By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
With the scheduled guest out sick, this month’s West Seattle Crime Prevention Council meeting was all about questions and concerns brought by those in attendance – from tagging to harassment to park problems.
First, the regular update from Southwest Precinct commander Capt. Pierre Davis, who as usual lauded community members for “seeing something and saying something.” Property crime remains West Seattle’s biggest problem – “always has been” – right now, all categories are spiking, and he says police suspect that’s because some “prolific offenders” are out of jail again. He vowed “to get back out there and … round them all up,” noting that police circulate weekly, sometimes daily bulletins about particular suspects, “especially if they have warrants.” If they suspect they know where specific offenders are re-offending, they “saturate the area.”
Sometimes they can get “more time for these individuals” if they can be linked to multiple crimes. “That can be the difference between having a safe and sane six or seven months and a chaotic six or seve months.” He said he knows car prowls for example “are a pain in the butt” and once they get people arrested, they see what they can do to get them kept in custody. He mentions the value of letters from individuals about defendants facing sentencing, saying those letters can be “hell on wheels,” impressing judges.
Then he opened the floor to questions.
One woman described problems in South Delridge – “how can we work … to clean up that area a little bit?” She mentioned lots of graffiti and thinking that cleaning it up would help. For starters, Capt. Davis asked, what about reporting via the Find It Fix It app? That hasn’t worked for graffiti, she said. Capt. Davis said the Community Police Team can work with property owners. Operations Lt. Ron Smith said that if it’s on city property, Find It Fix It can help. Another resident who said he’d lived in the area for more than 30 years agreed that it’s a trouble spot. Vacant problem houses were mentioned; Capt. Davis talked about a property owner who wasn’t dealing truthfully with the police. Precinct liaison Joe Everett said the city has vacant-property investigators who are being “aggressive” right now with that type of trouble.
The South Delridge resident countered that she and neighbors have been doing “everything” mentioned, and then some, but part of the challenge is dealing with city agencies, “and we are calling constantly” to report problems, so she thinks “we need to work a little harder.” Capt. Davis said there are some places where SPD’s accountabilities and capabilities “stop and start,” and they are frustrated too, but can’t make “empty promises” … “even through frustration, the process works, but it’s very very slow.” So, a man asked, when you get lots of calls, do you step up your presence, or … ? Depends on the situation, the precinct commander replied.
Next person with a question: What are police doing to support orders of protection and harassment against people?
She said that a neighbor against whom she has an order is now building a fence in her back yard, saying he has an easement. She wants to know why police aren’t doing anything about it. Capt. Davis said they are very familiar with the issue and have spoken to the neighbor but “there’s a fine line” – and the fact that the neighbor has claimed an easement has complicated matters. Precinct liaison Everett said that the city expects to be filing charges soon. But she is worried that won’t happen in time to stop the fence from being built “in the middle of my yard.” Everett expressed sympathy and said there are two separate issues – “violations of the anti-harassment order will be taken seriously” but the fence and easement are a civil case, and if one is filed, generally a judge will order that everybody just stop what they’re doing. He said violations of anti-harassment orders will be taken seriously, he said. The resident took issue with that. “You guys need an injunction and I hope you can get one as soon as possible,” said Everett, inviting the woman to step out and talk with him. After they left the room, Lt. Smith said they had had Community Police Team officers working on this too.
Next community member with a concern: A woman says she walks in Walt Hundley Playfield park in High Point and has found men going in the women’s bathroom to smoke marijuana. “Should I be calling?” Lt. Smith said, “You just did” and promised they’d check it out, while he also cautioned that marijuana enforcement is “lowest priority” for the city (as it has been for years), and also noted that staffing can be a challenge. But he also thanked the woman for bringing it up, because this issue hadn’t surfaced to the precinct – and that’s why they appreciate people coming to meetings like this and bringing up community concerns.
The issue of what happens when you call 911 then came up. Dispatchers have a set of questions they need to ask, Lt. Smith noted. And he also said that there’s been some trouble lately about where your 911 call goes if you are calling from a cell phone or internet phone – the calltakers might have to ask you more clarifying questions. (An attendee from Gatewood suggested adding information to Smart 911. But he said it didn’t kick in one time he called – because his call was routed to Bainbridge Island. A discussion of how that happened ensued.)
Next, a neighbor of Hamilton Viewpoint Park in North Admiral said she’s called 911 a lot and things have gotten better – though there’s still trouble, like someone who “parked on the grass” the other night. Lt. Smith said they’ll send a Community Police Team officer to check out the viewpoint and ensure that it has physical barriers.
Next person with a concern, a Westcrest Park-area resident: He said he came back home after several days away to discover his garage had been broken into and some tools taken. His tools turned up on OfferUp and he said he called police and tried to get them interested, but nothing happened. So what should he do? Lt. Smith recounted past incidents in which officers can help with that if the Anti-Crime Team is available – “we’ve done it before … we’ve even talked them into coming to the precinct and selling right in the lot.” Capt. Davis said, but don’t do it yourself – give us enough information to set up a sting. “Call the Southwest Precinct, ask for an ACT Team supervisor, or ask for a sergeant or lieutenant on duty.”
After him, a man living closer to Roxhill Park said there seems to have been an increase in forced-entry burglaries. Capt. Davis said SPD and KCSO share information and “they’re lit up over there” (across the border) but don’t have the resources to deal with it.
What are thieves/burglars’ biggest targets right now? Tools and other items that can be sold, Lt. Smith said.
And for the crime concerns about some people living in unauthorized encampments, Capt. Davis said they continue working on it but “there are a lot of rules involved”; they have to get the Navigation Team involved; there has to be someplace to send people to,
WSCPC president Richard Miller asked about surveillance video in businesses, having learned recently that while sometimes it turns up on TV, if someone has an incident happen inside a business, and asks for it to be provided, there is no requirement for it to be turned over. Miller also asked about Westwood Village; Capt. Davis said a second round of emphasis patrols is set to happen this spring. Lt. Smith noted that when they were doing emphasis patrols, there was a halo effect reducing crime in the surrounding area.
The West Seattle Crime Prevention Council meets third Tuesdays most months, 7 pm at the Southwest Precinct (2300 SW Webster).