By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
For those interested in more alerts about repeat offenders (like the ones we wrote about last weekend) – police might soon be sharing that kind of information publicly.
That was one revelation from last night’s West Seattle Crime Prevention Council meeting, along with a guest presentation about what to do in case of an “active shooter” situation.
More than 25 people were at the WSCPC’s monthly meeting at the Southwest Precinct, including two groups of neighbors from areas of North Delridge and Puget Ridge. Here’s how it unfolded:
CRIME TRENDS: “We’ve arrested a significant amount of people out there,” began precinct commander Capt. Pierre Davis. Much of the property crime is linked to drug use, he noted, because users need to get money and “just don’t care.” So “don’t leave valuables in your car,” he reminded people. That would “help us out” in terms of discouraging criminals.
And make sure your valuables are identifiable, in case they are stolen (by burglary, for example). He mentioned repeat offenders, saying “we’re ready to start putting their faces out to the general public … so you guys can see exactly what these individuals are up to and what they look like … they don’t like it, they’ve told us they don’t like it … we’re going to ramp it up.”
Police also are continuing to work with prosecutors to get repeat offenders charged with as much as feasible, especially via the Repeat Burglar Initiative and similar initiatives for auto thefts, burglaries, and car prowling. Also, “we’re trying to get some services for these people so they can get some help at the same time.” As always, he urged people, “When you see something, say something.” They’re tracking crime by neighborhood and distributing trend info to “all of our three watches” (shifts of officers), Capt. Davis said. He also again mentioned the new full-time bicycle squad, as well as the “09 car – a police unit, sometimes plainclothes” not tied to 911 responses, assigned to be proactive and “stopping and arresting everything that needs to be stopped and arrested.”
COMMUNITY COMMENTS, CONCERNS, Q & A: The North Delridge residents said they came because someone on their block has many “bad things” going on – drugs, child abuse, trash on the property, the house itself “falling down” – and said they’ve called repeatedly about it. Capt. Davis asked the address and said that they can follow up and they might well find that something’s already under way – maybe abatement or something else via the City Attorney’s Office.
“Many times our community members don’t always know what’s going on with a specific residence …” He also mentioned the precinct liaison for the CAO, Matthew York, might be able to help, and promised to make contact with him.
One Puget Ridge resident brought up a shots-fired incident they’d heard about, in which a delivery person reported being been shot at near the 16th/Holden 7-11 in Highland Park a month or two ago, and subsequently quit his job. Capt. Davis hadn’t heard of something like that but asked for more information so he could look into it.
Another Puget Ridge resident said a recent community cleanup had uncovered discarded needles/syringes in multiple spots, and Capt. Davis expressed interest in the specific locations. Yet another person from Puget Ridge brought concerns about illegal dumping; they were pointed to the Community Police Team (contact info is on the Southwest Precinct website) for assessment and followup.
“How do you even dispose of (needles/syringes)?” the resident asked.
Capt. Davis said he hesitated to advise even trying to do that, because of the “cocktail” of drugs that would have to be taken if someone got accidentally jabbed by a needle. It’s happened to some of his officers, he said. So, call police, he advised, and “we’ll get somebody out there.”
Next question: What’s being done about unsanctioned encampments, particularly near the Duwamish River?
Capt. Davis mentioned Community Police Team Officer Todd Wiebke‘s role as “lead person” on encampment-related issues. For example, he said, they’ve been towing RVs, but the motor homes and encampments are “migratory” and keep moving around. He mentioned the city’s ongoing move to sanction Camp Second Chance on Myers Way, but that won’t handle the whole problem. Among other things police are doing, he said, they’re working to identify who’s accountable for which site where people are camping – on Myers Way, for example, some of the land is state-owned, some is city-owned. Citywide, he noted, there’s a new “navigation team” with a sergeant and eight officers to work on the situation. More are needed to “take care of the problem throughout the whole city,” he observed, “but it’s a start.”
“We’re the only precinct that’s towing RV’s,” added Operations Lt. Ron Smith.
Another resident reported hearing gunshots several recent nights. “We’re looking for a pattern” when investigating, Capt. Davis said. The resident said it seems to be happening off the arterials, as compared to previous incidents.
