West Seattle Blog... » West Seattle Crime Prevention Council http://westseattleblog.com West Seattle news, 24/7 Wed, 25 Nov 2015 20:40:10 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.4.2 @ West Seattle Crime Prevention Council: Metro safety; SPD crime trends http://westseattleblog.com/2015/11/west-seattle-crime-prevention-council-metro-safety-spd-crime-trends/ http://westseattleblog.com/2015/11/west-seattle-crime-prevention-council-metro-safety-spd-crime-trends/#comments Fri, 20 Nov 2015 02:42:29 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/?p=329501 By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

The GameStop robbery was happening just as this month’s West Seattle Crime Prevention Council meeting was wrapping up. So keep in mind that Southwest Precinct commander Capt. Pierre Davis was speaking about trends before that – almost presciently. His briefing preceded the night’s guest speaker, Metro’s chief of Transit Police.

LOCAL CRIME TRENDS: Busy month since last meeting. Headline – the arrest of a suspect in the serial arsons, which were Topic 1 at the previous WSCPC meeting. Robberies are up – “the individuals are like zombies, they activate themselves and they’re committing everything under the sun, car prowls, robberies …” In particular, he mentioned, car prowls are up “and I know (West Seattleites) are sick of it.” He reiterated the top advice – don’t leave ANYTHING in your vehicle. Nothing at all. “I just can’t stress enough – take (your stuff) with you.” Every time something is found inside a car, that encourages thieves to come back. Alki, High Point, North Admiral, and Pigeon Point are the hottest spots for car prowls right now: “The numbers right now aren’t horrific, but they’re horrific enough that people are being affected.” Parks get hit hard, too.

The briefing segued quickly into attendee Q/A: First one was a question about the neighborhood crime stats on the SPD website, wondering why they all use different scales, meaning that if you compare areas, one might look worse than it really is. Capt. Davis said they’re aware of that and hoping to find a way to work with it.

Next Q brought up the West Seattle Crime Watch saga of someone who put their stuff in the trunk and was prowled while shopping at Westwood Target. Capt. Davis acknowledged that some car prowlers do just break in on spec, basically. “It is really, really tough right now and about all we can do is something like an operation we did earlier this year – we identified more than 100 individuals that we deal with over and over again, and arrested a lot of the individuals who are prolific in this area. When we (did that) we saw every category of crime drop. .. But as soon as they get out of jail, we see that activity spike up again.” Now, he said, they’re working with prosecutors and judges to try to urge them to keep the criminals behind bars – and for longer. “That’s what we’re after right now – sometimes it takes time, but it’s well worth it.”

Asked about car thefts, he talked about use of the license-plate reader to detect dropped-off stolen cars.

Two people who identified themselves as first-time WSCPC meeting-goers said that they had just moved to West Seattle a few weeks ago and were trying to figure out how to stay safe and wondered if there was any reason that repeat offenders’ mugshots weren’t made available.

Officers have “a spreadsheet,” Capt. Davis said. But they can’t just go public and say “we’re looking for these (people) because they’ve done it before.” He spoke about low-key community networking. And he said they’ll have an emphasis patrol for the holiday season with bicycle patrol, foot beats, and officers in cars, “especially in Westwood Village, where we find a lot of concerns are.” (And indeed, as we mentioned, it was barely an hour later that the Game Stop store was held up.)

From the King County Sheriff’s Office, King County Metro Transit Police Chief Dave Jutilla was the special guest – with him, senior transit planner Dale Cummings. They talked about some of the area trouble spots – saying they’d improved safety at northbound 15th SW @ Roxbury – they met at the bus stop with an officer, with facilities crews that do cleaning and pressure washing, that they talked with a Walgreens manager who has a “bad CPTED [Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design] problem” – drug dealers used an alcove at the store to relieve themselves, then the bus stop. Walgreens agreed to pressure-wash the alcove more often and to look at the lights on their building; Metro took the end walls off the bus stop – “people doing things they don’t want you to see are (therefore) less likely to stay in the area.” New storefront deputy Bill Kennamer, then with the transit police, did an emphasis patrol, too. This ws about 8 months ago, he said, and loitering was greatly reduced, drug dealers moved elsewhere, sanitation issues improved

They also worked at the Delridge/Barton bus stop as a result of a public meeting, he noted, and met on site with SDOT’s Urban forestry as well as SPD. He said now it’s open enough that neighbors can see from across the street.

Regarding what bus drivers are empowered to do, Chief Jutilla mentioned they have several ways to call for emergency help. If it’s not an emergency, they can write up a report at the end of their shift.

Back to shelters with trouble – eastbound Roxbury at 26th drew a request recently, Cummings said, so Transit Police worked to discourage loiterers. Then they removed the bench, which led to a lot of complaints that there was no place for seniors to sit. But if you have a bus stop full of people drinking, he said, it sort of defeats the purpose of having a shelter. And he mentioned the layover project on the south side of Barton at 29th, which was the subject of a walking tour almost two years ago. “We’ve since put together a lighting project proposal that was prioritized for funding and it should be built this coming year.” (As reported here recently, that’s a delay from the original plan.)

Also, Westwood at northbound 26th/Barton, after complaints about darkness so they added solar lighting.

Got a concern/complaint? 206-553-3000 is the Metro customer service line, said Chief Jutilla (who ran the 911 center before moving to transit, he said).

What’s the process for getting a shelter removed? The Metro team was told about the stop at Delridge and Brandon, where activity is happening near a preschool, including open drug dealing, on the southbound side. They were also asked about trash cans that keep disappearing; the maintenance group is the one that decides between 10-gallon or 35-gallon cans, they explain, but if it disappears, please report it. Some places the trash can will be removed for a long period of time if it gets a lot of home trash or construction trash, Cummings said.

SPD and the Transit Police share jurisdiction for bus stops, by the way.

Someone brought up a westbound bus stop at California/Admiral where “there’s always passed-out guys” so the kids that use the bus stop are always standing outside it.

After Cummings left for another commitment, Jutilla gave some context about his system and the county, and how the Metro Transit Police provide policing services for Metro buses and the Sound Transit buses that Metro runs – more than 1,400 individual buses in the fleet. The system includes the country’s largest vanpool system too. 400,000 people got on a Metro bus today, he said. 120 million annually. 9th biggest bus system in the country. 8,000 bus stops around the county.

2003 was when the County Council decided to go from an off-duty police model to fullfledged police for transit system. Besides leadership, he said, they have 39 uniformed patrol people, and the force includes the bicycle team “The Bees” (Bicycle Emphasis Enforcement Squad), the detective team … this is where he mentioned an E Line (not in West Seattle) problem involving a flasher, so they planned to use video and distribute bulletins to track him down. There’s even a “federally funded small anti-terrorism team,” he said, plus a springer-spaniel bomb dog that “looks for one of 19,000 smells.” He said the transit force was up to 68 people in 2008 – before the recession. They hope to recover those positions someday, since ridership keeps rising – they’re expecting this year’s ridership to total 124 million.

Their priorities include sexual misconduct crimes, crimes against persons, property crimes (like phone thefts), misdemeanor quality of life issues, and fare evasion. Fewer than half the buses – 600 – have camera systems. He asked those in attendance to guess the number one problem operators write reports about. Answer … people who fall asleep on the bus, followed by problems including verbal hassles, fare evasion, reckless behavior passenger-related harassment. Deputies write up to 200 tickets a month. They also can order someone to be suspended off the bus system for as little as 14 days and up to 1 year if they commit a crime against a person.

But he insisted the crime/problem rates were low – “.10 in a million bus boardings that something bad will happen, about 23 disturbances per million boardings.” Driving a bus is a tough problem – drivers find themselves being “peacekeepers,” but they tell them not to put themselves in harm’s way, and he said they haven’t had a “serious operator assault” since two summers ago. They’ve reduced the rate of assaults on drivers by half.

The West Seattle Crime Prevention Council meets third Tuesdays, 7 pm, at the Southwest Precinct. Its website has no admin right now so watch for meeting announcements here.

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New information in West Seattle arson investigation, and more, @ WS Crime Prevention Council http://westseattleblog.com/2015/10/new-information-in-west-seattle-arson-investigation-and-more-ws-crime-prevention-council/ http://westseattleblog.com/2015/10/new-information-in-west-seattle-arson-investigation-and-more-ws-crime-prevention-council/#comments Wed, 21 Oct 2015 05:41:28 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/?p=326629 By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

No arrests yet in the West Seattle arsons.

But new information did emerge at tonight’s West Seattle Crime Prevention Council meeting.

Southwest Precinct commander Capt. Pierre Davis said that in addition to the two major early-morning arsons Sunday and Monday – the two cars in Sylvan Ridge and the High Point office building – investigators are also looking at three earlier small fires.

Those date back to a trash can fire outside a vacant house on 34th near Morgan (photo above) on October 12th (but the list they’re focusing on does NOT include the “campfire” outside the former Red Star Pizza).

He also said that SPD and other agencies – including ATF investigators – are devoting a major amount of resources to solving this. And he distributed the arson alert that we published here last night after residents reported getting it via door-to-door visits from firefighters.

Aside from the high-profile arson investigation, the major crime categories “have taken a slight dip” lately, he added, particularly robberies, which he noted have dropped almost to zero since the arrest of “an individual who got picked up in one of our other precincts.” And he mentioned again that the precinct has a watch list of more than 80 repeat offenders, about 20 of whom have been arrested. Working with the Prosecuting Attorney’s Office to be sure they stay in jail once arrested, though, is a challenge, he acknowledged.

The one specific category for which he offered numbers, burglary, is at 387 year-to-date, compared to 418 in the same period last year.

And then – seguing into “neighborhood concerns” – came the case of one specific burglary attempt that had happened just hours before.

