Highland Park, Westwood councils meet together to focus on fighting, preventing crime

By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

In the city’s stack of neighborhood plans, Highland Park and Westwood share one. Last night, the community councils for the neighborhoods shared a meeting.

More than 40 people in attendance as Highland Park Action Committee‘s regular monthly meeting was joined by Westwood-Roxhill-Arbor Heights Community Council, with the focus on crime fighting and prevention.

Southwest Precinct commander Capt. Steve Wilske, who’s working on neighborhood policing plans as part of a citywide initiative, came with information specific to both areas, as well as updates.

He said that police handle 220 calls a week in Highland Park – but they are NOT all crimes, that also includes other ways in which police are asked to help people. The most common type of incident for which police are called in Highland Park: ‘Suspicious people.” Disturbances, traffic violations, crashes follow. The one area to which police are called most often: Walgreens at 15th/Roxbury.

For Westwood’s hot spot, Roxhill Park, incidents for which police have been called have “skyrocketed” since RapidRide launched in 2012, said Capt. Wilske – “in the area of doubling.” But there’s some recent progress – they’ve helped businesses at Westwood Village implement a “criminal trespass” program at Westwood Village, which will soon expand, and there’s been a 25 percent drop in incidents at the park since sending officers in on bicycles to patrol frequently. Getting bicycles for officers to use when possible has been a focus for Capt. Wilske, and he says a quarter of the precinct staff has volunteered to be involved. This allows officers to get into spots they can’t reach with a car, like paths at Roxhill Park. You’ll see even more officers on bikes and on foot starting within a week or so.

He also said that SPD will help with the effort to get grant money to improve Roxhill Park lighting and will evaluate the transit-hub area there with a CPTED (Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design) eye. At that point, Community Police Team Officer Jon Kiehn explained CPTED (as he’s done at many other community meetings, including multiple presentations for the West Seattle Block Watch Captains Network).

Neighborhood policing: Capt. Wilske’s been talking about this at community meetings around West Seattle and South Park (which together comprise the Southwest Precinct’s coverage area). The plans being drawn up for local neighborhoods, in consultation with community councils for starters, focus on each neighborhood’s most vexing problems, and how those can be tackled for starters. He’s expecting the program to “top out” at about a dozen plans.

Since property crimes are the biggest concern for West Seattle, with a relatively low number of violent crimes, the precinct is using tools including what Wilske mentioned at Tuesday night’s West Seattle Block Watch Captains Network meeting – new fingerprinting kits, a database of repeat offenders, tools you can borrow to engrave your driver’s-license number on valuables, etc.

A key point: Precinct leadership is working with community-council leadership on these plans. So if you have concerns to get addressed, funnel it through your nearest council. The areas with plans so far are determined by places that have an organization with which he can check in. “The idea isn’t to exclude anybody, but there has to be enough organization there to know I’m not marching off in the wrong direction,” said Wilske.

He shared more information about the fingerprinting kits: The only ones available to officers now date as far back as the turn of the millennium, so every Southwest Precinct officer will be getting new kits – “if we can get a fingerprint out of a stolen vehicle, out of a burglary, we can get that person charged if we can match it up to them.” One officer has been working with a sort of pilot version of the kit, and she’ll be involved in putting the right components together for her colleagues.

Officer Kiehn and Crime Prevention Coordinator Mark Solomon (who is accountable for the Southwest and South Precincts) also presented information. Kiehn talked about some of the online tools that we know WSB’ers are already familiar with –

CPT Officer Kiehn told the group about the online crime maps and how you can sometimes get the narrative on reports via that system (with a significant lag – usually at least a few days – he acknowledged). Tweets by Beat also came up, with the caveat that they show the types of incidents that are suspected, without any way for the automated system to correct it later, even if what was thought to be a certain type of incident didn’t turn out to be anything resembling that. (Side note: The West Seattle Tweets by Beat are aggregated in an automatically updated box you can check any time on the WSB Crime Watch page.)

Crime Prevention Coordinator Solomon mentioned some of what he can help with – including helping neighbors set up Block Watches.

Will the city’s Find It Fix It walks come to West Seattle? The most recent one was on Capitol Hill. No new ones on the drawing board yet, the group was told. But the concept of bringing together city agencies/departments to solve problems together, rather than in their respective silos, is being deployed more and more, said Solomon. You do have to have an initial point of contact – with a chronic problem, for example, that would be your Community Police Team officer. (Here’s the contact info.)

The meeting touched on a few non-crime/police topics:

OTHER NOTES: Programs currently active in West Seattle (and elsewhere) got mentions at the meeting – RainWise (a way to install green-stormwater-infrastructure at your home and get a rebate covering much or all of the cost – HPIC got grants for its raingardens and cisterns), Solarize Southwest (the latest group solar buying), the SDOT Play Streets program (you can apply to close your street for events), and the question of whether the West Seattle Transportation Coalition should take a position on Transportation Benefit District Prop 1 – the Seattle-only license-tab-fee/sales-tax-increase measure on the upcoming fall ballot. … Should that aforementioned Westwood/Highland Park neighborhood plan be updated? WWRHAH chair Amanda Kay Helmick suggested it’s time to “start the conversation.”

4 Replies to "Highland Park, Westwood councils meet together to focus on fighting, preventing crime"

  • sophista-tiki September 26, 2014 (3:37 am)

    wish I could have been there. but as usual – working one of my bazillion jobs.

  • Josh September 26, 2014 (9:25 am)

    Regarding Westwood, Roxhill, last week in around 3pm we saw 1) a tent set up on one of the paths, 2) a couple having sex in the bog area, and 3) two drunk guys passed out together near the buss wall… and the funny thing is, at that same time, a patrol car slowly drove through the parking lot, then right back out. No fault there, they couldn’t see what was going on (so the bikes will help)! The bus wall and all the weird stuff it brought certainly deserves a close look/evaluation .

  • Low bridge September 27, 2014 (12:03 am)

    Josh–Why didn’t you call 911 or flag down the police? Sounds like you could definitely see what the patrol car couldn’t. Every single report helps. Obviously you care, you took the time to post here.

  • Thomas M. September 30, 2014 (10:06 pm)

    The Swamp off Barton should be filled, a Park and Ride with Bus Lanes built on it, and the roof made into a green roof. Let the junkies, dealers and weirdos go somewhere else. And throw in a covered skybridge to Westwood Village. What we have now is not a transit center, it’s a disgrace.

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