‘Nickelsville’ police patrols: What Southwest Precinct commander told the Block Watch Captains Network tonight

By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

“A lot of this is policy” – and not policy made by Seattle Police.

That was a caveat tonight from Southwest Precinct commander Capt. Joe Kessler, when asked about the “Nickelsville” encampment’s status, following Mayor McGinn‘s new directive for more patrols (WSB Monday report), in the wake of the encampment declaring itself “overrun” with “meth dealers and violent, barred former campers” (WSB Sunday report).

Capt. Kessler was at the West Seattle Block Watch Captains Network meeting primarily for a get-acquainted event; the group was created in the time between his unprecedented two tours of duty at one precinct, something he says no SPD commander has done before. But in light of our coverage the past few days, WSBWCN co-founder Deb Greer asked him what he could tell the group.

First, he noted that the encampment was founded at the same 7116 West Marginal Way SW site during his first year as precinct commander.

As for now – he says behind-the-scenes city leadership strategizing is going on as well as police action. He said he “was in a meeting with the mayor’s senior staff and (Deputy) Chief (Nick) Metz” on Monday afternoon, and that his second-in-command Lt. Pierre Davis had met with the Southwest/South Precincts’ city-attorney liaison Melissa Chin, and that “we’re working through this process right now,” though the “process,” he said, “isn’t necessarily right now within (police’s) bailiwick.”

What is, Kessler said, “is to enforce the laws and (promote) safety.” He refuted allegations that police had not adequately responded to calls from the encampment: “Every call that’s been made, from everyone (there), has been responded to by the Southwest Precinct.”

But again, he said, major decisions on next steps won’t be made at the precinct level: “We’re in active discussions right now with the mayor’s office and city attorney’s office to figure out where they want to go … our role will be as part of the team, but we’re not the decisionmakers.”

Officers are “patrolling around” the encampment, Capt. Kessler confirmed, adding that “the mayor is accurate in saying we are making it one of our priority spots to make sure we are having a visible presence as much as we can – but that doesn’t mean we’re not going to patrol the (other) areas where we have emerging crime problems.”

To the Nickelsville Central Committee open letter last weekend accusing police of thwarting camp attempts at self-policing by not supporting “eviction” decisions, as reported in our Sunday story: “That is public property; it’s owned by the City of Seattle. There is no legal ability for anyone who is staying there – they are not landlords, so there is no legal ability for their (people) or for my officers to go there and actually evict somebody from public property, it’s not the same as if someone is at your house – so whatever rules are in place (at the encampment) are not legal rules. We still operate under the rule of law and we still have all the things that officers are well versed in their legal responsibilities and what they can and can’t do. … In all our discussions with the mayor and the city attorney’s office, everyone is on the same page.”

Another trouble spot came up at tonight’s meeting – 15th and Holden in Highland Park. That report is coming up later. Meantime, Nickelsville is scheduled to be discussed during Wednesday night’s Highland Park Action Committee meeting (7 pm, HP Improvement Club, 12th/Holden); HPAC has previously told the city that other communities should take turns hosting the encampment, and also has surveyed community members for their thoughts.

18 Replies to "'Nickelsville' police patrols: What Southwest Precinct commander told the Block Watch Captains Network tonight"

  • JoAnne March 27, 2013 (8:34 am)

    Yes, everyone is on the same page, and that page is the one where Mayor McGinn is cowering at the thought of the camp being renamed “McGinnville.”
    All of these people have been offered shelter and refused because they are doing activities not allowed in a shelter.
    This center of violence, abuse, filth, crime, and drug activity will go on unabated. It is too politically risky to allow the police to do their job and clear out that camp.

  • miws March 27, 2013 (9:11 am)

    Joanne, please link us to the documentation showing that all Nickelsville residents have been offered shelter options?



  • JoB March 27, 2013 (9:59 am)


    i agree that Nickelsville is a political sticky wicket… but find it difficult to buy lumping all of “those people” together in one larcenous lump.

    is it possible some of those people have been offered shelter and have not taken it because they have been coerced and/or intimidated?

    is it also possible some of the activities that prevent some campers from using our shelter system are reasonable when viewed on an individual basis.. like long term pets they don’t want to surrender to shelters, family members they don’t want to jettison, health conditions that would be worsened in the close quarters of a shelter, families that want to stay intact in spite of possible past convictions of one family member, people who want to hold down jobs that don’t conform to the lock down and unlock times set at shelters?

    the assumption is that homeless people who do not fit in our existing shelter system are doing something wrong. I found the reality to be that they are often doing something right.