Admiral Neighborhood Association president and Southwest District Council co-chair David Whiting. He said he had “interrupted a burglary in progress just about three hours ago,” and was troubled that officers were taken off the investigation before they found the burglar, for whom he had a practically face-to-face description. He said it was disappointing that there weren’t enough officers to keep looking for the burglar. This was right about the same time as the crisis call in Arbor Heights, which Capt. Davis – who was among the sizable contingent at that scene – described as a “potential matter of said was a potential matter of life or death.” He tried to explain that assignments have to be prioritized, but he also insisted that it would not be standard operating procedure to just entirely abandon a call like a just-occurred burglary unless something huge happened, so in this case, he felt the officers had to have been at a point where they felt they couldn’t do much more anyway. “We won’t leave you in the lurch.”

Also at the meeting, special guests requested by president Richard Miller and confirmed at the last minute, a crew from Seattle Fire Station 11 in Highland Park, in honor of Fire Prevention Month. SFD Lt. Jore Lund led a casual conversation which started with a discussion of fire extinguishers and how to translate their ratings – for example, B class is for flammable liquid; a common type of extinguisher is 2A-10BC, which is meant to be able to take care of 10 square feet of burning area – “there’s a surprising amount of fire you can put out with something like that.” Any place that uses oils to cook will have a K-class extinguisher, specifically for oil fires, which go at a higher temp.

This time of year, with the weather cooling down, chimney fires can be an issue, noted WSCPC president Miller, asking for information and advice about them. Get your chimney checked before fireplace season starts, was the advice – look for creosote buildup, especially. And when you have a fire, burn dry, well-seasoned wood – moist wood will lead to water vapor that can cause chimney problems.

Smoke detectors came up next. Don’t keep them longer than 10 years; be sure to change the batteries at least once a year. “When we say smoke detectors save lives, they really do” – Lt. Lund recounted “numerous” incidents in which they woke up everyone in the home, in time to get out safely. “Most people who are injured or die in fires, it’s smoke inhalation. You can sleep through smoke and die in your sleep.”

You can sleep through carbon monoxide, a silent, odorless killer, so those detectors are important, too – one per floor of your house.

Back to prevention: “Most of the fires we go to, clutter is a common denominator.” It especially doesn’t mix well with candles, added Lt. Lund.

And outside your house, clutter can be a target for arsonists, he said, bringing the conversation back to what’s happened here this past week-plus. “Arsonists don’t typically walk around the neighborhood with a wagon full of kindling and firewood. They don’t bring their fuels wth them – they find what’s at the site and start a fire – one thing you can do as an individual is police your house, your yard.”

After someone asked about decals for windows/doors meant to let emergency crews know what/who might be in a residence – pets, senior citizens, for example – the crew said that’s not necessarily what they’re looking at when they get to a fire scene; they assess the layout quickly, which windows are likely to be bedrooms, etc.

The fact that firefighters go to far more medical calls than fire calls came up too. Some people are surprised that a medical call brings a fire engine. It was explained that Seattle has six medic units, but most fire stations just have a single engine – some, an engine and a ladder truck, some an engine, a truck, and an aid car. But the fire engines have all the necessary medical equipment, and all firefighters are EMTs, so they are ready to handle these issues.

Is SFD having a personnel shortage like SPD?

Answer: Yes, they’re “low on firefighters,” as Lt. Lund put it, but working to hire – and, he pointed out, the department’s training facility is right here in West Seattle (the Joint Training Facility at 9401 Myers Way S., to be specific).

One more takeaway from the meeting:

Have you taken the Public Safety Survey yet?

NEXT MONTH: Third Tuesday, 7 pm, with the chief of Metro Transit Police expected as a special guest.

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Neighborhood concern? West Seattle Crime Prevention Council meets tomorrow http://westseattleblog.com/2015/10/neighborhood-concern-west-seattle-crime-prevention-council-meets-tomorrow/ http://westseattleblog.com/2015/10/neighborhood-concern-west-seattle-crime-prevention-council-meets-tomorrow/#comments Tue, 20 Oct 2015 04:28:52 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/?p=326545 Whether it’s the arsons or some other concern that you’d like to ask and/or hear about, we’ve just confirmed that the monthly West Seattle Crime Prevention Council meeting IS on for tomorrow night (Tuesday, October 20th) at the Southwest Precinct, 7 pm. This is your one guaranteed chance each month to hear local crime trends firsthand from West Seattle police and to bring up anything that’s been going on in your neighborhood. The meeting room is next to the parking lot, which is off SW Webster just west of Delridge Way SW.

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Crime stats, community concerns, & self-defense discussion @ West Seattle Crime Prevention Council http://westseattleblog.com/2015/09/crime-stats-community-concerns-self-defense-discussion-west-seattle-crime-prevention-council/ http://westseattleblog.com/2015/09/crime-stats-community-concerns-self-defense-discussion-west-seattle-crime-prevention-council/#comments Thu, 17 Sep 2015 03:48:21 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/?p=323031 By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

Crime trends and self-protection were on the agenda as the West Seattle Crime Prevention Council returned from summer break.

Last night’s meeting started with Southwest Precinct Captain Pierre Davis briefing those in attendance. “The summer was … the summer. In West Seattle, it’s typical for us to have a riproaring summer, but it wasn’t out of control.” He talked about the importance of the recently developed “microcommunity” policing plans, and the importance of feedback on them.

It’s been five months since Capt. Davis returned to West Seattle as precinct commander; he noted that some categories of crime were spiking back then, but they’ve been “strateg(izing)” how to fight them, and have had success. For one, he said, they’ve put together what is in effect “a posse to go out and hunt our bad guys … (those responsible) for auto thefts, burglaries, other crimes that have plagued neighborhoods.”

The City Attorney’s precinct liaison Matthew York, who was present at the meeting, has helped with that, Davis continued, as they identified “85 of our more prolific bad guys who are rolling around West Seattle.” Since ID’ing them, they’ve arrested “a multitude of them … we’ve gotten at least 25 of them off the street.” While previously they might seem to get out of jail almost as fast as they got in, police have “put together a pretty good campaign against these guys,” and they’re getting a lot of help from citizens who are tipping them to specific suspects. And they’re able to link them to multiple crimes, which means more time in jail “the difference between two days and two weeks to … five years.” With that, “the crime problems plummet,” and, Davis says, they have – as have the problems south of the city limits in unincorporated North Highline (we can attest to that from crime-stats briefings at the North Highline Unincorporated Area Council meetings we cover for partner site White Center Now).

Now, to the numbers Capt. Davis presented last night. In the SW Precinct (West Seattle and South Park) in the last 28 days:

Robberies – year to date, 9 over last year (a 10 percent increase, when earlier in the year it was up 30 percent) – “this seems to be the new crime wave right now,” Capt. Davis says, regionally as well as locally
Aggravated Assaults – Down 29 percent
Residential burglaries – Down 9 percent. “As soon as we start seeing a spike, we look at who’s in and out of jail,” and look for patterns that might match certain suspects that they’d want to keep a look out for.
Motor-vehicle thefts – Down citywide, 6 percent in this area. “We’re holding our own,” said Capt. Davis.
Car prowls – Rate is “holding steady,” neither up nor down.

Some of this summer’s arrests, according to Capt. Davis, are people responsible for crimes in multiple categories – car prowls, car thefts, burglaries. Often they’ll steal a car, take it somewhere, commit a burglary, then take another car to move on to their next target, and might be accountable for up to three car thefts a day. He voiced appreciation for citizen tips and said, bottom line, “If you see something, say something.”

COMMUNITY CONCERNS: The issue of RVs “camping” on city streets came up. Technically, York said, RVs aren’t allowed to park overnight on city streets. SPD does not have an overnight parking-enforcement officer in this precinct, but if you call in to complain, an officer could be dispatched if available. One attendee suggested reporting via Find It, Fix It, but York pointed out that using the app won’t “build the same statistics” as calling police will.

Another attendee mentioned that with school starting again, that might rekindle the trouble spot by Hiawatha/Admiral Safeway, so will police patrol that area? Capt. Davis said yes, “we’re going to be placing as much resources as we can out there,” as well as by the nearby McDonald’s. However, he added, “unfortunately, we’ve taken a hit in resources” – so they haven’t been able to deploy bicycle officers as much as they hoped.

Some discussion centered around the upcoming mayoral visit to Delridge for a Find It, Fix It community walk (October 3rd, as first announced in July), the second one in this precinct, following the one in South Park earlier this month (with cleanups resulting, for starters).

The issue of drug violations came up and some discussion of what sort of problem you’re seeing if you see particular types of discarded items – small plastic bags might be heroin or meth; if you see bits of foil, it’s often a sign of Oxycontin abuse. Also in the substance-abuse realm, alcohol theft at Westwood was mentioned, and Capt. Davis said the Community Police Team is continuing to work on that issue in cooperation with stores at Westwood Village. Speaking of which …

COMMUNITY POLICE TEAM STATUS: It’s still down to 2 officers in the Southwest Precinct – Officer Jon Flores (who was at last night’s meeting) and Officer Kevin McDaniel (who focuses on High Point). Longtime Southwest CPT Officer Jon Kiehn is working on the department-wide “Dashboard” project, and Erin Nicholson is now an acting sergeant “due for a promotion,” said Capt. Davis. He says they’ll eventually get back up to four but they have to be careful where they draw from because that’s just pulling from other resources in the precinct. Lots of challenges to the resource levels right now, Capt. Davis says, including retirements – three in just the past few months.

