West Seattle Crime Watch: Neighbor thwarts theft

Out of the WSB inbox, from Mary, who tried a simple tactic to stop would-be thieves:

About 2:00 (Tuesday afternoon) I heard a vehicle stop in the alley next to my home, (in the Westwood neighborhood) and looked out to see 2 men taking something heavy from my neighbors’ yard and loading it into their pickup truck. Just as I got outside and to the alley, they were driving off, but stopped when I spoke to them. I asked if they had permission to take “that thing.”

I didn’t know what it was, because it was wrapped in black plastic – an indication to me it was something my neighbor wanted. After conferring with each other in Spanish, the driver said no, so I told them to put it back. I just pointed and demanded, and they put it back! I told them they couldn’t take things without asking, and they said OK, sorry, they didn’t think anyone wanted it, goodbye, and drove off.

I called the SPD non-emergency line, and they recommended calling 911 if it happens again, as a “theft in progress.” So watch for 2 polite Hispanic men, mid-20s or so, in a brown Chevy pickup with a white canopy, damage to the driver-side hood and bumper, passenger-side glass replaced with plastic, missing one passenger-side canopy window. License # given to police. If you see them taking something, try telling them to put it back. I didn’t want them to return and take my neighbor’s construction trailer or little boat too.

Before publishing this, we followed up with Mary to see if she had checked with her neighbors later. She had – and confirmed the item in question (a sink) was NOT anything they had given anyone permission to take, and was indeed something they wanted to keep. It’s now someplace more secure.

P.S. The West Seattle Crime Prevention Council meets next Tuesday, January 17th, 7 pm, at the Southwest Precinct (Webster/Delridge).

31 Replies to "West Seattle Crime Watch: Neighbor thwarts theft"

  • AlkiMac January 11, 2012 (5:22 am)

    Well done, Mary! What a wonderful neighbor you are. You’re a shining example to us all. Thank you.

  • Aman January 11, 2012 (7:46 am)

    Good work Mary!

  • Jim January 11, 2012 (8:14 am)

    People do leave stuff on the curb quite often and there are folks who make the rounds looking for this free stuff. This sounds just ambiguous enough that it makes me uncomfortable to brand these guys as thieves.

  • WSB January 11, 2012 (8:41 am)

    It was not on the curb, according to Mary. It was in her neighbors’ yard.

  • Jim January 11, 2012 (8:51 am)

    That last paragraph indicated that it wasn’t that obvious – she had to check with her neighbors to confirm that they intended to keep it and they moved it to a more secure location. It sounds possible that someone who salvages might have mistaken it for a giveway, especially if they were coming down the alley.

    My point is not that she didn’t help out (or that it wouldn’t be obvious to some people) but that it’s possible that this was an honest mistake. If I made an honest mistake I wouldn’t want my description broadcast to the community along with the warning that I am a thief. That’s a serious accusation, especially when you consider that they didn’t actually steal anything.

    “Would-be thief” seems more appropriate for someone caught crawling through a side-window.

  • paknabrik January 11, 2012 (9:20 am)

    These “salvagers” regularly canvass inside the fence of my property. I have moved them along several times after pointing out the no trespassing sign which they seem unable to see. If it is not yours, not on the curb or by the dumpster, or it doesn’t have a free sign on it, then it is theft to take it.

  • Jim P. January 11, 2012 (9:24 am)

    If you have to enter someone’s property without their leave to “get” an item, I’d call it theft.

    Some people have a more casual definition of “abandonded” just as they do about “mine” vs. “yours” but once you cross the property line, to me, it is no longer a grey area absent a large sign saying “Help yourself”.

    As I understand it, “theft” is defined as a taking of property without permission with the intent of depriving the owner of its use permanently. That is, you take it and have no intention of ever returning it.

    Thus “joy-riding” is not the same as car theft from a legal perspective. (Note: I am most deinitely not a lawyer.)

  • wsguy January 11, 2012 (9:29 am)

    trolling neighborhood, removing items without permission, yeap you caught thieves steeling from your neighbor. nice job-thank you. hopfully next time they get arrested. this someone said i can take it doesn’t play for one minute.

    • WSB January 11, 2012 (9:40 am)

      Just heard a scanner call about something similar-sounding, on Holly Place SW. Meantime, one thing I do take to heart from Jim P’s comment, I’ve changed to “thwarts theft” instead of “thieves,” since perhaps these gentlemen never have actually stolen something. – TR

  • really? January 11, 2012 (10:30 am)

    well actually, they did steal the sink. they took it, loaded it onto their truck and were ‘driving away’. they just got caught, THEN they put it back. it does not negate the theft. it also seems like they may have cased the area ahead of time, because they had the vehicle and the manpower to take the heavy item, and knew what it was underneath the plastic.
    thanks for the heads up.