    If the goal is to clean Nickelsville up, you would be better served encouraging your neighbors to contact the city atty’s office and our local police any information they have, no matter how trivial, that would lead to the arrests of those perpetrating that illegal behavior.

    JoAnne Brayden aka JoB

    • WSB March 27, 2013 (10:09 am)

      Temporary shelter, the availability seems to wax and wane. But while covering the run-up to the now-under-way construction of a DESC permanent-housing building in Delridge, I heard it mentioned time and again that there is a long waiting list for permanent shelter. The 60+ people who will get the Delridge units are most likely on lists now, even though it won’t open till next year. While Nickelsville – in its ideal conceptual state, not certainly in what’s being described as its state now – was not intended as permanent, I know it had been described as something longer-term than “we’ll give you a bed for the night,” especially with the Small Simple Structures. It’s costing millions of dollars to house just those 60+ people who will get the DESC units; if I recall the SSS pricetags correctly, structures for that many wouldn’t even hit six figures. Just a datapoint – TR

  • joel March 27, 2013 (10:53 am)

    when it’s 2 years later and Tuff Sheds have taken the place of tents it’s much more than ‘temporary shelter’.

    so the city is strapped for money, they have a piece of land supposedely for sale…a.k.a. nicksville…that should be vacant and they have a buyer for it (food lifeline) and they refuse to sell the property?

    let’s see Option #1 –

    make money selling the land, build a structure and create jobs and get permit/building fees, have a company employing people and providing a service to the community

    BUT that would make too much sense and then we’d be using tax payer money responsibly and you know governments aren’t allowed to do that so let’s do option B.

    let’s have debris and pallet fences and methheads there instead. have a tax liability instead of making money and cleaing up the place…oh and then possibly be in compliance with city code for what the land is intended to be used for.

  • My two cents ... March 27, 2013 (11:51 am)

    I think that the ‘Nickelsville Central Committee’ needs to start fresh with a lot of things – first on the list? Rename the encampment/whatever-is-the-correct-term —- the ‘Nickelsville’ term is out-dated, and enough time has gone by where it comes across as rather mean-spirited and petty. It’s not very fair to place the blame on one person when it is more of a societal issue/concern. I never was a fan of Mr. Nickels, but he still deserves a certain level of respect.

    The continued use of the term frankly turns me off a bit on their cause, purpose. The ‘Central Committee’ needs to look at what type of image they are portraying overall with their community and ensure that they stay on the positive side of public opinion (as much as possible).

  • JoB March 27, 2013 (2:17 pm)

    two cents
    like it or not Nickeslville has name recognition nationwide… and most people associate it with a Nickel not our ex-mayor.

  • Dave March 27, 2013 (2:22 pm)

    ‘Another trouble spot came up at tonight’s meeting – 15th and Holden in Highland Park. That report is coming up later.’ Good to hear. I’m curious when/if the Chief of Police will declare this property at 7701 15th AVE SW a chronic nuisance property under SMC 10.09. Have you been able to contact the owners? http://info.kingcounty.gov/Assessor/eRealProperty/Dashboard.aspx?ParcelNbr=2112700005

    • WSB March 27, 2013 (2:33 pm)

      Police say so far it doesn’t qualify as a bonafide nuisance property. They are working with the owner.

  • Hilari March 27, 2013 (2:42 pm)

    Folks who live at that property use the alley between 14th and 15th, which is unused because it doesn’t go through beyond Elmsgrove, as cover for drinking and drugging. We’ve called cops, to no avail. We recognize the cars we report back there as belonging to that property on 15th and Holden.

  • Interesting March 27, 2013 (6:28 pm)

    One evening a while back, I passed a teenage girl, naked, crying, wrapped in a small towel running away from someone on Holden near 15th. We pulled over and called 911 and another Good Samaritan pulled over and wrapped her in a blanket she had in her car while we waited for police. It was a shift change, so emergency response was delayed. We decided to just take her to the fire station nearby. It was clear then, that something bad was going on around there. That young girl was scared and while she didn’t appear to have physical injuries in the dark, she was running naked away from someone.