SPOTLIGHT TOPIC – PERSONAL DEVICE ITEMS: This was the discussion topic chosen by WSCPC leadership, and all of the following comes with the disclaimer that police are not telling citizens what they can and can’t do or use. It was a discussion involving attendees as well as the police who were present, with no formal presentation or recommendations. Overall, though, asked for advice: Capt. Davis urged “common sense” – if you pull something out, make sure you’re prepared to use it, don’t just threaten, as it can be turned against you. York said, from a prosecutorial perspective – he used to work in the KC Prosecuting Attorney’s office – “If you have a device on you, knife, gun, pepper spray, assuming it’s legal to begin with, you can only respond to someone with reasonable force. If you go beyond that, you could be facing a crime yourself. If someone punches you, you can’t pull out a gun and shoot them.” He recalled a case in which somebody was charged with murder for a stabbing that happened following a scuffle between two groups of people. “It’s always better to be charged with a crime than to be in a coffin, but I would always advise caution.” He clarified that if something is clearly threatening your life – knife, gun, choking – you have all options open to you. But if not, use caution.

In other parts of the discussion, even a “command voice” can be useful in some circumstances, attendees agreed, as did Capt. Davis, who noted that “Mr. Bad Guy sizes up his target as well.” York reminded people that some items are fully illegal – brass knuckles, for example – and that if you have a concealed weapon, you need to have a concealed-weapon permit. One attendee who identified himself as an NRA-certified firearms instructor said that if you use your weapon, it might at the very least wind up costing you money – so know what you’re doing and why you’re pulling it out. The instructor also talked about the first rule of self-protection – watch out where you’re going. Is there any “don’t go” place in West Seattle? Nobody specified any particular location other than observing that Seattle has a relatively low percentage of violent crime.

One memorable tidbit: York said he’d read a suggestion of keeping car keys at bedside so you can hit the panic button (triggering noise outside, at least). The firearms instructor said, keep your phone charged – if you have to call 911, you might be on for a long time talking them in, and that’s when you don’t want to be running out of power.

The West Seattle Crime Prevention Council meets on third Tuesdays, so the next meeting is October 20th, 7 pm, SW Precinct.

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Yes, the West Seattle Crime Prevention Council IS meeting tomorrow http://westseattleblog.com/2015/09/yes-the-west-seattle-crime-prevention-council-is-meeting-tomorrow/ http://westseattleblog.com/2015/09/yes-the-west-seattle-crime-prevention-council-is-meeting-tomorrow/#comments Mon, 14 Sep 2015 17:20:11 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/?p=322859 We’ve just received confirmation that the West Seattle Crime Prevention Council WILL resume its monthly meeting schedule as planned, starting tomorrow night (Tuesday, September 15th), 7 pm, at the Southwest Precinct‘s community meeting room. If you have a neighborhood concern to bring up with SPD, and/or want to hear local crime trends firsthand, this is the one open, public, monthly chance to do that. Each meeting usually also has a featured topic and/or guest; this time around, it’s self-defense, discussing with SPD and attendees, according to WSCPC president Richard Miller, “(the) relative advantages and disadvantages of various personal protection/self defense devices (stun guns, tasers, pepper spray, handguns, etc.).” The precinct is at Delridge and Webster; the community-room entrance is off the parking lot on Webster.

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No West Seattle Crime Prevention Council meeting tonight http://westseattleblog.com/2015/06/tonights-west-seattle-crime-prevention-council-meeting/ http://westseattleblog.com/2015/06/tonights-west-seattle-crime-prevention-council-meeting/#comments Wed, 17 Jun 2015 02:20:14 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/?p=313904 If you were thinking of going to the West Seattle Crime Prevention Council meeting – don’t; it’s not happening. We arrived at the precinct and found out that the meeting was being canceled; WSCPC president Richard Miller continues to deal with health challenges. We’ll take the liberty of saying again, as we were asked to mention in our coverage of last month’s meeting – if anyone is interested in helping so that this group can continue, please e-mail westseattlecpc@gmail.com.

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@ West Seattle Crime Prevention Council: Crime trends; ex-gang members; how you can help http://westseattleblog.com/2015/05/west-seattle-crime-prevention-council-crime-trends-ex-gang-members-how-you-can-help/ http://westseattleblog.com/2015/05/west-seattle-crime-prevention-council-crime-trends-ex-gang-members-how-you-can-help/#comments Sun, 24 May 2015 21:09:17 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/?p=310959 By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

From this month’s West Seattle Crime Prevention Council meeting:

CRIME/SAFETY TRENDS: Capt. Pierre Davis of the Southwest Precinct said key categories of crime are seeing “steep drops” lately because of “some specific arrests.” He referred to the recent “robbery spike” (two last weekend on Alki; here’s our latest report), mentioning that it’s happening in the early-morning hours, saying they’re checking on specific “individuals … who have a propensity toward that type of thing.”

About Alki overall, Capt. Davis said a “comprehensive emphasis” is planned for summer, including bicycle officers. “If our plan is not working and you’re seeing something out of the ordinary … let us know … we can revamp our plans and take a closer look at your neighborhood.” One attendee asked for an update on what was the Bamboo Grill and is now Alki Huddle; Community Police Team Officer Jon Flores said the name is different, the ownership the same, butname but that they haven’t had serious problems for quite some time.

One attendee from North Admiral said that locking the Hamilton Viewpoint Park gate at night has helped cut down on nighttime trouble but there’s still some in the daytime.

Capt. Davis referred people to the SPD website to check specific crime-stat numbers and also encouraged people to keep vigilant and keep reporting what happens. And he said he’s hoping Assistant Chief Steve Wilske - his predecessor as SW Precinct commander – “will bless us with more resources.”

After his briefing, it was on to the featured guests at the meeting (held this past Tuesday night in the community room at the precinct):

FORMER GANG MEMBERS: WSCPC president Richard Miller brought four people, all self-identified as former gang members, to speak to and with the group. They were from a program affiliated with the Top Hat branch of Victory Outreach, a church with locations in more than 20 states, founded almost half a century ago.

One man said he’d spent 16 years in prison; he got involved in drugs, and that helped lead him onto the wrong road. He said Victory Outreach helped him find a better way, and he graduated from its program and became a minister. They go through White Center “reaching out to men to pull them off the streets,” he said, and are currently working with two dozen people.

He said the criminal-justice system helped him learn discipline. He also said “There’s a lot of gang activity” in the area of their church, and though they try their best to combat it, “there’s not enough of us” – they need help, and “more programs to help youth.” He and his wife “look after” 20 men who he says are on a “new path.” They do community service work while getting back into society, he said. “There is hope for those guys” who come out of gangs and drugs – “don’t give up on them,” he exhorted. He said their program has a 70 percent success rate.

How did he wind up in gangs in the first place? He said his siblings were gang members, his parents were heroin addicts, and “I thought that was life” – though that “life” had included being shot five times, he noted later, and many of his “old friends” are already dead.

Another man had a similar backstory, saying he had been “born into gangs … because my home was messed up, I decided to go get some training somewhere … six months ago, I was (at the) Salvation Army to satisfy the courts … I remembered where Victory Outreach was in Ballard, and walked from Rainier to Ballard, found out the house wasn’t there, then walked from Ballard to West Seattle, and they said ‘Come on in’. … If I’d had this chance when I was younger … there’s a lot that needs to be fixed within us.” In addition to spiritual assistance, he said he had addressed the source of anger within him. He said he’d been at VO for six months

The third speaker said he too had grown up in a dysfunctional family. “Next thing you know you’re doing things a real family wouldn’t do.” He said he was strung out on drugs and then “one day I was tired of being a loser … found myself on the phone with a guy who graduated (from the VO) program … and within 15 minutes talked me into going into the program.” He said it was “awkward at first” to have people caring about him so much, but then he found himself giving back.

And the fourth speaker said he too had grown up in a dysfunctional family with a rough upbringing and found himself looking “for love and fellowship on the streets,” and wound up involved in gangs, having “to fight other kids just to walk down my own block.” He said he too had been involved in drugs and through the church he’s now “saved” and making changes in his life.

How do they get the word out about the program? Word-of-mouth, said the minister, as well as doing odd jobs in the neighborhood like yard work – that, he said, is where some of their funding comes from, as well as car washes and house painting. And they also try to be a positive force in the neighborhood, including dealing with nearby trouble. They also talk to parole/probation officers to look for potential program members.

The program supervised by the minister is a first step, it was explained; in the second step, members have to get jobs, and VO works with local businesses to facilitate that – from metal-fabrication shops to sports organizations.

Did you have trouble with the gangs letting you leave? a meeting attendee asked.

You just disappear, said one man. The minister said he has a brother who’s still involved, and he counsels him as best he can. He added that they try to move participants around so that they’re not tempted or approached by people they knew.

Why do gang members tag? was another question. Reply: To announce their presence at a particular location, and/or give someone a warning.

Who’s not eligible for the program? Reply: Exclusions include anyone with a sex-crime or arson background.

If you’re interested in anything from referring someone to VO to donating – they said items are welcome from toiletries to clothing – you can reach the Top Hat location at 206-781-1655.

WSCPC NEEDS YOU: If you are interested in helping this group continue – it’s been limping along with little volunteer help, not even someone to update its bare-bones website – please contact Richard Miller, who’s been keeping it going despite serious health challenges. Come to the next meeting (June 16th, last one before summer break) and/or contact him via e-mail – westseattlecpc@gmail.com.

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@ West Seattle Crime Prevention Council: Car theft ‘skyrocketing,’ burglary dropping; plus, City Attorney discusses ‘dream job’ http://westseattleblog.com/2015/04/west-seattle-crime-prevention-council-car-theft-skyrocketing-burglary-dropping-plus-city-attorney-discusses-dream-job/ http://westseattleblog.com/2015/04/west-seattle-crime-prevention-council-car-theft-skyrocketing-burglary-dropping-plus-city-attorney-discusses-dream-job/#comments Thu, 23 Apr 2015 02:06:23 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/?p=307886

By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

Auto theft has “skyrocketed” in the Southwest Precinct area lately, police acknowledged toward the start of last night’s West Seattle Crime Prevention Council meeting.

