Police plans for beach patrol and more @ Alki Community Council

By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

A sunny Friday could bring another summer-size crowd to Alki Beach tonight. So you might be interested to know what Seattle Police told the Alki Community Council last night about what they’re up to.

The meeting started with a briefing, including crime stats, from Southwest Precinct Operations Lt. Ron Smith. He said assaults are up slightly from this time last year, with this year’s incidents including the shooting near Whale Tail Park back on April 30th. Residential burglaries are up – 11 in the area through this time last year, 15 this year. But property crimes in the Alki area are down 15 percent – with relatively few car prowls compared to some other areas of West Seattle and the rest of the city. And overall, he said, crime is down 11 percent.

For Alki Beach concerns in general, according to Lt. Smith, they started an “emphasis” a couple weeks ago – 4 officers working extra hours walking or riding bicycles on Friday/Saturday nights.

“We’re planning to extend it if it looks like there’s an increased amount of alcohol abuse. … We failed the community when it comes to Whale Tail Park, (trouble) usually starts there a little later in the year, but the weather was good … we WILl be focusing on (that area).”

Staffing in general, he said, is a challenge. He says SPD has the same amount of officers as when he started 30+ years ago “but five times more calls” – and a lot more paperwork. They need more overtime funding before they can add extra help on Sunday night, he said.

On the converse, he said, Thursday nights, they have 12 officers working in West Seattle, but most of the time right now, a lot of training affects overall deployment. He said they’re also “begging and borrowing from Traffic” to beef up forces here – so you’ll see motorcycle officers enforcing speeding – plus Parking Enforcement will beef up its patrols here as soon as next week. Staffing is an issue citywide: “Every sector of the city is screaming for more cops (but) we have a finite amount of resources,” he noted. .

Constellation Park-area residents south of Alki Point have been concerned about people loitering in the area; one meeting attendee was asked how things are over there, and she said neighbors are keeping watch. Lt. Smith mentioned one “transient” in that area who had “accepted resources” offered to him; that segued into a discussion of RV campers in the Harbor Avenue area, east of Alki. Lt. Smith said some RVs had been towed from West Seattle, and added that local police are concerned about “the decision to push people out of The Jungle … It probably won’t affect (this neighborhood), but we don’t know.”

The perennial topic of when to call 911 and when not to call 911 Later, a resident near Me-Kwa-Mooks Park said she had “given up on calling” when she’s awakened by loud music. Lt. Smith pointed her to the Community Police Team for help with that. She also mentioned the “drag racing” problem, and that she is aware it’s not just a Beach Drive problem. Lt. Smith said that one problem with racing enforcement is that it’s usually at night and the Traffic Unit doesn’t usually work at night – but they might be able to get someone out on special assignment.

Are you seeing an uptick in gang activity? he was asked. A slight increase in tagging, yes, he said, but not necessarily in other activity. He said it’s a matter in some cases of a difference between real gang members and “wanna-bes.” He concluded, “It’s not out of control, but it’s (a matter of concern).”

Next area of concern: Dogs on the beach. Even if an officer is in the area, they might issue warnings, not tickets, one person complained. Lt. Smith promised to bring it up in roll calls, acknowledging it’s a “quality of life” issue.

Another question involved who to ask about problems such as road visibility and who to ask about putting a mirror on a utility pole. That segued into some information-sharing about the Find It, Fix It app.

Last but not least, someone brought up a person is apparently living in a sailboat off the 1200 block of Alki. “Is that legal? … It’s been going on for about two weeks.” Lt. Smith said there’s a distance at which it might become a Coast Guard issue rather than a Harbor Patrol issue.

MICRO-COMMUNITY POLICING PLAN: Following the briefing and Q&A with Lt. Smith, Jennifer Burbridge, SW Precinct research analyst, talked with attendees about the Alki micro-community policing plan. She’s a Seattle University grad student who’s been working with SPD as part of a grant from the Seattle Police Foundation. She said they’re evaluating the project and that this would serve as something of a focus group.

Few if any in the room (about two dozen) were familiar with the micro-community policing plan – a project that’s now a year old – or even the concept, so the discussion started with some information about it and the concept. She also explained what she and other researchers have been doing at the precincts around the city. The SW Precinct has 12 micro-community policing plan, out of (updated number) 58 around the city. Explaining all that handled the first two questions of nine on a one-sheet she handed out.

Question 3 was, how safe do you feel in the neighborhood? What’s your #1 concern about crime/public safety in your neighborhood and surrounding area? What other public-safety concerns do you have in your neighborhood?

One person said hearing that burglaries are up makes her feel less safe. Another said that the increase in density with no increase in police presence is a problem. Another person brought up “they’re building these buildings with no parking” (although Alki has a requirement of one and a half per unit) and concerns related to that. It also was noted that park policies – say, a smoking ban – send people out of the park into nearby neighborhoods to engage in those activities.