  • JoAnne March 27, 2013 (7:34 pm)


    Have you ever tried to find shelter for a homeless person. I have, and it is not that hard.
    A person has to be extremely naive or really ignorant of the situation with the homeless to believe that these people truly have no other alternatives than living in a tent.
    Between governments and private charities, there are well over 50 different groups that house and shelter homeless people in Seattle/King County.
    Private orgs includ Lutheran Compass Center, Jubilee Center, Noel House, Roots Shelter, Kerner Scott, Union Gospel, Salvation Army, St. Vincent De Paul, YMCA/YWCA, etc. etc. etc.
    The Seattle Housing Authority has at least 30 different buildings/complexes, and DESC has at least 10.
    There is a huge difference between helping those who need a hand up and being conned by criminals who just want to continue their destructive behavior at someone else’s expense.

  • JoB March 27, 2013 (8:10 pm)


    Mike was a homeless person for a while.

    In spite of a severe medical condition that would have killed him had he spent the time outside,

    he and about a half dozen of his friends spent considerable time and effort trying to find him housing last year….

    it took a very long time.

    We were all truly “extremely naive” and “really ignorant of the situation” before that experience.

    We no longer are.

  • miws March 27, 2013 (10:24 pm)

    Joanne, as JoB stated, I was Homeless.


    Yes, there are shelters out there. I spent much of last year in a transitional shelter. It was a clean, safe, well run one that offered a Case Manager, other Staff, decent meals, etc.


    I got into that shelter via a referral, from respite care, after a relapse of pneumonia, and hospitalization, a month after my previous bout, and hospitalization. I was allowed a few extra days in respite, due to the lobbying of friends, because going back to Nickelsville would have surely resulted in yet another bout of pneumonia.


    After release from respite, it was off to DESC Downtown on 3rd Av. I can’t speak for the other DESC facilities, but that one was not a healthy place to be, for both physical health, and mental health. Who knows how long I would have been there, it it weren’t for friends getting me out of there after only two days, upon hearing from Nickelsville residents, how bad it was.


    Once again, my friends stepped in, to get me a rental room until a spot opened up in transitional. That ended up taking two months, after calling in twice a week, to move my name up on their list. We had also checked out other transitional and temporary housing options, and got the pre-apps in for SHA, and King County Housing.


    A person has to be extremely naive or really ignorant of the situation with the homeless to believe that these people truly have no other alternatives than living in a tent.


    Actually, a person has to be quite naive to think these alternatives are easily available, and accessible, and are relatively clean and safe. Many shelters/transitional housing options have certain requirements, many are gender specific, some have a age restrictions, some are reserved for Veterans, some are for folks with mental issues, some for folks with addiction issues. Subsidized housing in general; 3-5 year waiting lists.


    As hard as I worked to become self-sufficient again, I was very lucky as well. I had the help of friends, and a lot of other things just fell into place. Not everyone is so fortunate. I was awarded my SSDI within three months, of my first and only application, many people wait years, and are denied several times. I was truly expecting at least one denial, as from what I’d heard, it would happen almost automatically.


    Once awarded, I was able to stay in my transitional housing, as I was being given a year there, and even though I was paying them a percentage of my income, I was able to save money to put toward permanent housing.


    Again, luck was in my corner, when I was able to find a decent, non-subsidized apartment I could afford, back in West Seattle, three and a half months before my time would have been up at transitional.


    Again, not every one is so lucky.



  • JoAnne March 28, 2013 (8:15 am)

    You are both proving my point.
    It is not healthy for anyone to live outside in a tent year-round, and Mike’s situation, if anything, just illustrates that point.
    Real services are not just luck. They work for people like Mike, who really want to be independent and are willing to work to get there.
    If the DESC facility was not a healthy place to be, then how healthy is an outdoor tent city where residents have no rights or protections at all?
    Some ideas do not work, period. Nickelsville has not helped homeless people. It presents an ongoing threat to its own residents and the community, and is a magnet for predators and opportunists.

    • WSB March 28, 2013 (8:22 am)

      For those following the story, I am working on the next followup right now, including a letter to us from the Central Committee with their side of the March 17th incident featured in a police report excerpted in our Sunday report, as well as their assessment of things are going now, and a letter they sent to police March 19th, plus what the Highland Park Action Committee discussed last night regarding Nickelsville and potential future action. – TR

  • M March 28, 2013 (3:08 pm)

    Ok it’s time to close this thing down. I’m tired of wasting my tax dollars on it. If the City is so “strapped for cash” then all the more reason. I too am strapped for cash also but my property taxes keep going up

  • T Rex March 29, 2013 (8:28 am)

    I feel for these people however, I have seen two women asking for money who claim to be pregnant.

    That was the final straw for me, angry if they are lying, even more angy if they are homeless AND pregnant. Good Lord.

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