Operations Lt. Ron Smith presented the crime-trends update, after the 15+ attendees were greeted briefly by newly appointed precinct commander Capt. Pierre Davis (standing in top photo), who declared himself “glad to be back” while also explaining he’s still “catching up.”

Lt. Smith said the jump in auto thefts is due in part to “a pattern we’re seeing – vehicles are being stolen from elsewhere and dumped here in West Seattle, so we’re having an increased recovery rate here- or, they’re being taken here and dumped in South King County.” with 19 incidents in the preceding week. They’re hopeful the rate will be dropping with recent arrests and the identification of four other potential suspects.

He also said street robberies are back to their average – 3 per week – after the spike earlier this year. The added bicycles are on patrol now, he said, but priorities remain the mandatory 911 levels, so you might not always see 2 bicycle-riding officers per sector if staffing does not allow. “We’re trying to modify our staffing to get the maximum return,” he said. Car prowls are trending downward, as are non-residential burglaries – one in the past week – residential burglaries are currently averaging about 3 per week, less than half the usual rate. “Auto thefts have skyrocketed – there’s 19 vehicle thefts in the past week – but after the recent arrest of juvenile suspects, the rate started going down again, even though they are “not certain they’re (responsible for all).” Four other suspects have been ID’d, said Lt. Smith.

Then came Q/A on community concerns, before the night’s featured guest:

An Arbor Heights resident mentioned a “marked increase in crime where she lives” and wondered “why?” and “what can we do about it?” Lt. Smith replied that “it’s a trend” but they are still working to verify the pattern, while “working to apply additional resources … hopefully you’ll notice an increase in the amount of officers.” The recent local auto-theft arrestees “had shaved keys – so these are not amateurs,” he said. He added that the auto thefts themselves are generally not the only crimes the thieves are committing. Asked by another attendee if the suspects were still in custody, Lt. Smith said he didn’t know – and pointed out, that’s not a decision the police are able to make; it’s up to judges. If they’re adults, precinct liaison Matthew York pointed out, you can check the jail register. (In this particular case though, the suspects are juveniles.)

WSCPC president Richard Miller asked about someone who was knocked down by a skateboarder at Westwood Village. Lt. Smith said warm weather will bring an increase in activity in general at the shopping center, and those kind of clashes might happen.

A nuisance house in South Park – on South Donovan – is being abated, said Community Police Team Officer Jon Kiehn, something they’ve been working on for a long time. Officer Kiehn reminded everyone of the power of Block Watches – catching one suspect might solve 20 to 30 crimes. Lt. Smith reminded everyone that “proper procedures” have to be followed, however – frustrating as it might seem. “But if we apply enough energy and resources, it can get done … if you see a problem, you have to tell us.”

CITY ATTORNEY PETE HOLMES: The meeting’s featured guest was the elected City Attorney, Pete Holmes, who pointed out that some things “offloaded” onto police need to be handled elsewhere – “and that’s where we come in.”

He talked about his background including 30 years as a lawyer, with this his “dream job … actually using the law as it’s intended, to promote public good, make the city a better place to live.” He has been in Seattle for 30 years, and both his kids “are native,” he said.

His office’s staff includes 100 lawyers, and its divisions include civil, criminal, precinct liaisons, administration: “Compared to a private law firm, we’re extremely lean,” Holmes said. “Our 100 lawyers work at considerably less per hour than any private law firm can supply – and yet that’s what we are for the city, its private law firm.” He said the criminal division has just moved into Columbia Center, and now the entire department is in one building, after historically being spread among up to four.

In the criminal department, all the misdemeanors in the city are handled by the City Attorney’s Office, while the felonies are handled by the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office (that includes all drug crimes, he noted). “SPD is our largest client,” he added. It is his department’s job to defend the city and its employees, and the City Attorney’s Office has “slashed” the amount of judgments paid out, he continued.

That side note took a side turn into the issue of public-disclosure requests, and the laws requiring them to be granted. Holmes allowed that it would be easy to spend an entire meeting on public-records laws, describing himself as a “wonky lawyer” who loves to discuss such things. Side discussions included the privacy rights of domestic-violence victims; that springboarded to another mention of privacy laws. “Domestic violence is a huge issue for us,” said Holmes, mentioning how cases proceed through his department and are intended to lead to “a change in behaviors. … I’d like us to handle DUIs and assaults” in the same way, he said, maybe something for the longer term.

Explaining what the precinct liaison does, Matthew York, who holds that position for the Southwest and South Precints, listed a variety of areas – nuisance houses, animal issues, sometimes “the most random things you can think about, things I never thought I’d have to be expert in” – while he’s not there to “be your attorney,” they try to help resolve disputes – particularly ones that relate to public safety, as Holmes noted. The subsequent slide with a list of what precinct liaisons do went all the way to “hookah bars,” gang activity, park issues, forfeitures, trespass, encampments, prostitution, nightlife, more.

Listed on a slide of the office’s priorities: Race & Social Justice Initiative, Driving Under the Influence, Mental Health Reform, Domestic Violence, Prostituted People/Sex Buyers, Code Compliance, Police Reform, Drug Policy (Marijuana) Reform.

Regarding DUI, York noted that the City Attorney’s Office has “taken a lead in legislative reform of DUI” – suggestions he said he made years ago are now becoming law, “several things that have made it easier to get the story to the jury, (the story of) what happened,” and changes regarding sentencing.

Holmes also touched on laws regarding mental health, and the process of restoring competency for mentally ill defendants – treating them so they can be determined competent to make a plea or stand trial – and how he and King County Prosecuting Attorney Dan Satterberg had been campaigning for mental-health money to be spent on other things.

Marijuana had been billed as one of the focus topics of the night. What about smoking marijuana in public? Holmes was asked. He mentioned Senate Bill 5052, to combine “the unregulated medical marijuana market with the regulated 502 market,” and said “that will go a long way toward dealing with what we all knew would be a transition period” toward a legal market. “We believe that youth access, cultural norms around where to use it, will follow in time,” including 502′s prohibition on smoking in public.

Most of the problems right now, Holmes said, focus on what he called illegal storefronts and open-air drug markets: “The city has to step up and do more enforcement, especially as illegal supply steps up – there are fewer and fewer excuses for people to patronize their corner dealer or get a marijuana card when they didn’t really have a condition to qualify … it’s going to take time.”

Questions on other topics:

So if neighbors sued the city over, say, a DPD decision, the City Attorney’s Office would be defending the city? Holmes was asked. He said yes, but they try to advise the city so that it doesn’t get to an adversarial point in the first place.

He also talked about working toward operational efficiencies.

“Who do you answer to?” asked one attendee.

“You,” Holmes replied. “I’ll be up again [for re-election] in 2017.”

The discussion also turned to what Community Police Team officers can do – and Lt. Smith noted that this is the only precinct in the city where the number of CPT officers went up. He said he’d like to have twice as many if he could.

Holmes mentioned the case of the Sisley property in Roosevelt and how neighbors’ reports of problems were what it really took to bring millions of dollars in judgments against the owner.
“What the public did was call those numbers – DPD had complaints mounting, and mounting – sending inspectors out – drug use was going on at these abandoned homes … DPD would issue Notices of Violations and those would come to my office … What we did, was try to resolve it as best we can … (one at a time) … Finally we said, we’re not compromising any more with him, he has to pay every nickel of every judgment – Then about a year ago, he finally got it, when he wanted to give one of his properties to his daughter and (the city had a lien on it) .. we said, ‘you can (free it) by writing a check for $3 million’ …” The City Attorney’s Office had to figure out how he was “gaming the system” and how to make it more expensive for him to ignore the law than to comply with it.

WHO WAS THERE? In addition to police and City Attorney’s Office personnel, about 15 attendees were on hand, listing their neighborhoods as Arbor Heights, Morgan Junction, Puget Ridge, South Delridge, Gatewood, Westwood, Highland Park. Aside from its board members, the WSCPC is not a membership group – anyone from any neighborhood can show up and participate, or just listen/observe.

NEXT MEETING: WSCPC meets on third Tuesdays, 7 pm, at the precinct, so the next meeting will be May 19th.

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@ West Seattle Crime Prevention Council: What’s up, what’s down, what’s new + Force Investigations Team guest http://westseattleblog.com/2015/03/west-seattle-crime-prevention-council-whats-up-whats-down-whats-new-force-investigations-team-guest/ http://westseattleblog.com/2015/03/west-seattle-crime-prevention-council-whats-up-whats-down-whats-new-force-investigations-team-guest/#comments Thu, 19 Mar 2015 08:53:52 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/?p=304228 From the West Seattle Crime Prevention Council‘s meeting at the Southwest Precinct on Tuesday night:

No new commander announced for the precinct yet, one week after the news of now-Assistant Chief Steve Wilske‘s promotion, which came one year after his SWP arrival. Operations Lt. Ron Smith, who’s in charge of the precinct in the meantime, said he isn’t seeking the position.

CRIME TRENDS: Lt. Smith led the customary briefing. Auto theft is up; burglaries are down. And as has been widely reported, including here, strong-arm robberies are up – if you don’t know the definition, “no weapons implied or used, but that doesn’t make much difference to the victim,” as Lt. Smith put it. He also discussed how incidents get classified as robberies if they aren’t the stereotypical case of a criminal coming up to a victim and demanding something; in particular, the shoplift-turned-robbery type of case was discussed.

Community Police Team Officers Jon Flores and Erin Nicholson got up at that point to get into more detail.

Regarding shoplift-turned-robbery incidents, Officer Flores said they often involve alcohol, so they are continuing to work with stores that just didn’t anticipate the privatization of liquor leading to so mch shoplifting, and didn’t design their liquor sections originally in hadn’t focused much security on it, where it’s located in stores, etc., so now many have built new sections where it’s done, and are making other changes. “It’s still a work in progress, but we’re hoping to see stores go to systems where you can’t just walk up, (get a bottle, and walk out with it).” He said they’re also working with stores regarding the responses that have led to shoplifting turned into robberies because employees’ lives aren’t worth risking over these items – they’re emphasizing having store employees be “good observers” when needed.

