West Seattle, Washington
— West Seattle Blog (@westseattleblog) July 25, 2017
10:44 AM: If you’re anywhere near Alki and noticing the Guardian One helicopter over a Seattle Fire fireboat – it’s not a rescue, it’s a drill. This is part of a demonstration SFD has been putting on for us and the citywide media this past half-hour, showcasing the new SFD “rescue swimmer” program. Lots of photos, video, and info to come!
11:24 AM: The demonstration is over and we’re back at headquarters. SFD explains that this new program is meant to bridge the gap between a regular response and deployment of the Dive Team (which is based in SODO), but is not replacing any existing components or units – this is an addition, as explained by SFD Deputy Chief Ron Mondragon:
SFD says 38 firefighters are now trained as “rescue swimmers,” and the department’s goal is to have at least nine on duty in each 24-hour period, stationed around the city – not just deployed via certain stations. They’ve been in training, including with the help of partners such as West Pierce Fire and Rescue (south of Tacoma), and officially launched these new duties as of last Wednesday. Whenever there’s a water-rescue response, dispatchers will ensure that two rescue swimmers are part of the response. They can deploy from almost anywhere/anything – boats, beaches, piers, rocky shorelines, etc.
Their gear, which also was explained at the demonstration, includes a yellow “marker buoy” they can deploy to help divers that follow them into the water, if applicable.
This is a pilot program, SFD says, that will be evaluated after a year.
Meantime, besides emergencies, their planned upcoming assignments include Seafair weekend on Lake Washington, when four teams of two swimmers will be on duty.
For everyone wondering about this (we’ve just answered several inquiries): We just got confirmation from the King County Sheriff’s Office that the helicopter some are seeing/hearing is Guardian 2 (a military-surplus UH-1 Huey), going back and forth to Vashon because of an all-day SWAT-team-training exercise on the island.
4:59 PM: Just TV flying over the ferry dock, doing holiday-getaway traffic reports. 90-minute wait at Fauntleroy per Washington State Ferries.
6:03 PM: Finally got a chance to check out the ferry lineup. Not bad at all right now – ends south of the main Lincoln Park parking lot.
6:14 PM: Thanks for the tips. Guardian One has been in the Westcrest Park area for a bit, but we don’t yet know what the search is for. Will update if/when we find out.
6:33 PM: Guardian One says via Twitter that they are helping police look for a missing child, described as wearing orange shorts, missing near 4th and Cambridge.
7:16 PM: SPD has yet to say anything about the search but someone just texted us to say it was her neighbor’s child and that he has been located.
2:15 PM: If you saw the big Seattle Police response in Sunrise Heights/Westwood – with a brief appearance by the Guardian One helicopter – here’s what we’ve found out: Someone saw a package theft in progress, called 911, and gave police a description of the alleged thieves’ vehicle. Police arrived, spotted the car, stopped it in an alley east of 35th and Thistle, and took two people into custody. (Thanks to @MetPatrick22 for the tweet about the search, which was first we’d heard of this.)
2:30 PM: Since this happened such a short time ago, SPD media relations doesn’t have details yet, but they were able to tell us that the original theft report was near 35th/Trenton, not too far from the arrest scene.
The King County Council has finalized its budget. Back in September, we mentioned two items in County Executive Dow Constantine‘s original proposal, so here’s an update on how those fared:
The first was a plan to cut the KC Sheriff’s Office Air Support Unit, which would have meant no more helicopter availability for Seattle Police as well as other agencies assisted by the KCSO helicopters. The final budget did NOT include that cut, so the helicopter will stay in service.
Second, the proposal to provide “stable funding” for the King County Water Taxi (West Seattle to downtown and Vashon Island to downtown) stayed in the budget, according to a statement from King County Council chair Joe McDermott, who represents the areas served by the Water Taxi. As we reported in September, the funding will come from a levy that is already in place, originally intended for the Water Taxi, then shifted to buses, now shifted back.