  • Brandon January 11, 2012 (10:35 am)

    I have seen that truck before wandering through alley’s by 47th and Hinds. I also called the police and told them the License #.

  • CB January 11, 2012 (10:45 am)

    Funny how there are always apologists for the thieves.

  • Jim January 11, 2012 (11:12 am)

    I am an apologist for getting the whole story. When I read the initial blog post I felt that there may have been some confusion because the person who reported the incident asked the neighbor if they intended to give away the sink (you wouldn’t ask your neighbor that if the sink was in the garage or some other obviously off-limits area) and the neighbor subsequently moved the sink to a different location (the implication being that the sink was in an area where it might be mistaken again for a giveaway).

    That ambiguity in the story followed by the certainty that these guys were thieves was what caught my attention.

    • WSB January 11, 2012 (11:33 am)

      I asked Mary after she sent me the first note if she had talked to her neighbors yet – at the time it was the middle of the day, but by the time I had a chance to think about publishing it, it was evening, and if they work days, I’d expect they’d be home. I was, in fact, seeking out the whole story, making sure that somehow the neighbors hadn’t hired junk haulers and told them to go into a yard and remove an item. Stranger things have happened. She said she had talked to them by then, and that’s what I added. I would expect that if my neighbors caught someone stealing something from my yard, I would tell them about it. – TR

  • AIDM January 11, 2012 (12:03 pm)

    It pisses me off when people make it seem like walking into someone’s yard and taking something out of it is not stealing. I have seen this specific truck on 2 occasions and have taken pictures of the truck, the guy, and his license plate. The picture included a bike and a scooter piled amongst the junk in the truck bed. It is absolutely moronic to suggest that people put things in their back yard because they want someone to take them. When I give something away, I put it in the parking/planting strip with a big sign that says “free”!

  • marty January 11, 2012 (12:05 pm)

    I TOTALLY agree with Jim. I’m sure They only planned to “borrow” the sink for awhile and then bring it back. Or maybe they planned to donate it to a deserving charity. Either way would justify entering a yard without permission. Sheesh!!!

  • Swiss miss January 11, 2012 (12:30 pm)

    I saw that truck in my ally yesterday! I live on 48th and my ally is a dead end and we don’t get a lot of traffic that’s why I noticed it. They turned around in my drive way. Just thought it was a lost yard clean up crew because of the truck. I agree If you have to go on to some ones property to remove somthing it is not the same as a curbed item and IS theft.

  • Jim January 11, 2012 (12:41 pm)

    You guys are missing my point. Do you confirm with your neighbor that they want to keep the stuff in their yard and not have it stolen? What was the original unsecure location? Do thieves who are driving away stop to talk politely with the neighbor? It sounded to me like the sink was POSSIBLY sitting in the alley. It didn’t add up for me and I commented because it seemed over the top to give their descriptions and label them thieves.

    My comment was about whether the circumstances warranted identifying these guys and singling them out for public condemnation. If they entered the yard then it’s theft and it’s warranted.

  • waterworld January 11, 2012 (3:26 pm)

    Jim, I’m with you on this one. When I read the initial post, I did not think there was enough information to be confident that the men intended to steal. Is it possible that they were telling the truth when they were confronted? Sure it’s possible. They could have lied to Mary or just driven off, but they didn’t do that. I wasn’t there, so I can’t judge their credibility.
    Does that mean they are innocent? No. Fortunately for us Americans, though, if you are accused of a crime, you are presumed to be innocent until it has been proven beyond a reasonable doubt that you are guilty. So before I branded someone a thief, I would want more information (such as the precise location and overall condition of the thing in black plastic and the behavior of the men at the scene) and I would want to assess the credibility of the two men, if they were willing to talk. If I had any reasons to doubt their guilt at that point, then I would have to say that they shouldn’t be considered thieves.
    When I read stories like this, my first thought is the same as a lot of you — that these men were stealing. Then I apply the test of “what if this was a story about my brother?” How much and what kind of evidence of guilt would it take to convince me that my own brother was purposefully stealing from people? It’s a useful test, because I really would presume my brother was innocent until someone really proved it to me that he wasn’t. When I apply that test here, I just can’t say I know enough to convince me. And I sure do hope that if it ever happens to me that my neighbors will judge me by a similar standard.

  • Jim January 11, 2012 (4:20 pm)

    …especially since these guys seem to be known/recognized by so many people in their neighborhood.

