By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
SUMMER SYNOPSIS: “For the most part, we didn’t have it that bad,” SW Precinct commander Capt. Pierre Davis began. He mentioned Alki as a hotspot, as usual; beyond a couple of high-profile incidents, the more-common problems included some motorcycle trouble, but “each and every time one of our officers would get behind one of the (motorcycle offenders), they would take off” (at high speed) – and SPD policy prohibits pursuing them. They did have some “emphasis patrols” which kept troublemakers from “that big of a foothold down there.” Otherwise, “nothing out of the norm” but he still wishes they’d had “better responses” and so they will review this year in hopes of doing a better job next year.
They’re looking with the help of City Attorney’s Office precinct liaison Matthew York at new speeding/cruising rules for Alki – “if we’re successful there, that’ll be an added tool for us … keep your fingers crossed.” (We are following up onthis.) Capt. Davis said York also had been “instrumental” in working on the speed-bump plan for Beach Drive by Constellation Park (here’s our update from last Saturday).
CURRENT CRIME TRENDS: Property crimes are worsening “cyclically” as the holiday season approaches, Capt. Davis said. The “huge drug epidemic” is worsening things right now, he said. Many of those they’ve been arresting are repeat offenders – “we might get them for one or two crimes, but our effort is to connect them with many more” when warranted, in hopes of that resulting in longer sentences.”We’re never going to arrest our way out of this problem… but we have to make sure we have a strong enforcement component, and a treatment component as well.” Neighborhoods that are current hotspots:
*Roxhill/Westwood Village (an area of particular emphasis over the summer, with plans to clear some of the brushy areas)
Precinct Operations Lt. Ron Smith said they’d put a lot of pressure on car prowl trouble spots in Highland Park, and so the problem has shifted to other areas, with the Anti-Crime Team (1 sergeant, six officers, sometimes working in plainclothes) planning to follow. HP is no longer the #1 car prowl area – an area east of The Junction is. “It’s an uphill battle; we’re trying to fight this with the resources we have,” said Lt. Smith. But he said, “give them a month” and they’ll “move somewhere else.” York said at that point that the City Attorney’s Office is focusing on car-prowl convictions because it can help pile up “points” on an offender’s record, even though they are misdemeanors.”If they’re breaking into cars they’re probably also stealing cars too.”
Capt. Davis added that they’re collaborating with the King County Sheriff’s Office on the city/county “border” trouble. That can be a challenge, Lt. Smith said, given the KCSO’s resource crunch, but they pay attention to what’s going on on both sides of the line.
“We’re looking at our encampment issues as well,” Capt. Davis, because those can be related to a “nexus” of crime and other trouble. Overall, “it’s a busy time for us.” But “the biggest thing that helps us out is when people call 911 – not enough people are doing it – if you see somebody doing something suspicious, make that call.” And if a crime has just happened, call, he said … the sooner they can get officers there, the sooner they can look for evidence like surveillance video. “I’m telling you, they really hit us hard this summer.” They’re working on a “directed patrol plan” as a result.
Back to the encampment issue, Lt. Smith reiterated that one Community Police Team officer is assigned specifically to that issue. If there’s criminal activity, they’ll pursue it; if it’s someone who “needs help,” they’ll pursue outreach. He said he had visited a Myers Way encampment that WSDOT would be “moving out” soon because “it’s not safe. … We enforce the rules that we are allowed to enforce in the city of Seattle.”
At that point, an attendee asked what to do if someone seems to be living out of an RV on her block. “Call CPT Officer Todd Wiebke,” Lt. Smith said. (He’s been off for a few days but will be back on duty later this week, he added.) He said that City Hall policies dictate how they deal with campers – if there is a group of three or more, they have to get outreach involved. But single campers can be contacted and asked to move, as with one found in Rotary Viewpoint Park recently, Lt. Smith said. He added that the organized encampment on the Myers Way Parcels, Camp Second Chance, was being allowed to stay for a while.
In response to a followup question about the RVs, it was suggested that they contact Parking Enforcement, since they legally can’t be on most streets between midnight and 8 am. While York said there’s a “hold” on some encampment actions right now in the city, there’s no hold on vehicle-camping enforcement so far as he knows. Capt. Davis, meantime, recapped the city’s shelved plan to create an RV “safe lot” at W. Marginal Way and Highland Park Way, and the holding zone the precinct set up for a while by the entrance to the Myers Way Parcels, where they were providing social-services outreach … complicated by others showing up “from outside the area.” What they’re doing now, he said, is basically trying to keep campers “out of residential areas.”
