West Seattle Block Watch Captains Network gets a lesson in what to do to keep criminals away

Want to learn the basics of deterring criminals from targeting your residence or business? The slide deck embedded above (or in PDF here) shows the highlights from Southwest Crime Prevention Coordinator Jennifer Danner‘s presentation at last night’s West Seattle Block Watch Captains’ Network meeting.

As always, the meeting at the precinct was led by WSBWCN founders Karen Berge and Deborah Greer. Precinct commander Capt. Pierre Davis started with a briefing, saying property crime was front and center as always.

Addiction and homelessness are major factors, he said, as are repeat offenders who “many times don’t get the time in jail they should, and are right back out on the street.” But they’re going after them, “to set the tone and tenor” as summer approaches. Right now, they’re keeping close watch on “several different areas,” Capt. Davis said, including a continued focus on reducing theft at Westwood Village. He didn’t cite specific stats (you can track those here, neighborhood by neighborhood).

First question for him cited our recent report about a man arrested in Morgan Junction with stolen property … and quickly released by a judge, without bail even being set. “Is there anything we can do?”

Capt. Davis talked about a letter-writing campaign in one particular case that swayed a judge. But, as City Attorney’s Office precinct liaison Joe Everett observed, that’s the sentencing phase; when people make their first appearances after arrests, even before they’re charged, “it’s hard for the community to get information in front of a judge.” He said if fast action is needed on someone’s who’s just been arrested, he might be able to provide information. (joseph.everett@seattle.gov) “It IS tricky on a first appearance.”

Next question: A resident in the Fauntlee Hills area said the neighborhood experienced multiple crimes recently – car prowls, vandalism, more in two months than she’s seen in 10 years. She mentioned that three of the car prowls hadn’t even been reported – and Capt. Davis stressed the importance of reporting them so resources can be redeployed – though she said four others had been. Lt. Steve Strand said, “We are aware of (what’s going on in) that area.”

Third question: A man wondered about technological assistance such as bait cars or tracking devices. “We use technology all the time, and some of the newer cars are equipped with GPS,” Capt. Davis noted. He said prevention advice like not leaving items in cars is vital – criminals do return to the same areas time and time again, and share information such as where they were able to find items in cars. Davis said they use “heat maps” to look for patterns where they might then place perhaps a plainclothes/unmarked car, etc., to try to catch criminals in the act. Capt. Davis said police have tried putting out a car with visible items as bait – “and nobody touched it.”


Crime Prevention Coordinator Danner now has national certification in CPTED, after a strenuous course, and presented this briefing to WSBWCN for the first time (the group has had some CPTED demos in the past, including this one at a local home, captured on WSB video in 2011) – a sort of primer.

The four main elements of CPTED:
-Access control
-Natural surveillance
-Territorial reinforcement

First one means controlling access to a site, how people are guided through it. You can achieve this in ways such as visible and well-lit entrances, clearly defined entryways, clearly marking public pathways/walkways, and a wayfinding system – how someone gets around in a place.

Second one is defined as “the placement of physical features, activities, people in a way that maximizes visibility.” That means maximizing “eyes on the street,” which doesn’t necessarily mean “the street” itself, but also your yard, pathways around your building, etc. – and alley, too. The point of this, Danner said: “Individuals are less likely to commit a crime if they can be seen and identified.” Tall fences can get in the way of this kind of crime deterrence, she noted – hop the fence, and you’re out of sight.

Yet the right kind of fencing plays into the third element, which “refers to people’s sense of ownership,” showing that “somebody owns this space and somebody cares about this space.” Danner showed a street lined by a sidewalk and rowhouses, pointing to the different ways ownership of each space was delineated.

Last but not least, maintenance/landscaping: “Well-maintained spaces send the message that someone cares for the space.” Overgrowth, broken windows, broken lighting, all can send the wrong message. Lighting, she added, is a key component of effective CPTED.

This isn’t just a message for house residents – apartments, townhouses, rowhouses, condos, all types of buildings can benefit from CPTED principles/techniques.