One person said they feel safe when out walking on trails and sidewalks but not while trying to cross the street – “pedestrian safety” overall, and also the signage where the Alki trail splits off between people on foot and people on wheels, as well as user behavior – riders not letting people know when they approach. At that point, Burbridge clarified that she was here to listen to all sorts of concerns, including issues that aren’t necessarily crimes. Speeding came up at that point – fast, unsafe driving (with speed humps not available for Alki SW because it’s an arterial) – as well as a perceived lack of respect for local residents by visitors who see the entire area as a “public beach.” Stories of people trying to clean off in water features in front of buildings came up. One person noted that the shortage of restrooms along the beach seemed to lead to that.

Next problem – illegal fireworks and illegal fires. An illegal fire pit in Me-Kwa-Mooks caused so much concern, neighbors thought “the whole greenbelt would go up” last summer, a neighbor said. Drive-by fireworks use also causes consternation. Another attendee suggested that city funding is being misused if there’s money for decorative crosswalks in part of the city but not for safety-enhancing crosswalks in the Alki/Admiral area.

Trash is also a major problem, said another attendee. One resident said the Parks Department employee who used to “patrol” Alki “retired at the start of May and nobody took his place.” She also said the Parks Department removed half the trash cans on Alki in early April because someone thought there was no need for as many trash cans. (We’ll be following up on this next week.)

Next, question #5 – “What’s your experience been with Seattle Police” in addressing problems and response when they call. The first respondent said she would like to see more in the area. Then the discussion veered off onto traffic problems on specific streets, at spots including the pedestrian light at 59th/Admiral. Back to police – yes, attendees said, they like having SPD participation in meetings like this, such as the briefing and Q&A with Lt. Smith. Someone else mentioned Crime Prevention Coordinator Mark Solomon visiting a neighborhood meeting and offering safety/crime-prevention tips.

Burbridge asked about the mobile precinct and those on hand said they have a positive impression. Another attendee then observed that while most seemed to be having positive interaction, the problem remains that there aren’t enough officers, and that if they’re called about certain issues, they might be busy with something more urgent, so “we’re not going to see them for the majority of things we call them for.”

Attendees were eager to keep talking, and time ran out before Burbridge could get through everything in her questionnaire.

The Alki Community Council meets on third Thursdays, 7 pm, at Alki UCC.

23 Replies to "Police plans for beach patrol and more @ Alki Community Council"

  • Flip May 20, 2016 (2:53 pm)

    This may be a dumb question, but if SPD is so hard up for extra cops, why do they have one directing ferry traffic (I guess sometimes it’s WSP) at Fauntleroy and dozens working parking garages downtown every day? Are those off duty cops hired by WSF and the parking garages? I can see how both are useful but if the need for policing is so great, seems like traffic control could take a back seat.

    • Sillygoose May 20, 2016 (7:22 pm)

      Those  are usually marshals not police officers.

  • Dave May 20, 2016 (3:06 pm)

    This is good news; I was down in Alki around 8PM on a
    Saturday with the family two weekends ago and could not believe how bad it was.
    We saw people throwing up gang signs, driving while sitting on top of their sun
    roofs (no idea how they could keep the foot on the gas or break), and large
    groups of drunken people (all with red cups). It was like I was in South Cal
    again but worse. I feel bad for the businesses who are trying to make a living.

    I saw zero cops and nobody in the restaurants and we don’t
    plan on being back. It’s sad to see Alki like this on the weekend nights during
    the day and weekdays it a great area. 

  • JN May 20, 2016 (5:01 pm)

    Maybe they could finally address the problem of people walking in the bicycle portion of the trail. Even with me ringing my bell they often do not move one bit, even when they are walking 5 across the path completely blocking it. I’ve actually had someone yell at me (I was cycling on the bike path) to “use the bike lane!”, pointing at the sharrows in the street. Even when I informed them that I was, in fact, using the “bike lane” (the signed bicycle portion of the path), they continued to insist that I get in the street. 

    • Marvin May 20, 2016 (5:27 pm)

      ……Yeah, the important stuff like that…

    • Old runner May 21, 2016 (10:30 am)

      Is the the lane designated for bike-use, supposed to be only for bikers? I’ve run without incident in that lane for years, as the asphalt is much more forgiving on my body than the concrete pathway (I’m a high mileage runner, and especially on days I’m running 10 plus miles — I really, really look forward to the stretches of asphalt). And of course, at busy times, the walking path can be crowded and not conducive to running at an 8:30 or better pace. I’ve never had any really close encounters with bikers, but I make sure to stay off to the side of the pathway and don’t use headphones so that I can pay attention to what is going on around me. But I’ve recently had a couple bikers yell at me to use the other path, though I haven’t been in their way  (which pretty much has ruined the whole run for me, since I’m a non-confrontational people-pleaser). So, if I’m truly not supposed to use that lane, I would like to know. 

