out at last night’s West Seattle Block Watch Captains Network meeting, and the topic re-emerged at a City Council committee meeting this morning.
One area in which the Southwest Precinct is having some staffing success right now – replenishing the Community Police Team. Two officers were promoted/moved from the SWP and now, Officers John O’Neil and Clayton Powell have joined. During part of last night’s meeting, they were showing Cub Scout Troop 282 around the precinct, including the new mobile precinct:
Precinct commander Capt. Pierre Davis said he’s hoping to bring in a fifth CPT officer, to join Powell, O’Neil, and Officers Jon Flores and Kevin McDaniel. The CPT deals with a variety of issues and generally work outside what’s dispatched via 911. Overall, the captain wished aloud for at least another 15 officers. That was part of his section of the meeting:
CAPTAIN’S BRIEFING: Capt. Davis opened with words of praise for the block-watch captains, saying, “It’s important to have this kind of a forum because it’s about information sharing.” Communicating about what’s happening is “ground zero. … You’re doing a great service to each other, just talking to each other. … You never know who sees what that you don’t know.” If they make an arrest of someone who can be linked to multiple crimes, “they get a substantial amount of time” in jail/prison. He talked about the summer roundup of frequent offenders, who can be accountable for 15 to 20 crimes in a single night. He reiterated the importance of calling 911 when something’s happening – and if you don’t find out about it until afterward, please make sure a report is filed.
Block Watch captain Dick Hurley stood up and said, “The more people that call about the same incident – the more attention it gets.”
Capt. Davis agreed. He also urged people not to be thrown by the sometimes-gruff nature of 911 operators. And he handed out brochures with tips about effective 911 calling (he had distributed them at the West Seattle Crime Prevention Council meeting last week, too).
Capt. Davis also lauded the various ways in which neighborhoods are communicating, including via sharing reader reports on WSB. He told the story of a stolen car that was being used in burglaries. The car’s owner had sent us a reader report, and we published it. The car was spotted by a reader, who reported it to police and their work not only recovered the car but ended the spree. “Not only did we get the car – later we picked up (the bad guy)” and they found stuff in the car. “That’s just one of the stories that fortifies us.”
His exhortation: “Be here, be passionate, and if there’s a strategy of ours that’s not working for you, let us know.”
One attendee asked about the communities elsewhere in the city that are hiring private security. Capt. Davis said he couldn’t comment on that; he wishes he had 15 to 20 more officers. “What can we do to help you guys get more officers?” asked the attendee. The commander’s reply: “Always be ready and willing to write and talk to more folks. That’s gold. It’s your right to want the best for your community.”
Asked about the size of his staff – about 80 officers, smallest of the precincts, he said.
An attendee asked about the progress overall of hiring around the city, since she had heard the mayor suggest not much progress was being made.
Capt. Davis said attrition is a problem – officers get jobs around the city, and even if they’re hiring, “we get 10, we lose five, we get 10, we lose eight … that’s just a national trend with policing.”
So who to contact to put the pressure on? asked the attendee.
Your new District 1 City Councilmember Lisa Herbold would be one, the captain suggested. The mayor, suggested others around the room.
But – the hiring process itself is intensive, he acknowledged.
What about recruiting from other cities? Seattle gets some of that, said Capt. Davis.
Overall the city is growing and so are its “big-time metropolitan problems.”
The attendee wondered if the recruiting was falling down on the job and asked who’s accountable for it.
Capt. Davis said the standards are high and not going to be reduced just to get more people on staff. “We just can’t be willy-nilly going out there getting (anyone).”
… But he also said that they will continue strategizing whether they have the staffing or not.
And as if to underscore … that’s the point in the meeting when word of the five-victim shooting near Airport Way broke out. That’s outside the SW Precinct, but some officers were sent that way, as a call went out around the city. It wasn’t announced at the meeting, but we were monitoring via radio, and Davis’s second-in-command, Operations Lt. Ron Smith, whispered a few words to him. (There also was an incident nearby in the 2400 block of SW Holden, happening at the same time.)
The staffing issue was discussed again this morning in a City Council committee. District 1 Councilmember Herbold asked about the status of a study that the department was doing regarding staffing and hiring. The department rep briefing the committee said it was being analyzed – and didn’t have much more to say than that.
By the way, if you or someone you know is interested in applying to work at SPD – info’s here.
NEIGHBORHOOD CRIME TRENDS: A Gatewood resident said he was there in place of a police officer whose car was stolen. He brought up other neighborhood concerns. A Highland Park resident said you have to be watchful – unfamiliar people might show up in a neighborhood and look perfectly normal but have criminal intent. WSBWCN co-leader Karen Berge mentioned car prowls in her neighborhood, Hansen View. Co-leader Deb Greer exhorted the reps to keep reminding their neighborhoods to share the news of what’s going on – the key point of having a block watch is to keep each other in touch.
What about the gunfire incidents in Delridge? asked a resident.
They’re being tracked in a database, said Capt. Davis. And they’re working to link the firearms with the incidents. In some cases, the suspects are also responsible for incidents in other communities, so they’re communicating between jurisdictions. He said there’s a biweekly report about shots-fired incidents. He also said he hopes to see this room filled up.
PUBLIC DISCLOSURE CONCERNS: Karen and Deb met with Assistant Chief Steve Wilske about the public disclosure of Block Watch Captains’ names a few months back – the group hadn’t met since then. It was agreed that reactions had varied wildly – some cared, some didn’t. But the issues that were raised haven’t gotten away. The new SPD privacy/transparency director will be a future guest, said the Block Watch Captains Network leaders.
COMMUNITY POLICE ACADEMY: “If you have the opportunity to attend, it’s worth your time to attend,” said Capt. Davis.
The WSBWCN meets eight times a year on fourth Tuesdays, 6:30 pm at the Southwest Precinct. Find the group online at wsblockwatchnet.wordpress.com.