While in the past it’s been suggested that police and store security weren’t always in communication, Officer Flores said they’re getting a lot of calls these days, about known suspects being seen, people showing up who have been “trespassed” (written up because of past problems at the store and told they can’t come back), etc.

SOUTHWEST BICYCLE SQUAD: The long-in-the-works plan that was finalized recently is close to reality. It’s starting in two weeks, two bicycles for each sector, and the relief squad too, so “you will see a lot more” officers on bicycles. The two officers who have been on bicycles for a while, said Officer Nicholson, had a meeting with Westwood Village just last week. (She also mentioned a multi-agency meeting is coming up regarding the issues with the Westwood/Roxhill Park transit hub.) Around the peninsula, two bicycle officers will be on night shift and visible while out patroling, Lt. Smith added.

MOBILE PRECINCT: Lt. Smith talked about the new one that the SWP is getting to replace the one that’s been out since arson destroyed it years ago. It’s being put together in Florida. It will not only be helpful on Alki in the summertime, he said, it’ll also work well in a variety of other circumstances, including big events such as West Seattle Summer Fest.

SPECIAL GUEST – FORCE INVESTIGATIONS: The meeting began with a somewhat-surprise guest (no advance announcement from WSCPC), Capt. Mike Teeter, who, as noted in his introduction, worked at the Southwest Precinct in its early days and now leads the Force Investigations Team – another side note, that team was first led by former precinct commander Wilske.

Capt. Teeter’s work relates to the federal investigation of SPD and the resulting reforms. He offered context for his team’s work and how “use of force” investigations have evolved – now starting with supervisors responding to the scene, continuing with interviews and photos, canvassing the area for witnesses and video, accounting for all officers’ actions, evaluating the incident for “areas of concern,” and “prepar(ing) a detailed report.”

The team was “born” a little more than a year ago. He has a lieutenant, sergeant, and 6 detectives, a “very experienced group who received intense training specific to the investigation of use-of-force incidents.”

Capt. Teeter noted that “the vast majority of officers go through the entirety of their career without firing their weapon” – officer-involved shootings happen on average six times a year, in a force that currently numbers about 1,350 officers, he said. When it happens, “We don’t come in assuming it’s a good shooting or assuming it’s a bad shooting – we collect the evidence.” Force Investigations works with the CSI team to process scenes. The Office of Professional Accountability also gets involved. Two binders of paperwork usually ensue, and the investigation goes through “three levels of Force Investigations Team supervisor/staff review internally before submission to the assistant chief.” From there, it goes to OPA, and to the federal monitor, and finally to the Force Review Board.

He said investigations result in training and potential procedure changes, after a long list of questions asked by that board. And he said SPD releases information about it “so the media doesn’t just spin (their own version).”

In 2014, the team handled 46 total cases, 9 officer-involved shootings.

Is the department incorporating body-cam video into these processes and investigations? was the first question when Capt. Teeter segued into Q/A. Yes, he said, while noting that right now it’s just a pilot program through the East Precinct. (Lt. Smith pointed out that blurred versions of the body-camera videos are available now on a YouTube channel.) Also regarding video, he said that police scour areas where incidents happen in hopes of finding citizens’ video, whether via surveillance cameras or phone cameras. Lt. Smith also mentioned the in-car video from police vehicles, saying that supervisors watch every minute of it while investigating/reviewing incidents.

He showed a clip from a Phoenix TV newscast in which a man identified as a local civil-rights activist “experience(d) use-of-force training.” (You can see it here.)

NEXT WSCPC MEETING: The special guest for the next meeting, 7 pm Tuesday, April 21st, is scheduled to be Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes.

–Tracy Record, WSB editor

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@ West Seattle Crime Prevention Council: Updates on WS robberies, South Park homicide, more http://westseattleblog.com/2015/02/west-seattle-crime-prevention-council-updates-on-ws-robberies-south-park-homicide-more/ http://westseattleblog.com/2015/02/west-seattle-crime-prevention-council-updates-on-ws-robberies-south-park-homicide-more/#comments Wed, 18 Feb 2015 04:17:58 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/?p=301356 By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

The Southwest Precinct‘s commander says extra staffing to protect students – “double the staff on first watch” – will continue “for the foreseeable future.”

That was part of what Capt. Steve Wilske had to say at tonight’s West Seattle Crime Prevention Council meeting. Other measures taken to try to stop the string of robbery/grabbing incidents include instant alerts that he is getting in the case of any crime in which the victim is a juvenile. Updates in the meeting included not only the recent incidents but also last weekend’s South Park homicide plus overall local crime trends:

ROBBERY SERIES: The most recent robbery targeting a student was on February 4th, according to Capt. Wilske. In addition to the two arrests, they’ve also had a search warrant for a vehicle, he said. “We’re making at least a little bit of progress.” Robberies overall have increased citywide, he notes, but here in the Southwest Precinct, there’ve been five in the past week – more than double the usual “2 or so” rate. Three of them started as shoplifting incidents at local supermarkets, which are categorized as robberies once they turn into incidents involving force, actual or implied. The fourth was a case of a son robbing his mother, and there’s been an arrest in that, and the fifth was a 26th/Roxbury purse-snatching attempt targeting a young woman getting off a RapidRide bus.

FEBRUARY 11TH INCIDENTS: Regarding the 26th/Trenton, 25th/Thistle grabbings on the 11th – though the description’s a bit different, Capt. Wilske thinks the same person may be to blame. They don’t seem to be related to the “girl followed off a bus by someone she knows” incident that same day. A detective is handling both of the grabbing cases and updating Capt. Wilske regularly. The “possible exposer” the next day drew such a big response because they already had so many officers in the area. The person disappeared so quickly that he might live in the area or know someone who does, he said.

SOUTH PARK HOMICIDE UPDATE AND OTHER CRIME IN SP: Homicide detectives have the investigation, said Capt. Wilske, which, while a cause of death hasn’t yet been announced, generally confirms it’s being treated as a crime. Investigators have canvassed the area looking for video and other evidence – call the tipline, 206-233-5000, if you have any information. Meantime, he’ll be meeting with South Park residents to talk about other crime concerns, which revolve mainly around “a couple of problem houses.” Community Police Team Officer Jon Flores said the CPT is also stepping up its involvement to help resolve some of the concerns, and the Anti-Crime Team will be involved as well. “Hopefully within the next little while we can report back some victories in South Park – we’ll be working with the community on that.” Capt. Wilske thinks SP will be perfect for a bike team (noting that he was a bicycle officer himself for about two years). He noted later that burglaries in SP are actually down, while saying he knows that’s no consolation to the victims of however many incidents *do* happen.

BICYCLE SQUAD: Two officers currently spend most of their time on bicycles, and local patterns further bolster Capt. Wilske’s hopes of a permanent bike squad – ideally, six officers, he says, though “I have to be careful I don’t (take too many officers away from) 911 response.” The current bicycle-equipped officers’ presence at Westwood Village so far has dramatically reduced the number of incidents happening there. And he’s continuing to get a phone call 24/7 any time a juvenile is victimized.

DRUG CONCERNS AROUND HIAWATHA/ADMIRAL SAFEWAY: Erik Walum from the Hiawatha Community Center Advisory Council asked Capt. Wilske about drug-dealing concerns in that area, and repeated reports including drug paraphernalia/needles found in the community center’s restrooms. He and city attorney liaison Matthew York had an exchange about what happens to juveniles arrested in drug cases – is it true that “nothing will happen to them?” York said, “That’s not true,” though it won’t be a case of long-term detention unless there are extreme circumstances. Arrest and prosecution will still happen, he and Capt. Wilske said. Officer Flores from the CPT said they want to work with the community to “get these individuals identified” and get an investigation going.

PARK SAFETY IN GENERAL: Pete Spalding from the Southwest Precinct Advisory Council asked what can be done as the weather warms up to try to keep problems like car prowls under control. Capt. Wilske’s advice: First – come borrow an engraver and engrave your driver license number on your valuables; second – don’t leave ANYTHING visible in your car. Even if you don’t think it looks valuable, don’t leave it visible, because a car prowler will take the gamble that maybe, just maybe, there’s something inside.

SOME GOOD NEWS: Overall, the rates of burglaries and auto thefts in the Southwest Precinct are both down, and “the property-crime numbers are the lowest in the city, but that doesn’t matter if your place was broken into or you know somebody whose place was broken into.”

RETURN OF THE CHIEF? The captain was asked when Police Chief Kathleen O’Toole might come back, as promised when a protest cut short her West Seattle “community conversation” two weeks ago. He said they’re hoping it will happen within the next few weeks. And they will plan a format so that while “free speech rights are respected,” the meeting can proceed – “how best to protect the rights of everybody,” as city attorney liaison York put it, recalling recent conversations involving the City Attorney’s Office as well as others. “The meeting will occur,” Capt. Wilske promised.

COMMUNITY POLICE TEAM UPDATE: How’s the staffing now? the captain was asked. Reply: Officers Flores and Erin Nicholson are on the CPT now, and Officer Jon Kiehn will rejoin them eventually.

DESC INCIDENTS: One attendee asked how the DESC Cottage Grove Commons housing complex at 5444 Delridge Way SW is working out in terms of emergency calls. Between police and fire, so far they are averaging about 300 visits a year (mostly fire, for medical reasons) – in the first year and a half the facility’s been open, said Capt. Wilske: “We’re there an awful lot.” But he and Officer Flores said they’re working with the staff to try to bring that down and will in fact be joining in a staff meeting later this week. Asked how the rate compares to other DESC facilities around the city, Capt. Wilske said he didn’t have access to that data.

The West Seattle Crime Prevention Council meets third Tuesdays, 7 pm, Southwest Precinct, all welcome.