  • AIDM January 11, 2012 (4:39 pm)

    But this is exactly the point guys… they continue to operate at large because they are willing to put the things back when they get caught and act like it was a big misunderstanding. I worked at a grocery store when I was a kid and virtually everyone who got caught shoplifting who was an adult acted as if there was some sort of big misunderstanding and then offered to pay for the merchandise. It is simply a very effective way of avoiding arrested and prosecution.

    I’m not saying that these guys are the number one menace to West Seattle, but they have been told on countless occasions that what they are doing is illegal and they continue to do it.

  • Jim January 11, 2012 (4:51 pm)

    The SPD won’t arrest them for trespassing? It’s clear enough that it’s private property.

  • Jim January 11, 2012 (5:12 pm)

    Hopefully my last post to explain why I’ve been following this all day.

    I’m not defending criminal behavior nor am I trying to subtly redefine it. I’m just not comfortable with the WSB (which reaches at least 10,000 people daily) providing a single account of the incident and pre-empting the police and the judicial system to tell 10,000 locals that these guys are thieves. “IF” there was a misunderstanding then it seems to me that this is defamation.

  • Val January 11, 2012 (8:33 pm)

    Thank you, Mary! Harm done – None. Good done – Much. __Respect goes ‘down the tubes’ when anyone speaks another language to their ‘compadre’ right in front of you – especially when it is apparent they also speak English. Huh? ‘them’ and ‘us’? An honest mistake is readily apparent and openly discussed without hesitation. If the thing was by the garbage can – these guys would have said so. Something that big/heavy (needed 2 guys to pick up) to get rid of is ADVERTISED – EVERYBODY puts the sign FREE on – obviously so you don’t have to pay to take it to the garbage dump, yourself. AND – it wouldn’t have been COVERED with a BLACK BAG. (WHAT! – a sink’s gonna get dirty and wet?!) If they were honest – they would have left their name and number with Mary to have the ‘owner’ of the sink call them when the owner got home. Instead, they dropped the thing and ran – knowing they were identified and maybe Mary’s loud words attracted other people to the window. What Mary has done has illuminated the fact that there is a ‘neighborhood’ watch – for anybodies who just might be ‘casing’ the joints/places for anybody else’ stuff – in their own backyards. It is STUPID to give the benefit of the doubt – when there is justification of a doubt -and there was. (What the heck? Is this Alice in Wonderland? Oh, NO! – Like thefts aren’t happening all around the place in this current economy! Give benefit of a doubt – for a theft? or more? WHAT?! ) And – it could be dangerous. It is wise to be alert, verbal and ready to take it to ‘task’ if the need be. THAT’s what HONEST people DO!

  • Original WS Blog WSGUY January 11, 2012 (8:45 pm)

    Thieves plain and simple.

    To the person posting as “wsguy” – I have been posting for years under that name and am registered with the blog to post as wsguy in the forums.

    Feel free to contact me at wsguy@comcast.net.

    To friends who have asked about these posts especially the spelling and grammar – it wasn’t me…

  • Shannon January 11, 2012 (9:37 pm)

    I totally agree with you Jim. At the end of the day, people need to realize that this is a neighborhood blog, taking “Mary’s” account of things to repeatedly back up “Mary’s” story. I think it would have been more responsible to include more facts.
    I’m glad people are arguing about though. It means they care. People need to remember that “news” can be heresay, gossip, or reporter biased. Demand more facts people!

    • WSB January 11, 2012 (10:01 pm)

