No special guest at last night’s West Seattle Block Watch Captains Network meeting at the Southwest Precinct, so it was a chance for attendees to talk more extensively with police and each other:
Capt. Pierre Davis‘s message was the same as recent community meetings:”We’ve made a ton of arrests. (Now) we’re struggling with the judicial system,” to be sure the suspects stay behind bars. And he reiterated that whatever happens, it needs to be reported. “What hurts us the most is when things go unreported … we have to give our officers the best kind of data possible, and that’s via (incidents having been reported and getting into the system).” And to continue to dissuade car prowlers, “don’t leave your valuables in your car.” (That was also underscored by this recent info sheet distributed via the precinct – we included it in our report on last week’s West Seattle Crime Prevention Council meeting.) SPD continues to work with its data via SeaStat, a citywide meeting every other week to review trends and stats – today’s the next one.
He also mentioned vacant properties, and the difficulty police have sometimes in finding the people who are responsible for them; when they do, they try to get a trespass agreement going so that police officially have confirmation that no one should be on the property, and have legal authority to find anyone they remove on those properties. He said that program’s been growing, particularly in recent months.
Overall, though, they keep arresting people – and they keep getting out. One suspect, he mentioned – not by name – has been arrested “seven or eight times” but has spent just a little time in jail, and then is allowed out while waiting for the case(s) to go through court. “And while (people like this) are out, they’re still capering.” So they are working with prosecutors to be sure repeat offenders “get credit for everything they’ve done” to maximize the potential penalties. “That helps our crime situation here in West Seattle.”
He mentioned again, as he had a week ago at the WSCPC, that prosecutors will be starting a new emphasis on car prowling. The issue of getting maximum penalties for repeat offenders is a focus all the way up to the top in the department, he added. And the team that’s going out after the highest-priority suspects “has made 10 arrests (recently),” he said.
He also repeated that they’re trying to get approval to put out names and faces of wanted suspects, as also mentioned a week ago. No estimate yet for how soon this could happen, but, “I really want to put the heat on these individuals. … Plastering their mugshots all over the place should help.”
A subsequent question from an attendee about someone getting out of jail/prison and returning home led to discussion of how to get informed. Police aren’t necessarily informed when people get out, or when they are wanted again. But the tool known as VINE, in short, came up (one place to access it is via any specific person’s listing on the King County Jail Register or the state Department of Corrections inmate lookup – you can register to get notifications when an inmate’s status changes).
Something else that came up: If something is happening now, call 911 – it does not have to be a “life and death matter,” as an attendee put it as her reason for trying the non-emergency line instead, just that it’s a suspected crime and it’s happening now. “I’m an advocate for calling 911 and getting an officer out there” if possible, said Capt. Davis. (The dispatcher can prioritize, if there are life-and-death calls taking precedence.) One attendee recommended that citizens, especially Block Watch members and leaders, go through the Community Police Academy.
Part of the mission of this meeting was for BW members to offer each other advice and support, and that also happened when one attendee mentioned part of an area that was badly lit, and pursuing a streetlight for it – “it happened!” she said.
“If you’re not getting satisfaction … there’s always a resource you can go to,” Capt. Davis noted. For example, he gets questions sometimes from Councilmember Lisa Herbold‘s office, when they in turn get questions from constituents. (Herbold had arrived at the meeting by then, mostly to observe.)
Another attendee asked whether the clearing of campers to the east of West Seattle was likely to increase the number – including RVs – seen in this area. She mentioned an increase in RVs on Trenton by Westwood Village. Capt. Davis said that Officer Todd Wiebke, the SW Precinct’s point person on the issue, was over there today working to get them to move along. If you see a crime/safety issue, Capt. Davis repeated, call police; he also mentioned SPD’s new 9-member “navigation team” working on such issues related to unsheltered people. Attendees mentioned concerns near parks – including in the Lincoln Park and Camp Long areas.
Someone wondered about fires in barrels along Spokane Street. “Do we call (911) about that?” she asked. “Yes.”
WSBWCN co-founder Deb Greer asked about procedures regarding immigration. No, SPD is not going to be part of ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement), said Capt. Davis. At that point, Herbold interjected that city law bars SPD and ICE from collaborating, dating back several chiefs: “The position is that … our city is more safe when immigrants feel more comfortable reporting being a witness of a crime or a victim of crime … if people can’t report that, it affects all of us.” Capt. Davis added that it’s been tough for police to dispel myths that have circulated among immigrant communities.
Can Seattle’s law be overridden by federal law? Greer asked Herbold. She noted that there are some agreements between communities and the feds; Seattle’s law prevents that, and couldn’t be disregarded without the council voting to change the law, Herbold said. “What the federal government can do to overcome the local laws is, I think, a bit of uncharted territory at this stage of the game … right now, if you look at the emergency order regarding sanctuary cities we are actually in compliance with it because it says that (the city is) reuired to cooperate with ICE in certain circumstances, and we wrote our law in 2002 specifically to be in compliance with that section of the code … regarding some narrow circumstances when SPD is legally required to cooperate, and typically it relates to felonies.”
Herbold at that point mentioned a case in which she made a connection between a constituent and police leadership after an incident in a local neighborhood led that constituent to visit her during her office hours last Friday afternoon in South Park.
A subsequent discussion focused on how Block Watch members, captains, and groups can connect with each other, aside from this group/meeting. “I would like to know who the other Block Watch captains are around me,” one attendee said. “That’s been a struggle for years and years,” noted Greer – the city won’t give out names, so BW captains have to “self-identify” to find a way to connect. She mentioned that WSBWCN has a Facebook group where BW members can voluntarily participate and connect. Herbold wondered if an online map, user-editable, might be one way for people to come forward if they want to identify themselves. Subsequent discussion involved how much information Block Watches would want to make public – showing whether a certain area had a Block Watch or not, and whether criminals might seek to exploit that if it were available.
As the meeting wrapped up, Herbold said she thought a community meeting to talk about community concerns and police strategies before summer season might be a good idea. She also reiterated that she welcomes invitations from groups, organizations, etc., to attend meetings/events and talk with them. (As we noted last night, she’ll be at the Westwood-Roxhill-Arbor Heights Community Council meeting next Tuesday, 6:15 pm at Southwest Library.)
The West Seattle Block Watch Captains Network meets fourth Tuesdays most months, 6:30 pm at the Southwest Precinct, 2300 SW Webster. Look for online updates on their website.