By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
Car prowls are still “the issue of the day” for West Seattle crime, Southwest Precinct commander Capt. Pierre Davis told the West Seattle Crime Prevention Council last night.
His regular briefing was one of two focuses at the meeting – the other one was pedestrian/traffic safety. More on that later in the story, but first, the crime briefing:
Hotspots right now include Westwood and south Highland Park, as well as South Park, and on a citywide basis, this category of crimes was set to be the focus of SPD’s twice-monthly Seastat meeting today.
Capt. Davis also reiterated the importance of reporting those crimes in particular, even if nothing was taken, so they have accurate records – SPD is pointing citizens at its Dashboard to check community-crime stats, but those stats won’t be accurate if people don’t report them.
And he mentioned what we had reported here earlier in the evening – two arrests following two robberies earlier in the day, targeting students. The suspects were arrested near 9th and Henderson in Highland Park, though the robberies happened elsewhere; items stolen from the victims were recovered, he said.
Also discussed: Shots-fired calls. “We are pretty aware of who we’re looking at,” Capt. Davis said, while stressing that doesn’t guarantee arrests – evidence and timing play into it, too. When an attendee asked for more info, he elaborated, “We have a group of individuals out there that are gang affiliated and when they find a target, they want to shoot at that target – we found a nexus between what’s happening in West Seattle and what’s happening in SE Seattle, in Rainier Valley, we have two groups that are going at it. … Usually when you have a spike in that kind of activity, there’s something behind it.”
So is there anything that can be done besides reporting it? asked the attendee.
Capt. Davis’s reply: Make the phone call; if you have a camera that might catch something. What if you don’t know what direction the shots are coming from? Still call, said the captain; others are usually calling too, and the reports all help them pinpoint where the shots are coming from.
One more announcement from Capt. Davis: The next Drug Takeback Day will be April 30th. Also on the topic of drugs, there were concerns about how to deal with paraphernalia – syringes, for example – found in neighborhoods. No easy answer, but police are looking into what kind of resources they can offer.
In Q&A, he had high praise, as is often the case, for citizen tips leading to the arrest of suspects. He was asked about a question that comes up often – what about bait cars – he said (as he’s said before) that they haven’t been successful, but that’s not to say they won’t try again.
He was also asked if the additional residential units being built in areas of West Seattle, particularly The Junction, mean more police officers on the way. Capt. Davis said he’s definitely requesting them.
One concern brought up during Q&A was lighting on the east side of The Junction – Jefferson Square, the new apartments at 41st/Alaska, etc. Capt. Davis mentioned evaluations for CPTED (Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design).
Veering back to the subject of car prowls, WSCPC president Richard Miller asked another popular question: Keep car door unlocked to deter prowlers? No, said Capt. Davis – that isn’t necessarily a deterrent. “If they’re going to steal from me, I’m going to make them work for it.”
PEDESTRIAN SAFETY: Jim Curtin from SDOT was the spotlight guest. He said last year would have been at a historic low for traffic-related fatalities if not for the Aurora Bridge/Ride the Ducks crash. Vision Zero, announced in early 2015 as a way to reduce traffic-related deaths, comes from Sweden, he said, and is based on the fact that “people make mistakes and people are going to continue to make mistakes – we believe we can make the consequences of those mistakes less deadly through street design changes. … There’s a whole lot of reasons why safer streets are going to benefit everyone.”
He circulated a map with three years of data from around West Seattle, 2013-2015, for pedestrian and bicycle injuries.
Pedestrian/bicycle crashes in WS in past 3 years. 172 total, 147 injuries, 3 deaths pic.twitter.com/IobFI6IZmj
— West Seattle Blog (@westseattleblog) March 16, 2016
“Wide open streets with nothing to make people slow down – drivers go faster,” he said. “It’s incredibly important to note the relationship (between speed and injuries/deaths).”
The Junction, High Point, and Westwood all are high-crash locations, not just compared to the rest of West Seattle but the rest of the city. The biggest circles are spots where they need to throw engineering, enforcement, education, Curtin said. 35th/Graham and Delridge/Brandon were where the deaths happened; the bicycle death was on East Marginal Way
Then he showed the map of car crashes – almost 3,600.
— West Seattle Blog (@westseattleblog) March 16, 2016
“We have to do better as a society” because of the high cost, in so many ways. Street designs “down to the speed of life” are part of the way to tackle it. 30,000 people are killed on the roads every year – last year, for the first time in a decade, they rose, almost up to 40,000, “probably because of cheap gas.”