By the way, she can set up a free consultation with you at your home/business – it’s part of her job: jennifer.danner@seattle.gov or 206-256-6820.

Asked where cameras fit in, Danner said they’re part of the technical component of surveillance. They’re more reactive than proactive. “If you do decide to put up cameras – doorbell, motion – I don’t want you to have a false sense that it’s going to prevent a crime from happening.” She does encourage all types of surveillance, including cameras just in case something happens, “but it’s something you need to decide for yourself.” Precinct liaison Everett noted that if you put up a camera you have to be aware of privacy laws and you also need to be aware of the law against recording audio without consent. Danner added, in response to a question about how much footage seems not to be very helpful in identifying people, check the lighting and clarity when purchasing and setting up a camera. She didn’t see much value in putting up signs saying “you’re on camera,” nor in putting up “fake cameras.”

Asked if any particular type of fence is “less climbable” – wood fences, especially if their support beams are on the inside rather than the outside.

She expressed hope that everyone would take just one thing from the presentation and make a change.

The West Seattle Block Watch Captains Network meets on fourth Tuesdays, 6:30 pm at the Southwest Precinct – watch the WSBWCN website for updates between meetings.

5 Replies to "West Seattle Block Watch Captains Network gets a lesson in what to do to keep criminals away"

  • BobN March 1, 2018 (4:47 am)

    I was at the meeting and this is a terrific, comprehensive report!  Thanks,  WSB.

  • West4Life March 1, 2018 (8:24 am)

    So where does actually enforcing property crimes fit into all of this? As in, prioritizing policing repeat criminals over parking tickets and seatbelt violations?

  • Gene March 1, 2018 (10:39 am)

    WEST4LIFE-What exactly does that mean- prioritizing “policing” repeat criminals?

    It sounds like you’re saying the police are spending more time giving parking tickets ( doesn’t parking enforcement do the the bulk of that- not sure) & tickets for seatbelt violations – than what- watching over repeat criminals- arresting people caught breaking & entering- it’s the word “policing”

    that’s confusing me. If you mean – not charging- realeasing on PR- no jail time- that’s  more on judges, KC prosecutors & City attorney . We vote for all the latter- so use your vote. 

    • WSB March 1, 2018 (11:01 am)

      Yes, parking enforcement does the bulk of that. As for traffic tickets, there’s a Traffic division – not based in WS, though they do make appearances over here (the motorcycle officers you see here and there, staked out at some problem spot). Any officer is of course empowered to enforce those laws too, and while listening to the scanner, we do hear patrol officers radioing in about traffic stops now and then (particularly at night), but more often they are quite busy on 911-generated calls, which include many crisis calls. But if you have specific questions, you should come to a meeting like this one or the West Seattle Crime Prevention Council – both happen monthly for most of the year, and they’re fairly casual. Besides the precinct commander and lieutenant that I mentioned, there were also a few others from SPD on hand to answer questions if needed at the start of the meeting, including a Community Police Team Officer and a bicycle-squad leader. – TR

  • FEDUPMANAGER March 6, 2018 (6:59 pm)

    From everyday experience at the apt. building I manage, bright lighting in ALL areas of the property, with motion sensors, does absolutely nothing to deter the homeless from using my parking lot for drug sales and usage, urinating and “other” personal habits on or near the cars, breaking into all the cars of every Resident that lives here, stealing anything not nailed down, including water from our spigots and electricity to charge their cell phones, and thinking that my parking lot is the neighborhood No Tell Motel (if you know what I mean), I also have cameras all over and they walk right in front of them and wave or smile and come on in and make themselves at home. All my shrubs are cut low and well maintained also.  They get pissed off when I make them leave. Like how dare I tell them where they can and cannot go. So excuse me for the sarcasim,  but I am so diligent about all that SHOULD be done to lessen the criminal impact and the results are I get screamed at, cussed at, called every name in the book and have been threatened with bodily harm and destruction to my vehicle, only to find the same people doing the same crap the very next day. So if I missed something please let me know, otherwise what the SPD is saying falls on my now deaf ears.   

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