By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
The Highland Park Action Committee reconvened after summer recess with an information-packed meeting. Crime and safety comprise a major concern, as is the case for most neighborhood groups, so that’s where the meeting on Wednesday night at Highland Park Improvement Club began.
CRIME, SAFETY, AND THE POLICING PLAN: Southwest Precinct Operations Lt. Ron Smith was at HPAC to talk about crime and safety. HPAC meetings previously have been attended by one or both of the Community Police Team officers who, as we’ve reported in coverage of other meetings, have advanced – Erin Nicholson is now an acting sergeant in another precinct, and in line for a promotion; Jonathan Kiehn has been working on a citywide technology-related project. (As he had told the West Seattle Block Watch Captains Network the previous night, there are three “very good candidates” who will get tryouts in the role before they decide who will succeed Nicholson and Kiehn.)
First, it was a review of HP’s “micropolicing plan” – the first version of the plan listed five primary concerns for HP:
1. Property Crimes (including auto theft, burglary, and car prowls)
2. Transient camps in the greenbelt areas
3. Recurring graffiti and property damage at Highland Park Elementary School
4. Drug activity in the parks in the area
5. Traffic and speeding concerns near schools and in residential areas
Lt. Smith pointed out that the concerns all over West Seattle change seasonally – so the plan should be considered “organic,” certain to be modified. Attendee questions/concerns included diversion programs and whether responding officers had any way of knowing the history of ongoing incidents at specific addresses, if they hadn’t been there before. To the latter concern, Lt. Smith said Officer Kiehn is working on a project that could help ensure that any responding officer around the city will have access to that kind of information – a “dashboard” that will bring up more kinds of contextual info. He also said SPD is getting more interdepartmental cooperation than ever before. And, he said, officers are getting more training than ever before – they are all to be trained for crisis intervention, not just some.
One attendee asked about a neighbor shouting racist epithets; Lt. Smith explained that it would have to cross the line of being a threat, or a crime in another way, before being a situation for police.
Then Lt. Smith went through a crime-trends briefing similar to what we’ve reported from the recent West Seattle Crime Prevention Council (WSB coverage here) and West Seattle Block Watch Captains Network (WSB coverage here) meetings, but tackling some of the other categories – domestic violence, for example, is down 55 percent year to year. Non-domestic-violence assault is down about a third. “Crimes against persons” is down 43 percent. Property crimes remain the top concern for every community group, according to Lt. Smith. In this area, residential burglaries are down 15 percent, while nonresidential burglaries are up 36 percent (though that’s not a large number – 15 year-to-date in the Highland Park area); theft/larceny are up 14 percent, 84 year-to-date this year, 74 by this point in 2014. Car prowls are down – 104 to this point last year, 81 this year. Auto theft is holding steady – 82 year to date last year, 81 this year. “They’re stealing cars from the north end (of the city) and dumping them here, then stealing cars here and dumping them in south King County.” Few are stripped – it’s joyriding or otherwise getting from point to point. “A lot of them are juveniles,” said Lt. Smith, asked by an attendee about the general age of thieves.
DUWAMISH CLEANUP UPDATE: EPA reps came to HPAC to find out how the community “might want to be informed and involved” as the Lower Duwamish Cleanup proceeds. They explained that’s a natural evolution of what’s happening as the cleanup moves from input on the plan to execution of it, and invited people to talk about their involvement with and interest in the river. They asked whether people would want health warnings, maritime information, frequent updates, occasional updates, etc. The questions:
1. How do you get info from the EPA?
2. How do you want to be involved in a community advisory group?
3. What kind of information do you want/need about the cleanup? (Health warnings, monitoring data, traffic changes, info on daily activities, job opportunities, cleanup progress)
4. How often do you want to hear about the cleanup?
Asked about specific sources through which they would want to get this kind of info, members mentioned WSB and Facebook. They also suggested speaking to people in simple language, not getting too technical. Boeing, the city, the county, and the port are responsible parties and all need to be getting information out, she said.
Another attendee wanted to know how to find out more about specific contaminated properties in the West Duwamish Greenbelt, which is part of the river’s watershed.
The Duwamish Rowing Club was mentioned by an HPAC attendee as a good source to contact. The vibrant community around the river was mentioned, and the importance of helping them know about the accessibility, the timeline, any limitations, etc.
Community involvement will be vital when the cleanup plan starts getting designed, the EPA reps say, adding that actual cleanup “construction” is likely to start around 2018.
Visiting this meeting is “super helpful,” attendees said. That preceded a question: “So when the EPA is done, what is the river going to look like?” And what happens when the dredging begins, wondered HPAC co-chair Billy Stauffer – “a massive plume of contaminants?” The EPA rep said the crews would be working on containment but certainly would have to get notices out in advance. They were asked to be sure to get the health warnings out in multiple languages – in our area, for example, Spanish, Vietnamese, Cambodian, Somali, for starters.
This is all part of a Community Involvement Plan (the original one is dated 2002!) that they’re updating. They hope to have a draft reviewed and finalized by December, and will likely return to HPAC in January with a copy, and updates.
SURPLUS PROPERTY: When the Seattle City Light surplus substations (our coverage from earlier this week is here and here) came up, co-chair Carolyn Stauffer says they’re still pushing for a rezone for the Dumar property: “There’s still room for us to get our voices heard.” The vote is not likely now before December. She also mentioned that they’re glad King County is expected to take over the “White Center” site in south Highland Park. With ex-Nickelsville site back in possible future play for futuer encampment, Stauffer hopes to speak to the mayor’s office about it. Food Lifeline, south of South Park. (She met with Hyeok Kim and had a list of what they would need for the site to be successful.)
EVENTS COMING UP: Also mentioned at the HPAC meeting
*Compost giveaway in the works at HPIC, 11 am-3 pm on October 4th – half a yard available if you haul it away.
*Harvest dinner – – 6 pm October 10th, real plates, silverware, glasses, bring a dish to share! Highland Park’s Got Talent is putting out feelers – “there’s going to be a gong and everything!” – find out more on the HPIC website.
*HPIC movie night on October 16th – let’s just say, “Who you gonna call?”
*Design charrette – Blair Johnson explained, “What can we do with this building to make it work better, make it more open to the community so as they (pass) by,” and that’s what’ll be discussed 10 am-2 pm October 25th. They hope to narrow down to “plan for the facility that we can present to the community – ‘here’s what we would like to do with the building, we need to raise some funds'” – grants, community donations, business donations.
*Holiday bazaar ahead – the “call for vendors” is here; the bazaar is 10 am=3 pm on Saturday, November 14th.
Highland Park Action Committee meets at HP Improvement Club (12th SW & SW Holden) on fourth Wednesdays, 7 pm.