Gatewood neighbors have just met to plot strategy to fight burglars who have struck repeatedly in the past two weeks. One of them just sent us a full report with details, plans, even a plea to Mayor Nickels — read it all, one click away:
In the past two weeks the Gatewood neighborhood has been hit by a string of seven home burglaries. The brazen nature of these break-ins - during both day and night, the same residence burgled twice (when the residents were home), suspects hanging around properties waiting for the owners to leave, etc. has alarmed many.
On May 25th about 35 Gatewood residents met to discuss the events and plan a response. It was the first time many of the neighbors had met, and some interesting discussions emerged from the gathering.
A recurring theme of the meeting was the need to be proactive. Residents were told repeatedly to use 911 to report any suspicious activity. 911 incidents are a major flag for determining resource allocations in a precinct, and with burglaries up 34% in West Seattle over 2006 but officer staffing levels static, using 911 appropriately is critical if West Seattle is to receive proper police attention.
The Southwest Precinct does not have dedicated resources, and currently shares them with the South Precinct. West Seattle is a hilly region and some homes are hard to find, or do not show up on the police mapping system. During one of the recent incidents, it took 35 minutes for the police to arrive because they didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t have the street in their system.
If you think your home may be difficult to find, call the Southwest Precinct at 733-9800, give them your address, and ask them to read you directions to your home. If they can’t find you or the directions are poor, call the main SPD office at 625-5011 and provide the directions yourself. A notes section will then be added to your address.
Residents at the meeting were also told to be proactive if police do arrive to investigate a break-in. For instance, respectfully insist that officers dust for fingerprints. Citizens may think this always happens as a matter of course but that’s often not the case, depending on the officer.
The police also do not have enough staff to consistently monitor pawn shops for stolen goods. If you had your camera, laptop, power tools, jewelry or other typically pawned items stolen, check the pawn shops yourself within a few days of the crime. Also check for your items on Craigslist. It’s vital that you keep serial or model numbers or other identifying information for your valuables in a secure location.
Tips on improving home security and property visibility were distributed. Residents left the meeting with the following action items:
-Create and distribute flyers detailing the recent break-ins.
-Notify neighbors who were not at the meeting.
-Notify neighborhood block watch.
-Write to the mayor’s office, the SPD and local precincts, the City Council, and state representatives. A sample of the letter is enclosed below.
-Finally, the oldest proactive tip in the book: communicate more with your neighbors.
(below is the suggested letter neighbors are sending to leaders)
Mayor Nickels, we need your help! Home burglaries in West Seattle are at an all-time high with more than 255 reports since January and 53 in April alone.
While we applaud the Seattle Police for reducing home burglaries in nearly every precinct year to date, the Southwest Precinct has seen more than 34% increase this year alone (according to SPD Crime Capsule April 2007).
Our Gatewood Hill neighborhood (from California to 35th and Morgan to Holden) has been hit especially hard. We have seen the same houses hit several times, with more than 7 houses in a two block radius in one week. The suspects are hitting both during the day and night with no regard to whether folks are home. It is an alarming trend and one we would like your help in controlling before someone gets hurt.
There are numerous block watches in affect and a recent citizen’s group is now rallying to help spread the word as well. Our goal is not to be vigilantes, but rather stay aware and use our voice wherever possible to help make a change.
With Gatewood School literally one block from this hard hit area, we are concerned with kids returning home from school to find someone in their home. And with summer break approaching we are concerned more than ever as these kids play in the front and back yards and possibly get placed in harm’s way.
We need your help. Additional officers, additional patrols and community meetings would be a great start, but we also need your commitment to continue to allocate resources to the areas hardest hit – and with a 34% increase it isn’t hard to see that West Seattle is place to focus immediately.
While we recognize your Neighborhood Policing Plan is in effect and scheduled to ramp up 105 more officers from 2008 to 2012, we need your help now. We thank you for helping to make this a safe place to call home, and look forward to your response on ways to make this happen.