From last night’s West Seattle Crime Prevention Council meeting at the Southwest Precinct, last one until September:
CAPTAIN’S BRIEFING: Southwest Precinct commander Capt. Pierre Davis opened with the declaration that a “grandiose state of car prowling is happening in our neck of the woods” – The Junction, Highland Park, and South Park are the hardest-hit spots right now. He implored people to PLEASE not leave ANYTHING in their cars – if thieves stop scoring stuff, they’ll stop trying. “We don’t want to make it lucrative for these guys to keep doing what they’re doing.” Without naming names, he mentioned that some prolific suspects have been caught. “We want to keep the pressure up throughout the whole summer.”
He said the shots-fired issues are under scrutiny as well. “Some of them have a nexus toward certain houses, or friends that they visit … these guys are riding cars, coming from (different areas, north to east to south) … if you hear it, make sure you call it in, so we can get the appropriate types of response out there.” Arrests tend to “make a lot of that activity go away,” he said. “Timely and accurate reporting is the key to a lot of this stuff … sometimes we don’t get the information until maybe the next day, which is not good enough … it’s a lot harder than … right when that stuff is happening. Load 911 up so they can get all that good information out to our officers.” He said that things in Puget Ridge/Pigeon Point had quieted down – traffic-wise as well – after emphasis patrols. One PR resident verified that. Capt. Davis said that with the 4th of July approaching, there’ll be some fireworks/gunshots confusing, but still call it in. “Sometimes we get there and it is fireworks … sometimes we get there and we find shell casings … exercise due diligence, make that 911 call.”
Next topic, burglaries:
“Exercise care and caution” during summertime when you leave doors and windows open – don’t leave them open if you leave for the store, you might get targeted even if you’re gone for just a short time – and even when you are home, consider “partial locking mechanisms” that will enable you to leave them partway open.
Nuisance/vacant houses are a hot topic right now, too, Capt. Davis said, echoed by the precinct liaison from the City Attorney’s Office, Matthew York. He said that directive has come down from the mayor’s office.
Asked about the precinct’s dealings with people experiencing homelessness, he said that campers known to be “involved with the criminal element” are being “asked to leave.” As for those living in the greenbelts such as those along Myers Way, he said that’s a difficult multi-jurisdiction “dance.”
Asked about last Friday night’s strong-arm robbery at 31st and Myrtle (reported here), he didn’t have information handy, but he did then subsequently bring up the Trader Joe’s parking-lot theft that happened several hours before the meeting. We asked about the victim telling us police said a similar incident happened within the past week elsewhere in the area; precinct liaison York had a bit of information about it, saying it happened early in the morning in a church parking lot where some people had been sleeping, and that the thief/thieves rode up on bicycles, but he had no further information, such as location.
An attendee brought up the drivers that take over Don Armeni Boat Ramp‘s parking lot on some days, and the noise and safety issues they generate. “It happens 24 hours a day,” she said. “I get woken up in the middle of the night by backfiring cars and screeching tires. … It’s multiple cars.” Capt. Davis promised to get somebody on the case; the attendee said that she had tried to contact a Community Police Team officer who turned out to be on leave. Picking up on the theme, another attendee said that Hamilton Viewpoint Park also has the same problem. Alki was briefly discussed; one man who said he lives near Whale Tail Park said he took issue with troublemakers there being referred to as “kids,” while Capt. Davis said there are different groups, and some are teenagers. He expressed appreciation for the Mobile Precinct’s visits, but he says every summer, it gets hotter earlier, and trouble starts earlier.
An Arbor Heights resident said that she’s been hit repeatedly by crime, “but I never see police in the Arbor Heights area, ever. … When are they there?” She said she lives near 35th and 102nd. “Each of our officers have different areas of responsibility,” Capt. Davis explained. Another person who lives near 26th/Thistle in Westwood said there’ve been problems, and also noted that the Southwest Athletic Complex fields have been locked up so people can’t get access. “I’ve had to call police officers to come out because kids would sit at the corner of 26th and Cloverdale and throw rocks at me when I went out to try to get my mail.”
Asked by WSCPC president Richard Miller about summer plans, Capt. Davis mentioned the automated license plate reader sweep just completed. “We ran more than 50,283 plates, recovered two stolen cars, 15 cars were booted for outstanding parking tickets.” Also, an ongoing traffic emphasis, with both local officers and Traffic Unit officers, though he warned that not only will those sweeps catch criminals, they’ll also catch neighbors breaking traffic laws. They’re working on gang issues, too, with that expected to reduce the number of shots-fired incidents. Regarding Lincoln Park car prowls, he said police know of “certain individuals” and are working on strategies to snag them.