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‘Apple-picking,’ nuisance houses, crime trends, and other discussions @ West Seattle Crime Prevention Council http://westseattleblog.com/2015/01/apple-picking-nuisance-houses-crime-trends-and-other-discussions-west-seattle-crime-prevention-council/ http://westseattleblog.com/2015/01/apple-picking-nuisance-houses-crime-trends-and-other-discussions-west-seattle-crime-prevention-council/#comments Wed, 21 Jan 2015 04:56:05 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/?p=298754 By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

No new information about Saturday’s Morgan Junction holdup, when it was brought up during tonight’s West Seattle Crime Prevention Council meeting.

What did dominate the evening was a wide-ranging discussion on various neighborhoods’ problems and what can, can’t, and – in some neighbors’ view – should be done about them.

First, the crime-trend update:

LOCAL CRIME TRENDS: Auto theft has remained the same – a high level, but “we’re starting to make some arrests.” Car prowls are “down drastically.” So said precinct operations Lt. Ron Smith, representing precinct leadership at the meeting – he said car prowls are down to 11 in the past week, compared to 18. A new way of handling the data is being implemented soon, he said, so that could make a change. Nonresidential burglaries are down; residential burglary is down 40 percent from an average week, 6 compared to the average of 10. “We’ve made a couple arrests, and that might have made a difference – names known to the community.” Strong-arm robberies, usually 1 a week, this past week we’ve had two (both reported here).

Asked about the strong-arm robbery, Lt. Smith mentioned – without specifying the location – the Sealth student who was walking to school when her phone was stolen. They don’t know yet for sure whether the robber is a student or not, though “similar age group” to the victim. Sometimes the response time is hampered by the fact the robbery isn’t reported until they tell their parents hours later. He says this type of robbery has now been dubbed “Apple-picking.”

Asked about shoplifting, aggravated assault, drug-dealing arrests, Lt. Smith said he doesn’t have numbers on those categories but can get them. He says the Anti-Crime Team is going after drug crime right now, though, and that drug dealing is being addressed “through other methods” – CPTED, such as lighting, removing phone booths, cutting back shrubbery, and talking to businesses to let them know it’s their responsibility to keep watch on what’s happening on their property.

NUISANCE HOUSES: A question is asked about a South Delridge block and a particular house on 17th SW. Lt. Smith says they’re aware of several trouble houses. Precinct liaison Matthew York from the City Attorney’s Office, seated next to Lt. Smith (photo at right), gives his card to the asker. Another man says there’s a similar problem in his neighborhood – stolen cars dumped, an unregistered sex offender who they say had a teenage girl in his house, someone else who was wanted on warrants and “had a sawed-off shotgun.” The house in question had “constant turnover,” troublemakers in the back yard – they would report the problems, police would show up, and be deterred by a locked gate and people going into hiding. “With (houses like this) you can look at the 911 calls – 197 on that block – (people have) called constantly.” Someone else says “it’s kind of like we’re at war” but it has quieted down a bit with the involvement of the Community Police Team.

People are pulling up in cars and smoking heroin, a resident went on to say. “If you see someone smoking heroin, that’s a 911 call,” says York. Is a photo evidence of what happened? the resident asked. The officer generally has to see the crime being committed, York replies. They can’t just stop someone because someone says they stopped them doing something. Another attendee asks, what if that person is driving under the influence, then, can they be pulled over? York explains the legal issues. “They can stop and arrest him, but whether they can prosecute him … comes down to a whole lot of case law.”

The prior resident says that he thinks there’s a “whole lot of value” in seeing police driving past, say, the drug-smoking person sitting in their car. And then comes a discussion about living next door to chronic offenders who are out of jail “and they know I put them there … we’re surrounded by felons whose rights are more elevated than ours. We’ve been victimized by them all this time.” She said she didn’t have a complaint about police response, just the situation in general that has left them next door to the felons. York says he’d like to talk to them offline.

Should this go before the City Council? Is there a place to get more help? asks another attendee. “It’s a complicated legal situation,” says York, but maybe, for example, the Department of Planning and Development might have an ordinance that would apply.

Another attendee points out that this sounds like the nuisance-house situation at 36th/Morgan that was addressed with the help of the City Attorney’s Office. “Is there something that could be done without us having to come to a meeting like this” to get help? she wonders – perhaps the Community Police Team? The South Delridge residents say the CPT has addressed their situation and it’s “quieted down” somewhat as a result, as those officers “have been real direct” with the chronic offenders next door.

Lt. Smith points out that 911 calls are what get the most attention for trouble spots – repeated 911 calls. “Foreclosed homes” are a problem right now, “and you wouldn’t believe how many we have in West Seattle.” He says that one particular (unnamed) bank owns “85 percent” of the vacant, bank-owned homes in West Seattle, and they have a contract with that company that allows them to cut right to the chase if action is needed at a particular address.

Another attendee suggests neighbors might threaten to take offending neighbors to small-claims court; she mentions living next door to a house whose owner wasn’t the problem, “but they had rotten relatives.”

Keep calling 911, urges Lt. Smith.

Finally a question about Saturday’s robbery in Morgan Junction – a man cites the WSB comment from someone who wrote about seeing suspicious people in the area a short time earlier and reported being told, when calling 911, that nothing could be done if a crime wasn’t being committed.

“What was the crime?” York asked repeatedly.

“A–holery,” it was suggested.

But – that’s not a crime, it was repeated. Another man said that near 17th/Henderson, he had encountered someone who behaved threateningly and not gotten much of a response. “If you want police at the doorstep right away, tell them you’re going to do to the person what the person is doing to you,” he said, and that’s the only way to get a response.

Back to the Morgan parking lot, “suspicious behavior is at the bottom of the priority list” in terms of what police can report to. If reported as “they’re slowing down cars and harassing people,” that might be a crime, but if you just say “they’re walking in front of a car and slowing it down,” the operator might not perceive that as the type of problem you’re seeing.

Don’t be nice about it when you call something in, said Lt. Smith.

At that point, a TV reporter identified herself from the corner and asks about the Morgan robbery case and the surveillance video mentioned in our earlier coverage. Lt. Smith looks into a sheaf of report copies he’s brought, to try to find information about the case.

If suspects are identified, will their photos be made available? it’s asked. Not if they’re juveniles, York says, unless they are charged as adults.

Is it legal for someone to walk around with their face covered (as was one of the robbers) – let’s say, if it’s not freezing cold weather? Yes, it is, the law enforcers reply.

Coming back to the subject of the 911 call made earlier that morning, another man in the corner mentions again that you have to be very direct with police – you can’t just say you think something MIGHT be happening, you saw someone who kind of sort of made you wonder. You have to be factual and direct. (No one here had firsthand knowledge of that call, including police, so they were just speculating that perhaps the caller was not.)

Another attendee asks about the prioritization mentioned earlier. Lt. Smith said it depends on what else is going on. The attendee goes on to ask about staffing – “do you have enough officers to respond in a reasonable amount of time?” Lt. Smith says shortly thereafter, “Yeah, we need a lot more officers. We have the amount of officers we had in the late ’60s. We need more officers not only in West Seattle but citywide.”

“Is it a recruiting issue or a funding issue?” asks an attendee.

Both, says Lt. Smith. Personally, he says, as a 35-year cop, he wishes far more money would go toward police services – but where do you take it away? Social services? Fire Department? Roads? “What I have to do is work with the number of officers we have. And we have an incredible bunch of officers here.” He notes that the Southwest Precinct remains a popular place to work.

An attendee goes back to the Morgan robbery, wondering if anyone had seen a gun when the people reported in the street, who might have been the robbers. Another attendee points out (from the report we published earlier) that the gun didn’t come out until after the first robber had asked the victim about the time.

From another attendee: “These things happen in cities … the majority of us here are concerned about the underlying (situation)” such as nuisance houses and chronic offenders.

“We go through phases,” said Lt. Smith. “Right now, community policing is taking the lead” for SPD, the City Attorney’s Office, etc. He brings up the work done to clear encampments. “It sounds simple ‘just clear them out’ – in the city, it’s not that simple, because of the political environment and the legal environment. … we have to follow a proper step-by-step process and it’s time-consuming as heck, but (once we do) we get the people who need help, social services.”

York notes that the Community Police Team has two officers in this area right now but they hope to be getting a third back.

The nuisance-house neighbors say that they wish they could have found an FAQ that would tell them what to do about problems like this, and possibly even have access to knowing that police have been to their neighborhood recently, so they know that officers are on the case – “could we type in ‘house on 19th’ and see” – Lt. Smith says the followup visits don’t always generate new report numbers; the attendee says even if they did, it’s hard to follow.

York says the FAQ idea is a good one, noting that the City Attorney’s Office is redoing its website and that might be something for it.

Neighbors go on to talk about various other problems – including stolen shopping carts, and no prosecution, with store reps showing up. “Did the store owner follow up and want to charge them with a crime?” asked Lt. Smith. The neighbors didn’t know.

Now an attendee speaks up and says, some of these robberies are happening in the morning – is there a standard patrol that’s happening? Lt. Smith mentions that first watch, 3 am to noon, is the shortest-staffed time period. The attendee says a concern is that she can’t tell her teenage daughter, avoid a certain area – “it’s happening all over West Seattle.” Replies Lt. Smith: “It’s happening all over the city.” He also acknowledges that SPD is reactive – if a pattern erupts, they focus resources in a certain area. But by “the next meeting,” there might be a request for resources elsewhere, because the previous problem has been alleviated.

From the other side of the room: “The community is relying on you guys to protect them and come out to calls … I don’t live here, I work here, but like my community, I see a lot of you wanting to do something and not knowing what to do … how can you put out the word that this is a community to be reckoned with.” She says she teaches workshops on “how not to be a victim.”

“Our big thing is Block Watch,” Lt. Smith noted, and more discussion ensued about ways that neighbors can talk with each other.