Lt. Smith mentioned a citywide interdepartmental meeting within the past week. “What realization we came to … this homeless issue is not a law-enforcement issue; it goes beyond what we’re capable of dealing with. If there’s a criminal issue, we’ll deal with it, but (otherwise) we don’t have the resources to deal with it.” The rules keep changing, he said. “As it stands right now, we’re just standing by to make sure no one gets hurt.”
Talk turned back to the opioid-addiction problem underlying so much of this, and how difficult it is to help people get off those drugs – it’s not just something you can kick cold-turkey style, York explained, saying that the current enforcement movement is looking at the supply side rather than the demand side.
COMMUNITY CONCERNS: One woman raised an issue about youth – primarily tweens and young teens – who had been causing problems in her neighborhood, including threatens of violence, and an officer that she didn’t feel was taking it seriously enough. Capt. Davis gave her his card; Lt. Smith said that any citizen has the right to talk to talk to a supervisor. You can do that through 911 but you also can call the precinct and ask to talk with a sergeant.
A man mentioned drug use/trafficking on 13th SW north of Roxbury. He said he often calls in problems and does get responses, but “there’s just constant activity” along a staircase toward the end of his street.
STAFFING: How’s the push for increased police staffing going? asked WSCPC president Richard Miller. “Getting better,” said Capt. Davis. “For our precinct, we’re starting to get to where we need to be, but it just doesn’t happen fast enough. You heard the mayor say we’re going to hire 200 … if we had those 200 individuals in the academy tomorrow, that’s a year (of training and other work), and a lot of things can happen in a year,” including attrition such as retirement. “We’re looking OK … not perfect, but OK.”
It’s more like two years of training, passing the physical, going to the state academy – and waiting for openings there – Lt. Smith added.
FEATURED GUEST: Lisa Love, who manages health education in Seattle Public Schools, was at the meeting to talk about harassment, bullying, and other challenges faced by students. She asked attendees to talk with each other about their experiences, and then she turned the conversation to what it’s like in schools now – family dynamics, styles of punishment (or lack of it), social media, and more. She and others noted that the challenges also are posed by a culture where people seem to “get away with that behavior … much as we hide behind technology to do so.”
Right now in SPS, she said they are dealing with state law mandating having policies and procedures in place for dealing with bullying and harassment. “What’s not as clear is a (policy) saying what’s being taught at (certain grade levels),” so that is at a district’s discretion.”As you can imagine, every school has its own culture and feel … Many schools are deciding, as a school, how they are going to address anti-bullying content.” As a district, she said, they are shifting to a recognizing that “the whole child is important … we recognize that even though the primary goal of the school is educational,” they have to address other issues – such as bullying and conflict and social skills – because they can get in the way of readiness for learning. So they are working on defining what’s developmentally appropriate along those lines.
“One framework we’re using is Positive Behavior Intervention Systems – to say, how are we making relationships with kids a priority, talking about their strengths” so the discussions aren’t entirely punitive. Talking about emotions, about what’s happening, is really important so that kids can learn about self-regulation “instead of simply outbursts and punitive response.”
She said this doesn’t mean there aren’t consequences for bad behavior – “if you throw a chair across the room” – but for something like “backtalk,” rather than sending somebody home for the day “because that’s not necessarily punishment,” they will come up with something that “keeps kids engaged in school … but not sending them away.” When it’s child-to-child conflict “that needs to be addressed,” there will be documentation, “a plan for the victim’s safety,” and other components of dealing with it.
“What advice would you give a parent about talking to your child about not becoming a target?” asked the one attendee who mentioned currently having a child in SPS.
*NetSmartz for online
*Role-play with your kids – she said she does that almost nightly with her own kids
*Practice many ways of telling kids how to get help if they need it
In response to another question, she acknowledged that children will often hide the fact they’re being bullied or harassed, since there’s such a culture of shame around it. They might find ways to come to class early or late to avoid interacting with the bully … “there are all kinds of ways that kids are strategizing all day long about their safety.”
Another issue: A lot of bullying happens around transportation to school – are bus drivers being trained?
Yes, they are, Love said. There’s some online training when they’re hired, for starters, and they have access to the reporting system, and this comes up at staff trainings, too.
The West Seattle Crime Prevention Council meets third Tuesdays, 7 pm, at the Southwest Precinct.