911 CENTER: Brian Maxey, Seattle Police’s chief operating officer, was invited to talk about it – “one of my responsibilities … I essentially oversee the administrative side of the department,” he explained. He said Chief O’Toole didn’t realize “the depth of the broken systems at SPD” when she arrived, even beyond what had led to the federal consent decree. “The chief, when she brought me on, made it very clear, it’s time to fix those systems.”
1-to-33 is the supervisor to dispatcher ratio here, he said, while 1 to 8 is the industry standard. They’ve been “mandating that dispatchers remain on overtime shifts .. working incredible hours .. we have a very very overworked dispatch staff, and we’re working hard to fix that.” He said the mayor’s office has committed to hiring to help relieve that situation. But it “takes 18 months to get someone as a call-taker.”
He mentioned the problem that led to people calling 911 and getting a “fast busy signal” – so they’ve doubled the trunk lines and “you should be able to get through far more easily.” He also mentioned the “physical remodel” that we reported here.
“When you call 911 … one of the things we struggle with … for example, car prowls, we have a huge spike (in mornings), and people want an officer to respond … We found that looking at data, we were able to gather relevant evidence about 1 percent of the time … the officer would submit a report with everything that (the victim) said, but” in essence, he said, that was less efficient than the victim directly filling out the report online. “The majority of car prowls are not solved by a 911 response … if it’s already happened we can’t do much with the evidence collected” – what’s more important is where it happened and when, so they can do data analysis.
The numbers may or may not be significant, depending on the “density of cars,” he explained. “So for the low-level crimes, I really encourage online reporting. If you call the non-emergency line, I can’t guarantee you’re not going to have a frustrating experience.” Every area, he said, has a resource challenge. And to have 200 more officers by 2019, they’re going to have to hire probably 400 to 500 in the next three years – because, for example, there’s a wave of retirements.
A variety of factors all require them “to prioritize Priority 1 calls.” Right now the “average response time” for those is 9 1/2 minutes, he said, though that’s a little misleading, and he said “the most consistent response we have for Priority 1 is 7 1/2 minutes – nationally that’s a very good number.”
Last summer, one attendee said, her car and several others on the block were all broken into. Her cell phone was among the items taken, and at some point the thief turned on the phone, with a finder program showing the victim it was in Federal Way. She said she filed a report online and mentioned that. “Do those reports even get read?” she asked. Yes, said Maxey.
Other attendees asked for clarification on what constituted “low-level” crimes to report online. He pointed them to the online-report system for more on that – find it here.
Then concerns were raised by an attendee who said her neighborhood “blew 911 up” because of concerns, but didn’t get traction until finally coming to the precinct. “We don’t have confidence that (downtown) has a finger on the pulse,” she said. He said they’ve upgraded the system, policies, are working with unions so they can have “more flexible schedules .. we know the ebbs and flows of our 911 (systems) and know when we get (the most calls) …”
So how to escalate? the attendee pressed. For one, Maxey said, you can stress that you really want to talk to a “telephone reporting officer.” The department “just added a whole lot more” of those, he said.
One attendee had a procedural question about how SFD calls are handled … all 911 calls go to the West Precinct, Maxey said, but immediately get sorted out and handled. Asked about daypart volume, he said, 2 am-6 am is the lowest call volume, “so if you want to stay up and call then.” That drew a few laughs.
Captain Ron Rasmussen has done a great job managing the 911 center, but in the future, Maxey said, they will likely be doing a national search for a 911-specialist manager.
Another note – call volume is up significantly, and the North Precinct is responsible for much of that; SW call volumes are up about 16 percent, he said.
And he said that once the acoustic gunshot-locator system is in place, stats will spike because currently, “75 percent of gunshots go unreported.”
He also reminded people that if you’re calling from a mobile phone, the call-taker does NOT know exactly where you are – so you need to be able to provide that information.
And he said that in order to deal with more emergencies, a recent study indicated that calltakers shouldn’t be so “accommodating” – when emergency calls back up, most of the time, the study suggested, they’re dealing with non-emergency issues.
Asked how they would operate in case of disaster, Maxey mentioned they have a full backup center elsewhere in the city, and they have a truck-based setup they could deploy.
This weekend, by the way, with Pride and a President, is going to be huge for SPD. Maxey said they’ve “canceled all furloughs, all time off for this weekend, we’ve got plan after plan, 30-some-odd private events, the President of the United States, three Mariners games, a Sounders game, Nancy Pelosi is here…”
The West Seattle Crime Prevention Council meets third Tuesdays most months, 7 pm @ Southwest Precinct, but is on hiatus now until September.