So what’s being done about addressing the underlying causes? he was asked. What can be done about chronic offenders?

He didn’t have a pithy answer – but did recount a story from his days as a foot-beat officer, how a young offender changed his ways – “People change.”

Another man said that a civic-minded attitude can help. “In our neighborhood, I look around, and I don’t see anything for kids to do.” Somebody suggested that we put out a list of things for kids to do. (We actually do have listings on the calendar. The city-run community centers also have pamphlets full of listings.)

“Volunteer at a school,” suggested one person. “I don’t have time,” was the reply.

Someone else brought the conversation back around to “crime.” She said she’s seeing an increased presence on 21st SW, where she says she’s lived since childhood, but it’s “never been as bad as it is now … I’m really glad to see people here, because I’m not willing to just see it” (fall apart). She then asks a question about some of the side streets, such as Juneau and Brandon, and how she interacts with neighbors when she’s out for a walk. She said she has encountered some who saw suspicious behavior but didn’t report it. Then she mentions one neighbor’s report of what seems to be youth camping in a wetland area, “surrounding by electronics … that they probably didn’t buy.”

“It’s illegal to camp in Parks property,” said York.

The talk then came around to, the issue of seeing “suspicious” behavior, and when police can be called in and when they can’t. “If you take a picture of someone behaving suspiciously, what do you do with it?” asked one man. “Just walking down the street,” you can’t do much with that. “But if (the suspicious person) is putting a safe in the back of their car …”

He asked to clarify: So the Community Police Team officer would be the first point of contact about the suspicious behavior? Yes, said Lt. Smith, noting that the CPT officers on duty right now are Jon Flores and Erin Nicholson. (Find contact info for the CPT on the SPD website, here. Officer Nicholson is filling in this month for Officer Kiehn, per Lt. Smith.)

A woman then voiced hope that once arrested, convicted, and put behind bars, offenders would be trained so they could get jobs “and be a good person” when they get out. Lt. Smith agreed that “correctional” facilities don’t seem to be “correcting” anyone.

At that point, WSCPC president Richard Miller asked for ideas of topics to address at future meetings. Graffiti vandalism was mentioned – “a police perspective on the trends,” for example.

Another suggestion: How various departments/agencies work together on crime/safety issues, so that the public can better understand.

The WSCPC meets on third Tuesdays most months, 7 pm, Southwest Precinct.

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West Seattle Crime Prevention Council, report #2: SPD’s plan for last day of school and rest of summer http://westseattleblog.com/2014/06/west-seattle-crime-prevention-council-report-2-spds-plan-for-last-day-of-school-and-rest-of-summer/ http://westseattleblog.com/2014/06/west-seattle-crime-prevention-council-report-2-spds-plan-for-last-day-of-school-and-rest-of-summer/#comments Wed, 18 Jun 2014 20:48:56 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/?p=276767 By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

Southwest Precinct commander Capt. Steve Wilske has a plan for tomorrow – the last day of Seattle Public Schools classes – and he told the West Seattle Crime Prevention Council about it last night during the WSCPC meeting at Lincoln Park.

That and other toplines ahead:

First in the briefing – No big headlines in the crime-trend notes. Burglaries, auto thefts, and strongarm robberies continue to be concerns. Capt. Wilske (right) mentioned the burglary for which two teenage girls were arrested, reported here two weeks ago; we asked him post-meeting if they were suspected in any other cases, and he said so far, no, but the investigation continues.

He also mentioned the Jacobsen Road strong-arm robbery – first reported here, with a followup here – and another street robbery that involved a gun (3 am last Saturday in the 2000 block of Alki SW, per a report we subsequently obtained). In most cases, the victim is attacked while distracted from her/his surroundings, so Capt. Wilske urged everyone to be hyper-aware while out and about.

And he mentioned something else already reported here, that repeat offender Ryan Cox is out of jail, now that he’s served all the time remaining on his most recent sentence. He has a hearing one week from today, so, Wilske said, “let the precinct know if there’s any problem with him.”

Then he brought up the last day of school tomorrow. Starting around noon, the precinct is bringing in additional staffing, and they will be on as late as needed, with Alki as a focus, though not the only area of emphasis. Drinking is a major trigger for trouble, Wilske noted, so they’ll be looking for that; if you’re on Alki, you’ll see police tomorrow from many areas of the department, including Gang Unit, Anti-Crime Team, and other teams.

Other big events for which SPD is planning a beefed-up presence include the Seafair Pirates Landing on June 28th (one week from Saturday) and the big South Park Bridge celebration the next day – he stressed that trouble is not expected at any of these events, but when thousands of people gather, SPD wants to be there in the better-safe-than-sorry vein. And extra police will be on duty on the 4th of July. Asked about fireworks calls on and before the holiday, Wilske said that they will be responded to when they can (he didn’t mention this, but for example, we know that SPD went to Lincoln Park after reports of fireworks last Saturday, possibly associated with gatherings after two local high-school graduations).

In addition to Alki, Wilske said Westwood Village/Roxhill Park remains high on the list of areas for extra attention this summer. He reiterated his previously mentioned plans to make bike patrol possible for much of the precinct force, with two bicycle-riding officers to be stationed on Alki “on a daily basis,” and other areas such as Roxhill getting two-wheeled police depending on how assignments and demands go. The entire Anti-Crime Team will be bicycle-equipped, he added.

A North Admiral issue discussed at the most recent Admiral Neighborhood Association meeting came up briefly – the question of locking the gate at Hamilton Viewpoint Park after-hours. Carol Baker, regional manager for West Seattle-area parks, was at the meeting and said the seasonal gate-locking just began last Sunday night.

Regarding Lincoln Park car prowls, the SPD reps on hand (which included Community Police Team Officer Jon Flores) said both main parking lots are affected, so it’s not an issue of one or the other; they urged people not to leave anything of value in their cars, even if you think it’s safe because you’re hiding it in the trunk or under a seat.

As questions from attendees ran out, and the meeting moved toward an early wrap, one woman threw out a question to Capt. Wilske: “How can we help you?”

His reply: “When you see officers, go up and talk to them, say hello, share your thoughts about law enforcement, whatever. If you see something you’re concerned about, call 911. Even if (it’s something minor) and we don’t get there right away, we do a lot of statistical analysis, I need to know where things are going on.” That means report even car prowls where nothing is taken, etc.

That’s when we asked the new precinct liaison from the City Attorney’s Office, Matthew York, to share information about his background – see that story here.

The WSCPC will not meet again until the third Tuesday in September. The next crime-prevention-related group to meet will be the West Seattle Block Watch Captains Network, which meets on fourth Tuesdays, and has the Gang Unit on its agenda for next week – read about that here.

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West Seattle Crime Watch: Stolen stroller; hit-run; vandalism http://westseattleblog.com/2014/06/west-seattle-crime-watch-stolen-stroller-hit-run-vandalism/ http://westseattleblog.com/2014/06/west-seattle-crime-watch-stolen-stroller-hit-run-vandalism/#comments Tue, 17 Jun 2014 01:50:39 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/?p=276659 Three West Seattle Crime Watch reader reports. First one’s from Johnali:

Our Bob Revolution jogging stroller (black), was stolen from our secured building between 6:30 pm last night and 7:30am this morning. We live on Delridge and Trenton. Anything would be helpful as we are still hopeful we will find it.

Let police know if you do. Second, Lynn‘s hoping to find the hit-run driver who damaged her car and another one just south of The Junction:

The 2 cars that were hit were parked 1/2 block north of Rite Aid, near a telephone and across the street from a large apartment building construction site (west side of California Avenue, SW). My car is a 2013 gray 4 door Nissan Altima. I do not know the make of the other car that was hit, but its owner told me that her left-side mirror was bent backwards and was missing most of the mirror glass. I didn’t find any paint from the car that hit mine. However, I did find a side mirror on the ground near my car that may have been from the car that hit mine. It appears from the damage my car sustained that the offending car came from the north, which would mean that their car would be missing their right side mirror. I’ve kept the side mirror, just in case.

Third, Kezia wondered if anybody else woke up Sunday morning in the Westwood area to find out their car had been vandalized – a crude drawing in black paint on a white car, in her case.

REMINDER: Bring community concerns to the West Seattle Crime Prevention Council‘s meeting at Lincoln Park Shelter 1 tomorrow (Tuesday) night, 7 pm, map here.

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Progress reports on trouble spots and more @ West Seattle Crime Prevention Council http://westseattleblog.com/2014/05/progress-reports-on-trouble-spots-and-more-west-seattle-crime-prevention-council/ http://westseattleblog.com/2014/05/progress-reports-on-trouble-spots-and-more-west-seattle-crime-prevention-council/#comments Thu, 22 May 2014 22:26:38 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/?p=274107 Even before Tuesday night’s West Seattle Crime Prevention Council meeting, Southwest Precinct police leaders had promised that the Roxhill Park/Westwood Village area would be one of three emphasis spots for beefed-up summertime prevention/enforcement efforts. Westwood in particular dominated the discussion, though precinct commander Capt. Steve Wilske said his “summer plan” had not yet won final approval from department leadership.

SUMMER PLAN: With the recent warm weather, “Alki’s starting to get real busy for us,” Capt. Wilske began, saying he plans to have extra officers there on Friday and Saturday nights for starters, as well as increased patrols for Roxhill/Westwood and for Lincoln Park.

One of his strategies, also mentioned at earlier community meetings, is to get officers onto bicycles, at least part-time. He said he’s hoping to have bikes and gear for up to 12 officers. “They’ll be patrol officers, I can’t exempt them from 911 response, (but) they’ll have bikes so when they have down time they’ll be able to get into one of these emphasis areas and start riding.”

WESTWOOD VILLAGE: Community Police Team Officer Jon Kiehn said the recent trouble with shoplifting, threats, and more, tends to involve “the same people over and over again.”