4:23 PM: Thanks for the tips about Guardian One over White Center/Highland Park. According to the King County Sheriff’s Office, they were looking for someone in connection with an armed robbery at a business in the 9800 block of
15th 16th SW in WC.
4:29 PM: The helicopter has since headed south; KCSO’s Sgt. Cindi West says it was heading next to a stolen-car-possibly-found call in Burien.
9:02 PM: Covering the North Highline Unincorporated Area Council meeting for our partner site White Center Now, we’ve just heard more information from KCSO’s White Center storefront deputy Bill Kennamer. He says “four dudes with four guns” held up Lawless Clothing in downtown White Center, but the business does not want to press charges and will not give investigators access to what its cameras captured.
By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
So far we’ve found two big items of interest in King County Executive Dow Constantine‘s two-year budget proposal, made public this morning.
*The King County Water Taxi, serving West Seattle and Vashon, would have a “stable source” of funding – 1.25 cents per $1,000 valuation. The levy was reduced in 2009 and “reserves” have been used since then, but, says the budget book, “those reserves are now exhausted.”
*The King County Air Support Unit, including this area’s only law-enforcement helicopter Guardian One, will be shut down by 2018 unless, Constantine says, there’s tax reform. In 2017 it would be limited to search-and-rescue operations in King County; in 2018, it would be shut down entirely.
First, the Water Taxi toplines, from the 753-page full budget document:
*The county currently has been taxing for the passenger-ferry service at a third of a cent per $1,000 of assessed property valuation. That funding has been supplemented by reserves that the budget says have run out. Constantine proposes increasing the tax rate to 1.25 cents per $1,000 starting next year because the service is “no longer able to draw on reserves to stay afloat.” (Math = $2/year now if your property is assessed at $600,000; just under $8/year with the increase.) Without that increase, next year wouldrun $3 million short. The gap already has been narrowed, the budget book points out, by “efficiencies” enabling the new boats to be operated with a crew of 3 rather than 4.
(added 6:53 pm) King County DOT spokesperson Jeff Switzer sent this clarification:
Taxes won’t be going up as a result of this budget.
The collected property tax amount will stay the same, meaning the county will reduce the property tax collected for Metro by just over $9 million, and the property tax collected for Water Taxi (Marine) will be increased by just over $9 million. No net dollar increase in property tax collections for marine/transit.
The budget calls for another fare increase in 2018, 50 cents for adults, to continue its every-two-year increases.
And one more major Water Taxi note – while there’s no money for it in this two-year budget, there is a line item to “plan, design, and construct a new West Seattle (Water Taxi) terminal during the 2019-2010 budget cycle,” noting that Seacrest has always been meant as just a “temporary” terminal.
*Next, the helicopter elimination, which is just one of several major public-safety cuts in the county executive’s budget, explained in the news release about the budget, with a call for “local tax reform”:
… King County’s General Fund primarily supports criminal justice and other functions required by the state. About 59 percent of net General Fund revenues come from property taxes. The balance is comprised of sales tax and other sources.
In 2007, legislators reinstated Tim Eyman’s I-747, which had been tossed out by the state Supreme Court. The law arbitrarily limited revenue growth in most property taxes to 1 percent annually. The value of new construction is added to the tax base, which amounts to about 0.5 percent to 2.0 percent depending on the economy.
Because property tax is limited below the rate of population growth and inflation, the General Fund is chronically stressed. Last year, about 37,000 people moved to King County, adding to the demands for transit, behavioral and mental health programs, public safety, and other services.
Over the last few months, Executive Constantine worked with the Office of Performance, Strategy, and Budget, county departments, and elected officials to balance the $1.6 billion General Fund budget. Through a mix of revenue changes, efficiencies, and spending reductions, Executive Constantine resolved a $22.4 million shortfall.
Program cuts and service reductions in this budget include:
*Reductions in the Prosecuting Attorney’s Office.
*Closing the work release facility and electronic home detention programs by Jan. 1, 2018.
*Eliminating inmate booking at the Maleng Regional Justice Center in Kent as of Jan. 1, 2018.