      Trying not to debate every point brought up here; I agree with Shannon that it’s great people are interested in the topic.
      In the case of crime, if you discounted what people reported – you would generally have nothing. The only “facts” that exist, for reporting’s sake (unless a reporter happens to be an eyewitness and can state something unequivocally), are a personal account.
      The FACT for purposes of this story is that Mary reported xxx. That doesn’t mean xxx happened. It means: Mary said xxxx happened. We reported what she said. It is a fact that she sent us e-mail saying XXX.
      Want to wait for a police report to be publicly available before you hear about crime or attempted crime? Police reports are little different: Victim X says this. Witness X says this. Here’s what we officer(s) did or did not see. There is little difference between that and a report like this. We choose to publish reports – vetting them very carefully to be sure there are no names or addresses or license plate numbers that would specifically identify a specific person (and this meets that test) – without waiting the three or four days (or longer) it takes for a police report to make it through the system and show up online, when it is this type of crime. The neighborhood watchfulness (ask police) has helped them make progress. We are way beyond the age and time when news doesn’t get out for a week or so. If these guys were stopped and there was no evidence of a crime, there’s little chance they would be arrested or charged. We hear about detainees getting let go all the time.
      If the report comes from someone we know and have covered before – as in this case – that is one extra level of credibility. We have other ways of vetting firsthand reports. I also check to see if the incident map shows that the incident was reported. The narrative takes days (and SPD has a glitch in their system that is not showing any 2012 narratives yet – I’ve reported it!) – but a barebones incident location/type/time makes it onto the city map several hours later, if police were called. That is on the record here: http://web5.seattle.gov/mnm/policereports.aspx
      If something doesn’t pass the smell test, I don’t publish it. Blog is only the publishing format here. This is an editor-managed news site. Nothing gets on the site without getting through an editor. It’s not a free-for-all. I have 30 years of experience as a news manager and run a tighter ship here than in old media.
      We are far from perfect but we report VASTLY – and I don’t use that word lightly – more responsibly than many larger old-media organizations. We don’t identify people before they are charged (unless they are the subject of a manhunt and police ask for help, or the very occasional other exception). We don’t identify victims or witnesses in most cases. We don’t stick our cameras in the face of weeping people. We don’t knock on the doors of victims or their families. I wouldn’t have made the decision our major news partner made to publish the name of the woman who gave birth to the baby of the alleged Mount Rainier ranger killer. Her name was absolutely immaterial to the case – and she went into hiding after it was published, according to a quote in one story. We have strong ethics and we use them. Watch news organizations that just parrot police and others’ news releases; police tend to convict suspects in their copy on SPD Blotter (headline here: http://spdblotter.seattle.gov/2012/01/03/2-burglars-found-hiding-on-rooftop-of-school-arrested ), and more than a few news orgs don’t even bother to throw in an alleged (http://www.seattlepi.com/local/article/Seattle-cops-find-burglars-on-school-roof-2438617.php ). In that case, they ARE matching “burglar” to two actual people who are in custody. In this case, we have nobody in custody and the description is not defaming anyone.
      Anyway, I could go on but there are four more stories to finish in the next few hours. Thanks for caring. – TR

  • greeny pea January 11, 2012 (11:16 pm)

    First off, thank you WSB for ALL the great info you give us. I believe the info on here is so helpful and connects us to one another all the more. From what I’ve read here. I have come to the conclusion that Jim has not been the victim of a theft. When you are the victim, you go over every and any possibility of what, why, when, and how..over a million times in your head. It consumes your very everything. I commend Mary and the WSB for the info so that we may all be advised and informed. Thief or not, keep your eyes open. Now IF we see these characters, we know what were looking at. IF they walk on property or rummage in garbage, we can observe, and make our own conclusion/reaction, along with the info here. We are that much more knowledgable. Again, I thank you for the info, as my home has been gutted, by theft, 2 different times and my car ransacked and pillaged a hand full of times…and let me tell ya, IF I was to encounter any “would-be, might-be, thieves” I will ask questions later, if you get my drift!!! Thanks Mary!!

  • miws January 12, 2012 (8:56 am)

    There is absolutely nothing wrong with constructive criticism, and I knw WSB appreciates it.


    However, I sometimes wonder how long some of the “critics”, constructive or otherwise, have been following WSB, when they make claims such as reporter bias, or that WSB is like many other news organizations that just want to “get a story” without any consideration of the feelings of any victim(s).


    Long time readers can attest to the points that TR addressed above. And to expand on what she mentioned about info coming from known, credible sources, there has been many an incident reported, that WSB didn’t initially disclose all of the info received from the credible source, until that info could be officially confirmed.


    That’s not an insult to the source, it’s an indication of the ethical credibility of a well run news organization.




  • The Original WS Blog WSGUY January 12, 2012 (9:29 am)

    As always a great job WSB – although there may be different opinions as to culpability I for one would rather hear about it and be on the look out for the people identified.

    The more and more I hear about these types of incidents the more grateful I am that I can work from home…

    Neighbors definitely need to look out for each other and challenge suspicious behavior by unknown people in their yards…

  • danny January 12, 2012 (9:56 am)

    i am in the biz of recycleing and pay my bills that way and do ;troll; alleys but i always knock on the door and leave a flyer. my saying is i only take what is offerd and never , never go under plastic tarps. there are a lot of guys and gals doing this and its a great service for those wanting to gid rid of stuff and it keeps it out of the land fill and gets recycled witch is good for the planet. so PLEASE don condem all for the actions of a few. scrapers always get dirt looks from those who don,t get it but at 220 and up to 240 a ton there are time when i have made more in a day then i could in a week,, honestly!!!i am my own boss and pay taxes and i am proud that i am not under a bridge holding a sign so PLEASE when u see me or these guys don,t b so quick to judge. my wife keeps a clean house and we are not scums we are just tryin to make a honest livin. i am always polite and am willin to talk to anybody when i am out there working

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