Opening the floor to Q/A, Curtin was asked about the concentration in The Junction. The city is evaluating what more can be done there, Curtin confirmed, noting that some actions already have been taken, such as lengthening the signal time that pedestrians get for crossing. In response to a question, he added that increased visibility for signs is a measure that might be taken, and red-light cameras could be considered too (“there’s no limit to the number of red-light cameras in the city,” he pointed out).
Another question: What’s the main goal of the changes? It was asked by someone who said she wasn’t entirely convinced changing arterial speed limits were the solution. “I don’t feel like going 30 is the problem – I don’t feel like I’m hitting people left and right.” She didn’t think that three crashes a day around all of West Seattle was very many.
The main goal is “Vision Zero – we’re trying to reduce injuries and deaths on our streets,” to as close to zero as they can get, Curtin reiterated. The attendee said if she’s going down 30 mph down California and isn’t on the phone and is paying attention, she’s not the problem. Curtin says the limit isn’t going to change on California, or Alki – “we’re going to (change) where the data tells us we have crash problems.” He says most people seem to think it’s OK to go five miles over the speed limit – so on Delridge, with a speed limit of 35 mph (set to be reduced this year), that means they’re going 40 mph. Why not have more enforcement? the attendee pressed. They don’t have enough police to do that. The main problem is that if a pedestrian is hit at 40 mph, they’re going to die, said Curtin. Well, yes, so if that’s the problem, why don’t we just go back to horses? the attendee countered. “We’re not going to accept that people are going to die,” said Curtin. He acknowledges that while the attendee might be a good driver, not everyone is.
Another attendee said that he knows of trouble spots he’s not seeing on the map, so how would he call attention to that? Curtin says he can report concerns to 206-684-ROAD, or go to the SDOT website and fill out an online complaint, or get a hold of them “a plethora of ways.” They’ll evaluate the street, the situation, how existing features work, he said.
“As drivers, our responsibility is a little bit higher,” Curtin says.
After that came a back-and-forth about how can they get to zero when the population is rising. A few years ago, collisions citywide were up to 13,000, he said, and now it’s closer to 10,000. And the vehicles that people are driving are safer too.
One attendee says that he can’t go 40 mph on Delridge because of the potholes. Will there be more paving, following up on the southern stretch? he asks. Short answer: Yes. “It had to do with the way Delridge was designed, and we have a seam in a really bad spot, and that’s where people’s wheels go …” said Curtin.
So will some of the Move Seattle levy money be spent on repaving? the attendee asked. Curtin said that’s a different department so he doesn’t know but he does know some spot paving, such as on Roxbury, is planned.
One attendee wanted to talk about traffic congestion as well as the difficulty of trying to cross Fauntleroy at various spots. She isn’t a fan of the red bus lane on the bridge “and when (the Alaskan Way Viaduct) comes down, what are we supposed to do?”
“We are a very data-driven organization, and any time we make changes to a street, it’s after a very thorough look at what’s happening on the street,” Curtin declared. “We have our fingers on the pulse of what’s happening, sheer number of pedestrians crossing a street, sheer number of vehicles crossing a street…”
Then the difficulty of using the bridge while staying out of the bus lane became a topic of the discussion. And another person said they wished they lived someplace where there was better transit because he has to travel 20, 30 mph to work. What percentage of your planning is for those people who have to use their cars? asks one attendee. Curtin says they plan for everybody and “want every person possible to take the bus” and are looking forward to light rail, but “we have a lot of things working against us here in West Seattle” – he mentions the 99 curves that went in pre-tunnel “increased my bus commute by 10 minutes.” But he’s optimistic about more transit. Might there be toll lanes someday? Not on the city’s radar right now, but they might someday find themselves looking at ways to discourage people from driving into the heart of the city.
The 35th SW rechannelization came up briefly. Yes, the road is busy during peak. The rest of the day – “let’s say 21 hours” – it’s wide open, said Curtin. An attendee disputed that. Curtin counter-countered by explaining that he lives in Arbor Heights and is on 35th often and has observed it firsthand many times – “you never wait through more than one signal cycle” for example.
Will 35th have bus bulbs? asked an attendee. “We haven’t finalized our desgns yet,” Curtin said.
The discussion ranged to a wide variety of traffic concerns after that. What about a reversible lane on the West Seattle Bridge? Curtin was asked. He didn’t think it would matter much because of the bottleneck exits to 99 and I-5.
If not for the 9 pm end time of the meeting, the traffic talk likely could have continued for hours.
The West Seattle Crime Prevention Council meets at 7 pm on third Tuesdays at the Southwest Precinct (2300 SW Webster).