Community Safety Partnership report #2: “Casing”; burglaries

Good turnout last night for the monthly West Seattle Community Safety Partnership meeting at the Southwest Precinct — including folks who took advantage of the opportunity to directly ask local police leadership about issues in their neighborhood (one attendee was looking for followup on a burglary at his house; the Community Police Team is putting him in touch with detectives). We already reported one update from the meeting last night; here’s what else was discussed, including the briefing on “casing”:

First, some quick notes:

DATES FOR YOUR CALENDAR: The annual Night Out, when neighborhoods get together outdoors to promote Block Watches and safety/watchfulness, is August 5th. (WSB coverage of Night Out 2007 is here; Wednesday afternoon addendum, the link for registering for this year’s Night Out just went out in the Southwest Precinct newsletter — find it here.) Picnic at the Precinct will be in mid-August (the weekend of the 15th; WSB 2007 coverage is here). West Seattleites are invited to join Southeast Seattle in a March for Youth on June 21st to show concern about deadly violence in the SE area; for more info, e-mail The first-ever Officer Appreciation Day, to be coordinated by WSCSP, will be July 15th; at some point before then, they’ll be looking for people to share personal stories, offering a chance for card-signing, etc., so we will keep you updated on that.

DRUG-DEALING HOTSPOTS: Lt. Steve Paulsen mentioned the precinct has three spots where the most trouble seems to erupt — two in West Seattle: 16th from Henderson south to Roxbury, and the 5400 block of Delridge. He says rock cocaine and marijuana are the biggest problem drugs in WS, though there’s heroin trouble in South Park (the third hotspot they watch, since that’s also in the precinct’s territory). Doesn’t mean it’s not happening elsewhere, he said, but those are the epicenters. If you think there’s a particular trouble spot in your neighborhood, call 911 when it’s happening or contact the Community Police Team, which can even pay visits to make themselves known to possible problem people — “Our best weapon is our mouth,” quipped Lt. Paulsen.

SPEAKING OF CALLING 911: You’ve heard it here before and here it is again: Lt. Paulsen stressed, “We LIKE IT when people call the police” but also reiterated that if it is not a “life safety” issue, they may not get dispatched for quite some time. He says they’ve been shorthanded for a while but citywide, 100 new officers are going through training right now and will soon be on the streets, so that will help somewhat, but the prioritization will remain. It’s still important to call because eventually someone will call out and the information will be compiled to help managers like Lt. Paulsen, who is the Operations — as in, logistics, and a lot more — boss at the precinct, decide how best to schedule and deploy their staff for maximum deterrent, prevention, and presence where/when it counts. (He also said that if you ever get pushback from a 911 operator, please let the SW Precinct know, as they promptly issue reminders that they are aggressively asking citizens to call and that such calls are helping solve crimes.)

THE BURGLARY ARRESTS: You’ve read about them here (archives on the WSB Crime Watch page), but listening to Lt. Paulsen and Community Police Team Sgt. Jeff Durden discuss it publicly at last night’s meeting, it’s clear they’re still abuzz about the recent wave of burglary arrests. Not that burglaries are up, Lt. Paulsen clarified — but citizen vigilance is helping them catch more suspects. “Usually we’re lucky if we catch one burglar a month,” he said; but in the past three weeks, they’ve arrested more than a dozen suspects. “Our hats are off to the community” for their watchfulness and help. Another aspect of the recent cases that’s also unusual but not cause for celebration — Sgt. Durden noted, “I’ve never seen this before in my career – we used to tell folks the burglars never come back – but in this string, I’ve seen two cases where either the same suspects came back to the same place, or someone different came to a place hit before.” Police theorize the burglars, almost all of whom they say are under 18, have some means of informally communicating among themselves.

SO WHY DON’T THEY STAY BEHIND BARS? Meeting attendees asked the tough question — and police gently reminded that they don’t have the final say on what happens after suspects, especially juveniles, are arrested; the court system takes over from there. It’s been reported before that the Youth Services Center can even decline a prospective prisoner for any reason; if police call to ask whether they’ll take someone who’s been arrested, it’s totally up to the YSC. If they don’t accept the suspect, they’re then released to their parents.

WHAT YOU NEED TO DO NOW, JUST IN CASE A BREAK-IN HAPPENS TO YOU: Community Police Team Officer Brian Ballew said your chances of getting some of your property back would be increased dramatically if you had the serial numbers. Too many people don’t keep those records, he said, so he urges everyone to set aside some time as soon as they can and write that information down, so that if their property turns up for sale somewhere (online or offline), there’s a better chance of recovering it and tracing it.