*Eliminating the King County Sheriff’s Office air support and marine units by Jan. 1, 2018.
“We will do everything we can to mitigate the impact of these cuts, but let there be no mistake — unless the Legislature fixes the problem, these reductions will only get worse over time,” said Executive Constantine. “And local governments across the state face the identical situation.”
While Guardian One is operated by King County, it is the only helicopter available for regional law-enforcement agencies including Seattle Police.
We’re still reading the county budget and will report on anything else of direct local interest. It now will go through a review-and-comment process in the weeks ahead – find the details here. Our area’s County Councilmember is Joe McDermott, so if you have something to say about these issues or others in the budget, you can e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
2:02 PM: Thanks for the tips. We’re hearing Guardian One too. The helicopter showed up concurrent with a report of a possible burglary near Fauntleroy Park – we’re checking to find out more.
2:09 PM: Police are in the 4000 block of SW Barton, for what we still believe, so far, is a possible burglary investigation. That abuts the Fauntleroy Park greenbelt, on which they are focusing as well.
2:24 PM: Police are now searching the house that was the subject of the burglary report – our photographer reports that the residents came home and let them in. Fauntleroy has had an uptick in burglaries recently, as mentioned in our coverage of the Fauntleroy Community Association meeting this past Tuesday; we reported on a break-in near Lincoln Park just yesterday.
2:35 PM: No word of an arrest yet. But a sighting that *might* (or might not) have been related – someone who told us about hearing the burglary alarm said they saw several people jump into a “black Acura” near Fauntleroy Church – we know police have that tip as well, as it’s been mentioned over the air.
2:37 PM: Our photographer is back with this image of police when they were outside the house with guns drawn about 20 minutes ago, before determining whether anyone was still inside:
If you were seeing/hearing the helicopter hovering in the Arbor Heights/Fauntleroy vicinity – no, nothing going on, just TV checking on the ferry traffic as the holiday weekend gets under way. Most recent report from Washington State Ferries was that Fauntleroy had a one-hour wait, not unusual for a summer Friday. You can see the “live” cameras at and near the terminal by going here.
1:57 PM: Sorry it took a while to find out why the helicopter was over Morgan Junction, but Guardian One itself just solved the mystery, tweeting – after leaving the area – that it was helping SPD with a car-prowl suspect who has since been “detained in Lincoln Park.” We’re now seeing police along Fauntleroy toward the park’s north end and hope to ask them for a little more information. (P.S. Thanks for all the texts and calls.)
2:10 PM: Just talked with police by the park. They tell us it was reported as a car prowl in the 7000 block of California SW and they tracked the suspect to the park. (Our photo was taken as they placed him in a police vehicle.) Guardian One wasn’t called out specifically for this – but happened to be in the area and asked if they’d like some help. Police are still looking for possible car-prowl loot the alleged prowler might have ditched in the area.
Just in from Seattle Fire via Twitter: Training in the next hour or so at the Joint Training Facility will involve a Washington National Guard Blackhawk helicopter working with SFD. So if you see one in the area – that’s what it’s about. (The JTF is in southeastern West Seattle, 9401 Myers Way S.)
This one, we haven’t solved yet. Lots of texts – a few with photos, including the one above – wondering about this: A low-flying helicopter was off Alki for a while this evening, near a yacht at one point, near an Argosy Cruises boat at another point. Neither the boat nor the helicopter showed on trackers, so we haven’t figured out yet who/what/why – from some past stories, looked to us like a possible photo shoot. Any info, we’d love to hear it, in comments or via e-mail – email@example.com – thanks!
2:56 PM: Police are checking out a report of an “agitated” man near Delridge and Barton, carrying something that looks like a pole or a machete, and since the Guardian One helicopter wasn’t far away, its crew volunteered to come take a look too. This might not turn out to be much of anything but since the helicopter will immediately attract a lot of attention, we’re mentioning it and will be monitoring.
3:00 PM: Police are reported to have made contact with the man.