“With every shots-fired call that comes into the 911 center, that’s tracked .. We have a detective and that’s all she does” citywide. “The problem is not as plentiful as it used to be – certain individuals and residences had been responsible … we’ve done some things (to deal with them) and a lot of that activity has gone by the wayside,” he said. Recent incidents have not yielded any “clear information” about the source of the noise. And sometimes, Davis said, “it’s fireworks … our officers (see it firsthand).”
“They weren’t fireworks,” the resident retorted.
Another resident mentioned suspicious activity near his house, with a large number of cars visiting at times. He said he had “sent online messages” sometimes when things happen. That’s not enough, said Capt. Davis – call 911 if something is happening now. “Break-ins, stuff like that – I want to have that information right now,” he stressed. Sometimes they’ll come up with a piece of evidence that leads them to many other people, Davis elaborated, mentioning the case of a laptop that turned out to have data that was “like a clown car” of information about other criminals/troublemakers spilling out.
How are police dealing with immigrants concerned about new federal initiatives? asked one person, saying they have a lot of immigrant friends who are scared.
If someone is committing a crime, Capt. Davis said, their background will be revealed, there’s no way around that. But otherwise, police are not asking about people’s statuses, and they haven’t “for many administrations.”
Next question: If you send police video and photos – what happens to it? asked one attendee. The department is working on more clearly defining lines of possession, said Lt. Smith.
SPECIAL GUEST – ACTIVE SHOOTER: Two SPD training officers, Edward Anderson and Leroy Outlaw, came out to present information – and discovered that they couldn’t bring up their fancy slide deck. Nonetheless, they gave a compelling hour-long presentation with no visual aids but a whiteboard and short video.
“When you think active shooter, don’t always think it’s going to be a firearm” – there’ve been slashing massacres. “They’re starting to use the term ‘active assailant’ but ‘active shooter’ is the term people recognize the most.”
“If you have more than one suspect in the incident,” said Anderson, “that indicates a much higher level of planning” – think Columbine. “Troubling enough, but we know suspects are actually learning from … the suspects (that committed such crimes) before them. … They get very detailed, almost down to a military level of logistics.”
They happen in various categories – 60 percent of the time it’s an “internal threat ..some connection with that suspect to that location.” 30 percent, no connection. 10 percent, “ideologically driven” – true terrorism, with a political/religious/etc. motivation.
402 Americans killed in active-shooter incidents, 190 people injured, in the last decade in the U.S., said Anderson. One active-shooter incident happens every 13 days or so, on average. It doesn’t take death to define something as an active-shooter incident – Outlaw talked about an incident where a troubled student had taken a family gun and gone to his school but had been stopped because his parents discovered he and the gun were gone and went to the school and stopped him before anything happened.
Getting police on a “priority 1” call takes on average 7 minutes. A majority of active-shooter incidents takeless time than that. So if it happens and you are there – you are the “first responder,” said the SPD trainers.
Increasing your chances of survival: Pre-planning, situational awareness, actions during the incident.
Outlaw said some of this information also applies to what happens if a natural disaster strikes, and other situations.
Your escape plan “is only as good as your castle walls are strong,” said Anderson, noting that the Sandy Hook murderer managed to get through a door/window because of his small size, an entryway that someone might not have considered a security threat.
Situational awareness is important – “Is ‘spider sense’ real?” asked Anderson. “Yes. Don’t be paranoid, but be vigilant … If it feels wrong, it probably is.”
If you think something’s going on, report it and then get out of there “as quickly as possible.”
If you are responsible for a place of business, a school, etc. – “keep your staff up to date as much as possible.”
Next: What to do during an incident.
“When you make a threat assessment, don’t do it by risking yourself” – don’t run back in the building to get a better description for 911, for example. If you can get descriptions to 911, how many shooters is the most important thing for starters. Tell others to get out, if you and they can. If you can, use lawful/reasonable force to protect yourself and others. The officers asked if anyone in the room had a concealed-weapons permit – one person raised his hand. “How do we engage (with you) when we get (to the scene)? We’ve heard a guy has a gun in the mall … but you (guy with permit) might still have your gun in your hand when we get there. … We tell people, ‘don’t be Chuck Norris, get out’.” Anderson offered to talk with the permitholder afterward about ways to engage with law enforcement if he ever winds up in that situation.