As reported and discussed here on WSB in recent weeks, a lot of concern has focused on people going door-to-door, and how to tell the difference between legitimate solicitors/canvassers and people who are casing properties for potential burglaries. If you don’t know whether a solicitor is legitimate, “we have no problem with you calling us,” Lt. Paulsen said. “Go with your gut feeling. If it doesn’t look right to you, call.” Officer Ballew reiterated the rules for solicitors — they have to have a license, and they must display it. A group with multiple solicitors can get just one license, but each individual member has to have and display a copy of it, he said. (After the meeting, he gave us a copy of a pocket-size yellow card that recaps the city rules for “Residential Sales License(s)”; you can find all the same information online here; we have also added that link to the “resources” list at the bottom of the WSB Crime Watch page). There’s no specific information regarding which solicitors are legitimate and which aren’t (as has been pointed out before, even if an organization is working the area for real, there’s nothing to stop someone from using the same name as a cover for casing). Police acknowledge that some casing involves people going up to doors, knocking, and if someone answers, saying “Oh, I must have the wrong house, I was looking for someone else”; they suggest not answering the door if it’s not someone you know (one meeting attendee suggested shouting through the door so the potential casers know someone IS home and don’t proceed to try to break in). And if you’re not home, leaving a radio on so there’s sound from behind the door is a time-honored tactic to try to deter break-ins. The precinct also suggests contacting Crime Prevention Coordinator Benjamin Kinlow to talk about a Block Watch or schedule a residential safety assessment to see where you are at risk.

ONE MORE NOTE: Lt. Paulsen says the precinct and community leaders fought to keep the 16th Avenue Grocery in Highland Park (at Henderson; map) from getting a liquor license, but the state has granted it anyway. “When (that store) didn’t have a liquor license,” he noted, “crime in the area dropped 400 percent.”

AND IF YOU LIVE IN SOUTHEAST WEST SEATTLE: There’s another Community Safety group in the South Delridge/White Center area, and its meeting is coming up at 6 pm Thursday (free dinner!) – St. James Place, 9421 18th Avenue SW.

Report #3 coming up later – Proposed new names for the West Seattle Community Safety Partnership (which also could opt to keep its current one), as displayed at last night’s meeting, and how to have a say before the WSCSP’s next meeting June 17th (7 pm, Southwest Precinct as usual).

4 Replies to "Community Safety Partnership report #2: "Casing"; burglaries"

  • Concerned home owner May 21, 2008 (11:22 am)

    Keep up the good work!

  • 16th & Trenton May 22, 2008 (1:25 pm)

    Regarding the Liquor License at 16th/Henderson

    I cannot believe that with the police and the community out so vehemently against a liquor license at this address–not once, but twice–the state has ignored the case. What is it about a 400% drop in the crime rate that doesn’t make sense.

    (ranting now, sorry)

    If having a liquor license is so crucial to the business’ success, it really just speaks to the amount of alcohol they are going to be moving through.

  • Katy L May 23, 2008 (10:25 am)

    We’ve had a lot of e-mails of fear and concern in our Fairmount Springs neighborhood this past week after a door-to-door salesman came through selling home security systems. An astute neighbor found out he was legitimate and another neighbor bought one of their systems, but I was compelled to contact their corporate office and talk to their regional sales account manager both for the sake of our neighborhood and the company.

    After I told him about the e-mails and concern in our neighborhood this past week (reassuring him that the saleperson in our neighborhood was nice enough–if persistent–and had the appropriate company logo wear on), he said the bottom line is that door-to-door is their most effective way of generating sales, and that all the major security companies use this approach.

    In other words, I’m howling in the wind.


    I asked him if he knew of any copy-cat situations where people were burglarized or otherwise victims of crime by those posing as security salepeople. He said no. He was very polite and said he would pass my concerns along both within his office and to the regional office here in Seattle, but that it was highly unlikely it would change their approach.

    So there you go. It’s hard to fight a big corporation when sales are good.

  • Nobody August 17, 2008 (1:46 pm)

    On 5/23/08 Katy L wrote: “I asked him if he knew of any copy-cat situations where people were burglarized or otherwise victims of crime by those posing as security salepeople.” Yes, there was such a case here in southern California a couple of days ago. A 93-year-old woman shot at (but missed) a burglar who had come to her home earlier in the day trying to sell her an ADT system. She had told him her present system was not connected. You can read about it on

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