3:07 PM: Our ground crew verified police were talking with that man (photo above), though we don’t know what the item he was reportedly carrying turned out to be. Meantime, the helicopter has since moved a short distance to check out the 9000 block of 17th SW, where police tell us there was a report of a possible prowler in back yards.
Thanks for the e-mails and texts about this – in case you were checking here, just wanted to let you know that we’re covering the search via White Center Now.
3:22 PM: The Guardian One law-enforcement helicopter has been over Alki/West Admiral while police have been responding on the ground to what sounds to have started as a suspected package theft – they had been tracking possible suspects along SW Lander. Now Seattle Fire is responding to a possibly related medical call at 56th/Lander. We’re still gathering information as we send a crew that way. More to come.
3:47 PM: Our crew has arrived and here’s what they have been told by police: No crime committed, after all. The people who were reported as suspected package thieves were carrying a package of firewood. The person who was hurt was the person who reported them, who slipped and fell and hit his head. Guardian One just happened to be up and around and that’s how they got involved, police said.
(WSB photo from November 2015, helicopters at Terminal 5 during drill)
Imagine a 9.0 earthquake so devastating that it impacts the entire Northwest Region. That is the basis for the Cascadia Rising earthquake exercise being held this week in multiple states. When a disaster of this magnitude strikes, a regional air response is necessary to face the challenges of saving lives over a large geographical area.
The Northwest Regional Aviation team will come together at the Port of Seattle Terminal 5 for a daylong series of helicopter drills that will utilize lifesaving skills necessary to meet the challenges of a regional disaster. In coordination with the Washington State Department of Emergency Management, a unified response with aviation resources from 10 different city, county and state jurisdictions including 6 aircraft will demonstrate the technical aspects of search and rescue, moving resources and transporting injured patients.
Observe landing and take-off procedures as multiple helicopters hoist and transport equipment and personnel in and out of the heliport base at Terminal 5. The community is invited to watch the helicopter rescue activities from the view platform located at Jack Block Park.
Agencies participating in the training:
Bainbridge Island Fire Department
King County Sheriff’s Office
Port of Seattle
Seattle Fire Department
Seattle Police Department
Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office
Tacoma Fire Department
Washington National Guard
The drill is scheduled to start around 10 am and continue until about 2, according to SFD’s media advisory.
Just found out tonight that Terminal 5 will host yet another drill with helicopters on Saturday – this time, as part of the Cascadia Rising megaquake drill that’s been happening at a variety of locations around the region. Susan Stoltzfus with the Port of Seattle told us about it at tonight’s T-5 Draft Environmental Impact Report public hearing (report to come). She says multiple agencies are participating with simulations including a collapsed building, and it’s scheduled between 10 am and 3 pm. If you’re interested in taking a look, she says you’ll be able to view it from the Jack Block Park overlook. In the meantime, if you notice the helicopters and/or other unusual activity at T-5 on Saturday, don’t fret, it’s only a drill.
P.S. As we’ve already reported, a much-more low-key – but no less vital – drill will be happening in High Point, and your direct participation is welcome – here’s where, when, and how.
4:48 PM: That big drill we mentioned yesterday, with air and sea action off West Seattle, is ramping up right now. If you missed the advance alert, it would look pretty alarming, given that the intent is “to test and solidify the capabilities of the Regional Maritime Tactical Action Group in response to an active shooter or hostage type event aboard a vessel in the Puget Sound”:
The King County Sheriff’s Office Special Operations Section invited media to go out on the Water Taxi vessel Sally Fox to observe and photograph, and co-publisher Patrick Sand is there for WSB.