Outlaw said that even though he’s a trained officer – if something happens while he’s there, off-duty, with his family, his job is to get them and himself out. “It’s not your fight … be selfish. Your job is to get out.”
Anderson said that when uniformed officers respond to these situations … 50 percent of the time they get shot. He mentioned the 2005 Tacoma Mall shooting, in which someone, armed, tried to stop the shooter and got shot and paralyzed. “Action’s always going to be reaction, no matter what you do.” If you haven’t been able to get away, “think about distraction.” One attendee mentioned the possibility of using a fire extinguisher for that.
Another attendee pointed out the importance of scoping out the exits when you go somewhere, so you won’t be wasting precious time looking for them if something bad happens.
“Limiting your exposure” – concealment or cover, hiding behind something, and/or getting behind something that will stop the threat that’s possibly heading your way.
At this point, they showed this 6-minute Houston-produced video titled “Run, Hide, Fight”:
Those are the three things that could make a difference in your survival if something happens where you are, said the video, which presented a scenario of someone walking into a business and opening fire.
“Remember what’s important – you, not your stuff – leave your belongings behind and try to get out safely.” Once you’re out, keep others from entering the danger zone, and call 911 “when you’re safe.”
If you can’t get out, actions to take include:
*Turn out the lights
*Silence your phone
*Hide behind large objects
*Stay very quiet
And as a last resort, fight back:
*Attempt to incapacitate the shooter
*Act with physical agggression
(Watch the whole video to benefit from all of its advice.)
Keep in mind that the first responders are not there to evacuate or tend to the injured, they’re trying to find the shooter. But once they show up, they will be in big numbers – “Eleven law-enforcement agencies are in uniform in Seattle in any given day,” Anderson said. The 2006 Jewish Federation shooting in Seattle was responded to by nine of them, he noted.
“Neutralizing the shooter means he gives up or we shoot him” – when lives have been taken and/or are at risk, it’s not a time to negotiate. And once the shooter is “neutralized,” the officers are working to clear the incident.
What can you expect to see on police entry? Overwhelming noise and light, for starters – maybe flash grenades – high-powered flashlight “even if the building is lit up” – you’re going to hear verbal commands. “If you have something to say at that point, trust me, they’re not going to hear you.” The officers’ adrenaline is running high, especially on arrival, he reminded everyone. The officers will be in “fast-moving formation.” One interesting bit of advice: Don’t point, if you feel you have something you must communicate to police – keep in mind they’re still trying to sort out the situation. Don’t try to grab an officer, even if you’re trying to get attention for an injury or something else. “You will be seen as a threat until we know otherwise, period. That’s the way it is,” emphasized Anderson.
“Don’t take it personal if they point a gun at you,” said Outlaw.
*Keep your hands high and visible
*Do not enter the (officers’) formation (which are usually very tight so they literally have each other’s back)
*Once the situation has stabilized somewhat, don’t be surprised if police ask you to help out – maybe take a group of people out of the building, for example
No stereotypes any more for who’s an active shooter – “they’re every color of the rainbow” and the number of women is rising, the officers said, particularly in “teams” such as the 2015 San Bernardino massacre in California.
Wherever you are, “that place is going to become a crime scene … depending on (factors including) the body count, it may become a federal crime scene …” and might remain closed for a long time as a result.
If you survive one of these incidents, you are going to be hit with media requests … think of how you are going to deal with that, and how – if you are responsible for people – to get them away from people trying to stick microphones in their faces.
Added Outlaw – while police are working, “don’t be tweeting about what we’re doing … give us that moment to work, and then afterward (talk about it if you have to) but please please, not while we’re working.”
If you have to take the third advice – fight – “fight like you’re the third monkey trying to get on the ark and it’s starting to rain.”
But don’t dwell on all this too much … you’re more likely to get killed in a car crash than in an active-shooter incident, summarized Anderson. Just be aware, and informed – and that’s what the officers were there last night to help with.
The West Seattle Crime Prevention Council meets on third Tuesdays most months, 7 pm, at the Southwest Precinct. We usually get word of each month’s guest at least a week in advance and publicize it as part of WSB Crime Watch coverage.