SPD has been working with Westwood management and businesses, he said, to encourage them to use the tools they have to “disallow” troublemakers – such as the “trespass” policy – but “they historically haven’t been using that authority to assist us in dealing with the crime there (so) we’re trying to figure out ways we can work smarter and better with the kids (who are) causing trouble.” In the past month, he said, they’ve made progress: “We’re in a much better place than we were a month ago, trying to identify who they are and why they are there – it’s just a matter of continuing to communicate with businesses and property owners.” Later, he added that SPD has been working with some of the big stores that carry liquor and that at least two stores are beefing up the security of their liquor areas, to deter shoplifting.

STREET ROBBERIES: If you are a regular reader here, you know – even without looking up stats – there’ve been more street robberies reported in recent months than before, and Capt. Wilske acknowledged “a significant increase.” He called them generally “crimes of opportunity, (so) the best way to deal with them is to try to prevent them.” The robbers will notice potential victims using their devices, then “punch them and grab (the device) and they’re gone, we don’t get good descriptions because they usually assault the (victims).” The entire city is seeing an increase in this, he said, so they are working with the department’s Robbery Unit to see “if we can identify or arrest some of these folks (and) get the ACT (Anti-Crime Team) involved – a number of them around Westwood Village, we know who they are; our crime analysis officer has identified (them) so we’ve got a bulletin out … The thing I can’t stress enough is prevention – prevent it by being alert – if you have to use your phone, use it but … don’t be so preoccupied that you’re not looking up and making eye contact with people.” Officer Kiehn added that if it’s late at night and you’re staring at your bright phone screen, then you hear something and look up, your eyes are still getting adjusted and you’re not likely to get a good look at a potential robber.

OTHER CRIMES: Car prowls and burglaries have been at an average level recently, he said, while warning against complacency as summer kicks in. If you’re going somewhere and have to leave something of value in your car, hide it before you get to your destination, so you’re not seen hiding it. And if you choose to leave anything visible – even a bag you know contains only, say, dirty gym clothes – would-be thieves will take 15 seconds to do “$700 worth of damage” to check it out by breaking your vehicle window.

GRAFFITI: An extensive discussion ensued, with frustrated neighbors wondering “what’s happening and why, and why aren’t they getting caught?” There were no easy answers. One particularly prolific tagger, Officer Kiehn said, whose four-letter name starting with “M” is legion, is known to officers, though he wasn’t sure where the vandal’s prosecution stood; he hasn’t seen many new tags recently with that vandal’s handle. Overall, said an attendee, “it’s just getting to be insufferable.” Another attendee advised him to call the city’s graffiti hotline, because the property owner will be required to clean it up within 10 days if it’s private property, or if it’s public property, she said, someone will be sent out within 10 days to clean it up. Capt. Wilske did acknowledge that since graffiti vandalism is generally “misdemeanor property damage,” the penalty for anyone convicted of it is probably less than community members would want to see. “In terms of prosecution, we really rely on public tips,” added Officer Kiehn.

JUVENILE SUSPECTS: In a spinoff from the Westwood Village discussions, an attendee mentioned hearing about employees worried that juvenile troublemakers were waiting nearby to “jump” them, and that led to a discussion about what happens when juveniles are arrested in those circumstances. Whether they are booked into the Youth Service Center or not depends on the “ultimate authority” of screeners at the facility, said Capt. Wilske, but even if they are not booked, and released to their parents, that doesn’t mean they’re getting off without prosecution – police still file reports and prosecutors review them for charges. There’s also a “complex system” of potential services to try to get young offenders back on track.

‘PICKUP HIT BY BULLETS’ CASE: The SPD reps were asked about the circumstances surrounding the recent case of a pickup truck hit by gunfire, described on SPD Blotter (as reported here) as likely “related to ongoing gang activity.” CPT Officer Jon Flores said the concern in the area had involved “particularly one apartment complex (and) kids who may or may not have been gang members,” with police educating property managers there about their ability to kick out non-residents. He added that “the victim whose vehicle got shot was not willing to provide a whole lot of information.”

PROBLEM VEHICLE: An attendee brought up the recent WSB Forums discussion of an aggressive driver, and asked if it were really true that nothing could be done unless an officer actually witnessed the aggressive-driving behavior. The attendee said she believed police were aware of the driver because a dispatcher had been heard (via scanner) mentioning a specific plate number. It was explained that without catching the driver in the act, police wouldn’t be able to prove who was driving; however, given information about the vehicle and owner, they could potentially make a “social contact,” aka a “knock and talk.” The attendee planned to follow up with the Community Police Team.

MORE TO COME: The meeting did turn out to have a special guest – from the Crisis Clinic – and we’ll write separately about the information she provided.

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West Seattle Crime Prevention Council: Trends, concerns, SPD hiring http://westseattleblog.com/2014/03/west-seattle-crime-prevention-council-trends-concerns-spd-hiring/ http://westseattleblog.com/2014/03/west-seattle-crime-prevention-council-trends-concerns-spd-hiring/#comments Sun, 23 Mar 2014 02:05:48 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/?p=268091 By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

Not so many property-crime reports in West Seattle Crime Watch lately, and the report from Southwest Precinct Operations Lt. Ron Smith (photo left) at this week’s WS Crime Prevention Council offered one reason why: The criminals just haven’t been as busy.

Might be this month’s almost-record-setting rain, Lt. Smith acknowledged, but whatever the case, burglaries in the week preceding Tuesday’s meeting were down to 6 from the average 9 – “we’d like to get to zero,” he noted, mentioning that the SW Anti-Crime Team is “going after people related to a theft ring, on top of burglary, stolen property, narcotics … there will be some search warrants served.” (Whether that’s related to the 32nd/Juneau bust reported here Thursday night, we’re still trying to find out.)

Auto-theft cases in the preceding week were down as well, Lt. Smith reported – 5, compared to the average 8; non-residential burglaries average 2, and there had been one.

Community concerns voiced immediately after the crime-trends briefing included local parks – questions about the gate at Hamilton Viewpoint Park in North Admiral not being locked at night, and about unlocked bathrooms at Roxhill Park late at night. Lt. Smith and Community Police Team Officer Jon Flores promised to check into both.

The meeting’s featured guests were from the Seattle Police recruiting team – talking about how SPD finds, screens, trains, and hires candidates.

Hiring is a critical issue for the department, they explained, since there are about 200 members of the force – nearly 1 in 6 – who are eligible for retirement or almost there. And the time between application and hiring, for qualified candidates, is up to 10 months, followed by more than 4 months in the academy, and five more months of training, resulting in about a year and a half between application and hiring. So they are scouring the community for potential new hires, and have a website – seattlepolicejobs.com.

Officers Sonya Fry and Andre Sinn (photo right) were accompanied by Detective Kevin Nelson, whose specialty is background-checking candidates. This year, they’re hoping to hire 85 new officers, and up to 75 each of the next two years, but that’s not as easy as simply putting out the call. Even before a candidate gets to the academy, there are written, video, and physical-agility tests; an oral board; extensive background checks; polygraph; psychological and physical examinations. To be a sworn officer, you have to be a US citizen, and have a driver’s license. There are also criteria such as, if you have a history of marijuana use, you can’t have used it for the past year (used to be three years, the officers said), nor more than 25 times in 10 years.

For the test this past February, 1,300 people applied; 500 showed up; 200 failed written and video testing, so it was down to 300 going into the physical-agility test. Overall, one new officer results from each 20 or so applicants.

Officers Fry and Sinn go everywhere they can to recruit; even the visit to the Crime Prevention Council was in hopes the word will get out about this possible career, and their upcoming calendar includes going to the Northwest Women’s Show. (They were asked how many applicants are female and said they didn’t have that statistic, but did say women comprise 14 percent of the current force.)

No age limit, by the way, they told the WSCPC attendees: “We have some joining after they retire from the military, starting a second career in law enforcement.” The minimum age is 20 1/2, so that you’ll be over 21 by the time of potential hiring.

If you’re interested in a specialty, such as CSI, that’s not going to happen right from the start – everyone begins as a patrol officer. After three years, you can go to “detective school” – that rank, by the way, is the same level as patrol officer. (We didn’t realize this until testimony in the murder trial we’re covering, in which a detective testified about being supervised by a sergeant.)

What are the rules about hair? asked one woman in attendance. “Has to be off your collar,” replied Officer Fry. She talked about her fitness regime and how it’s important to “stay in shape so I can run after the 18-year-olds who are running away from me.” Lots of CrossFit training, she noted, saying later that she’s been on the force nine years (Officer Sinn and Det. Nelson are both 15-year veterans).

Can you ask to be assigned to the Southwest Precinct? asked another attendee.

Lt. Smith answered that one: “It’s a hard precinct to get assigned to; the officers that work here love this community – (as opposed to other areas) you guys wave at us with all your fingers!” Though he’s way up the ladder now, he said he enjoyed old-time police work – “walking the beat, talking to people.” (Every summer we’ve tabled at West Seattle Summer Fest, he’s supervised the on-scene officers, which meant a LOT of talking to people, including those who show up at the Information Booth with an urgent problem such as a lost child.)

If recent publicity related to the Department of Justice supervision of SPD has made you wonder about a preponderance of questionable people on the force, Det. Nelson plaintively tried to counter that, saying, “I wish people knew how much we are able to screen people who shouldn’t be out there,” and making it clear the process does catch a lot of unsuitable candidates.

TESTING DATES THIS YEAR: For entry-level candidates, July 12th and October 4th; for “lateral” candidates – who are or have been part of other law-enforcement departments – September 19th-22nd.

NEXT WSCPC MEETING: The council meets the third Tuesday of each month, and president Richard Miller tells WSB that he’s confirmed guests from the SPD Crisis Intervention team for the next meeting, April 15th (7 pm, SW Precinct).

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