5:28 PM: KCSO just tweeted this video of officers boarding the boat via helicopter:
If the ferry line is too long this Memorial Day weekend, try getting on this way pic.twitter.com/1PmfR5iqVM
— KingcosoPIO (@kingcosoPIO) May 26, 2016
Our photo is a different view from below, while that was in the works:
11 PM: The drill was expected to go at least until now, and MarineTraffic.com shows the Sally Fox is still out there. David Hutchinson shares an afternoon view from Jack Block Park:
That’s where media crews went after the briefing at T-5 that started the observation period. T-5 was headquarters for the helicopters, both KCSO’s Guardian One, the same helicopter that shows up to help Seattle Police with searches sometimes:
And a U.S. Customs and Border Protection helicopter:
That agency had a boat, too:
See more photos after the jump:
(WSB photo from November 2015, helicopters at Terminal 5 during drill)
If you see unusual helicopter and vessel activity off northeast West Seattle, and further into the bay, tomorrow afternoon/evening (Wednesday, May 25th) – it’s likely to be related to a drill. Here’s the King County Sheriff’s Office announcement:
The King County Sheriff’s Office Special Operations Section is hosting a multi-agency training drill Wednesday afternoon in Puget Sound between Harbor Island and Discovery Park. Drill participants will include the Seattle Police Department, Washington State Patrol, U.S. Coast Guard, F.B.I., U.S. Customs and Border Protections and King County Medic One.
This drill will test and solidify the capabilities of the Regional Maritime Tactical Action Group in response to an active shooter or hostage type event aboard a vessel in the Puget Sound. As the only agency in the Puget Sound with both air and water assets capable of delivering law enforcement to an underway ferry, cruise ship or pleasure craft, this training is critical for the King County Sheriffs Office to be prepared to protect our citizens.
Numerous law enforcement boats will be involved in the exercise, along with a King County Water Taxi boat. The main landing zone for the King County Sheriff’s helicopter will be Terminal 5. During the exercise there will be NO public access to the pier.
Terminal 5 itself isn’t a public-access area anyway so we’re checking to see if neighboring Jack Block Park will be affected.
8:21 PM: Thanks for the tips. Guardian 1 is helping look for several people reported to be in Schmitz Park. We do not know why yet but will be there momentarily to look for officers to ask on the ground.
8:27 PM: We just arrived at Admiral Way park entrance; 3 SPD cars here. Looking for officers to get info.
8:34 PM: A park visitor reported seeing someone with a gun. But the person who called 911 was gone and didn’t give a description. No gunfire, no victim(s). The ground and air search turned up nothing, so it’s over now.
Three notes in West Seattle Crime Watch as we move into Saturday evening:
WHAT GUARDIAN ONE WAS DOING OVER SOUTH DELRIDGE: Thanks for the tips. The Guardian One helicopter has just left South Delridge airspace after helping with an auto-theft case. No other details yet – we had to track down an SPD officer on the ground just to find out that much, since we weren’t hearing anything on the scanner but people kept texting about the helicopter overhead. (Thanks! 206-293-6302 any time.) If we find out anything additional, we’ll update.
OVERNIGHT CAR PROWLS: One reader report today, from Sarah:
Just a quick report that both of our cars were rifled through last night sometime between 10 pm and 6:00 am. The cars were both in our driveway on SW Winthrop St [map]. Nothing of value was taken but a bag with gym clothes was returned to us from Seattle Police this morning.
NEXT WEST SEATTLE CRIME PREVENTION COUNCIL MEETING: WSCPC president Richard Miller sent word today of the spotlight topic for Tuesday night’s meeting (7 pm, Southwest Precinct, Delridge/Webster): “Parking enforcement issues: People will be able to get answers about and make comments or complaints about parking-related issues.” And as always, police from the precinct will be there to talk about crime trends and listen to neighborhood concerns.
6:02 AM: Thanks for the tips about a helicopter over The Admiral District about half an hour ago. It was *not* a police search, but just a media helicopter checking out a traffic situation. We’ve talked to officers at the scene of a crash that happened just before 5 am on southbound California just south of Admiral and is now being cleared – an SUV crashed into the back of a semitruck. Police say one person was taken to the hospital but their injuries were not life-threatening.
6:37 AM: Photo substituted for our original cameraphone photo above, and second one added above this line as semi was towed.
12:10 PM: The truck driver’s wife messaged us to say that while her husband, who was in the trailer when the SUV hit it, wasn’t hurt, police told them the driver fled and the injured person was one of multiple passengers. We’ll try to find out from police if the driver was ever found.