By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
The Southwest Precinct‘s commander says extra staffing to protect students – “double the staff on first watch” – will continue “for the foreseeable future.”
That was part of what Capt. Steve Wilske had to say at tonight’s West Seattle Crime Prevention Council meeting. Other measures taken to try to stop the string of robbery/grabbing incidents include instant alerts that he is getting in the case of any crime in which the victim is a juvenile. Updates in the meeting included not only the recent incidents but also last weekend’s South Park homicide plus overall local crime trends:
ROBBERY SERIES: The most recent robbery targeting a student was on February 4th, according to Capt. Wilske. In addition to the two arrests, they’ve also had a search warrant for a vehicle, he said. “We’re making at least a little bit of progress.” Robberies overall have increased citywide, he notes, but here in the Southwest Precinct, there’ve been five in the past week – more than double the usual “2 or so” rate. Three of them started as shoplifting incidents at local supermarkets, which are categorized as robberies once they turn into incidents involving force, actual or implied. The fourth was a case of a son robbing his mother, and there’s been an arrest in that, and the fifth was a 26th/Roxbury purse-snatching attempt targeting a young woman getting off a RapidRide bus.
FEBRUARY 11TH INCIDENTS: Regarding the 26th/Trenton, 25th/Thistle grabbings on the 11th – though the description’s a bit different, Capt. Wilske thinks the same person may be to blame. They don’t seem to be related to the “girl followed off a bus by someone she knows” incident that same day. A detective is handling both of the grabbing cases and updating Capt. Wilske regularly. The “possible exposer” the next day drew such a big response because they already had so many officers in the area. The person disappeared so quickly that he might live in the area or know someone who does, he said.
SOUTH PARK HOMICIDE UPDATE AND OTHER CRIME IN SP: Homicide detectives have the investigation, said Capt. Wilske, which, while a cause of death hasn’t yet been announced, generally confirms it’s being treated as a crime. Investigators have canvassed the area looking for video and other evidence – call the tipline, 206-233-5000, if you have any information. Meantime, he’ll be meeting with South Park residents to talk about other crime concerns, which revolve mainly around “a couple of problem houses.” Community Police Team Officer Jon Flores said the CPT is also stepping up its involvement to help resolve some of the concerns, and the Anti-Crime Team will be involved as well. “Hopefully within the next little while we can report back some victories in South Park – we’ll be working with the community on that.” Capt. Wilske thinks SP will be perfect for a bike team (noting that he was a bicycle officer himself for about two years). He noted later that burglaries in SP are actually down, while saying he knows that’s no consolation to the victims of however many incidents *do* happen.
BICYCLE SQUAD: Two officers currently spend most of their time on bicycles, and local patterns further bolster Capt. Wilske’s hopes of a permanent bike squad – ideally, six officers, he says, though “I have to be careful I don’t (take too many officers away from) 911 response.” The current bicycle-equipped officers’ presence at Westwood Village so far has dramatically reduced the number of incidents happening there. And he’s continuing to get a phone call 24/7 any time a juvenile is victimized.
DRUG CONCERNS AROUND HIAWATHA/ADMIRAL SAFEWAY: Erik Walum from the Hiawatha Community Center Advisory Council asked Capt. Wilske about drug-dealing concerns in that area, and repeated reports including drug paraphernalia/needles found in the community center’s restrooms. He and city attorney liaison Matthew York had an exchange about what happens to juveniles arrested in drug cases – is it true that “nothing will happen to them?” York said, “That’s not true,” though it won’t be a case of long-term detention unless there are extreme circumstances. Arrest and prosecution will still happen, he and Capt. Wilske said. Officer Flores from the CPT said they want to work with the community to “get these individuals identified” and get an investigation going.
PARK SAFETY IN GENERAL: Pete Spalding from the Southwest Precinct Advisory Council asked what can be done as the weather warms up to try to keep problems like car prowls under control. Capt. Wilske’s advice: First – come borrow an engraver and engrave your driver license number on your valuables; second – don’t leave ANYTHING visible in your car. Even if you don’t think it looks valuable, don’t leave it visible, because a car prowler will take the gamble that maybe, just maybe, there’s something inside.
SOME GOOD NEWS: Overall, the rates of burglaries and auto thefts in the Southwest Precinct are both down, and “the property-crime numbers are the lowest in the city, but that doesn’t matter if your place was broken into or you know somebody whose place was broken into.”
RETURN OF THE CHIEF? The captain was asked when Police Chief Kathleen O’Toole might come back, as promised when a protest cut short her West Seattle “community conversation” two weeks ago. He said they’re hoping it will happen within the next few weeks. And they will plan a format so that while “free speech rights are respected,” the meeting can proceed – “how best to protect the rights of everybody,” as city attorney liaison York put it, recalling recent conversations involving the City Attorney’s Office as well as others. “The meeting will occur,” Capt. Wilske promised.
COMMUNITY POLICE TEAM UPDATE: How’s the staffing now? the captain was asked. Reply: Officers Flores and Erin Nicholson are on the CPT now, and Officer Jon Kiehn will rejoin them eventually.
DESC INCIDENTS: One attendee asked how the DESC Cottage Grove Commons housing complex at 5444 Delridge Way SW is working out in terms of emergency calls. Between police and fire, so far they are averaging about 300 visits a year (mostly fire, for medical reasons) – in the first year and a half the facility’s been open, said Capt. Wilske: “We’re there an awful lot.” But he and Officer Flores said they’re working with the staff to try to bring that down and will in fact be joining in a staff meeting later this week. Asked how the rate compares to other DESC facilities around the city, Capt. Wilske said he didn’t have access to that data.
The West Seattle Crime Prevention Council meets third Tuesdays, 7 pm, Southwest Precinct, all welcome.