      • Don Brubeck May 21, 2016 (12:36 pm)

        Old Runner,  the bike lane is designated for bikes and skaters, but I’m pretty sure that 99 percent of bike riders do not mind runners who stay along the edge of the bike lane on their right, using it instead of using the walking path or the soft surface along the edge of the bank.  It is pretty easy to see who is running at a steady pace and won’t be making sudden turns into bike traffic. This is one of very few multi-use paths in the city where wheeled and foot traffic are actually separated to avoid conflicts and crashes, so it’s a bit frustrating to have that safety feature violated by so many on foot, and get cursed out for riding a bike on a bike lane, and the same for riding in the street, both of which are legal. Would be really nice if people would not walk in groups strung out across the bike lane, or with dogs on leashes across the path.  But it’s probably fairly hopeless to think that groups of tourists and visitors coming to the beach will be anything but oblivious to the trail traffic rules. Bike riders need to cool it and be ready to stop for kids, dogs, double wide strollers, surreys, etc, etc. , or ride in the street where car drivers are sometimes looking at the beach and their phones instead of the road. 

  • NW May 20, 2016 (5:14 pm)

    I recommend Westport Wa. for a fun summertime visit(s) to the beach it’s a blast revisited there a number of times last year. My preference for alki is the cooler months of the year use to be mellower but still busy, hope the policing or behavior change in individuals comes along. 

  • Geoff May 20, 2016 (5:45 pm)

    Was Jennifer Burbridge seeking full answers to her questionnaire such that it is worth following up online to answer them?  Or was it more of an agenda guide of general questions to assess current needs and moods?

  • Brenda May 20, 2016 (6:00 pm)

    Flip- You have no idea what you’re talking about!

     Go check your facts ! 

    • wetone May 20, 2016 (9:14 pm)

      Explain ?    

  • Seattlite May 20, 2016 (6:51 pm)

    Seattle’s leaders spend $ on a failed Pronto bike share but cannot find the $ to hire more police officers.  SPD does the best they can with what they have.  Seattle just needs new leadership that can make logical decisions about where $ are spent. 

     “…taxpayers spent $858,379 for Sound Transit’s March 19 grand-opening party for the Capitol Hill and UW stations…”  Capitol Hill Seattle Blog

  • Double Dub Resident May 20, 2016 (8:41 pm)


     Maybe instead of writing a vague knee jerk reaction reply from emotion, you’d actually elaborate on what your POV actually is and why you think Flip has no idea what they’re talking about. 

      It is true that there is a shortage of funding for new recruits. I work for the police department as a civilian and was actually having this conversation with an officer yesterday.  And I’ve also noticed that during certain construction sites, cops are directing traffic. So what is so off base from what seems to me to be a legitimate question? 

  • MJ May 20, 2016 (9:24 pm)

    JN I completely agree about the bike lane. There’s markers all over that show it’s a bike lane but most people don’t care even when you point it out. 

  • Gatewood gurl May 21, 2016 (6:06 am)

    As a Alki walker ,who never uses the wide bike area, it is the shared area where the bike /sidewalk merge that becomes an issue…..and the  pack walkers don’t move for anyone! Also the bath house restrooms are unusable after a party night .

  • anonyme May 21, 2016 (6:44 am)

    Whenever I read crime “statistics” I remember watching ‘The Wire’.  If overall crime were continually down as reported, the number should have been zero by now.  Nor do the stats include crimes that aren’t reported due to the fact that many people have given up on expecting a police response for any but the most serious crimes.

  • Wsres May 21, 2016 (8:48 am)

    We avoid Alki on a sunny day, especially on the weeken. It is unsafe for families. I am so glad that our kids are done going to Alki Elementary because I felt unsafe picking them up on a sunny Friday afternoon due to the influx of Alki beach goers that seemed to have no regard for our neighborhood.

  • jrr May 21, 2016 (9:11 am)

    You guys, alki is “unsafe” because the people who use it right avoid it. Go. Take up parking spots and claim your spot on the beach. If you see some one litter, tell them to stop. It’s not that hard. 

  • Eric May 21, 2016 (9:28 am)

    Cops show up to watch girls play volleyball, smoke cigarettes, or scarily twirl their menacing baton at minorities who are doing nothing wrong.  Everybody seems scared to stand up and say something to people who they feel are breaking the law in some way.  The small people have to speak up if they want change.  We cannot expect others to take care of what is ours.  Be a better Seattle resident…ask yourself, what have I done today to make this a better place to be?  Cops are not present when real problems are present but they are probably in areas that need MORE help than Alki.  It all starts with the small things people do:  if you see somebody walking their dog on the beach, remind them that it is illegal to do so; if you see somebody reserving spots in front of their house with orange cones and taking up multiple spots, ask them not to do so; if you see a fire being started outside of the allocated pits, go ask them to stop and move.  If you are not comfortable doing these things, please pick up the trash that litters our neighborhood.  It has to start somewhere and it has to start with you, the resident.

  • WD fundie May 21, 2016 (11:42 am)

    Its simply not an enjoyable place to be for families on summer weekends when there are so many better options in our beautiful region. I’m ok with that.

  • Wsres May 21, 2016 (11:43 am)

    JRR– we have tried that.  It is hard when you have kids and you don’t want people cussing at you and the kids because they don’t like to be told to pick up after themselves. If it were just me, I’d stay. But with kids, it is just safer to find a family friendly place on a sunny day. 

  • Amrakx May 22, 2016 (12:12 pm)

    Illegal parking such as ignoring fire hydrants and clearly designated no parking zones deserve some attention. I’ve been employing the find it fix it ap  from seattle.gov.   It really deserves our attention.  Action speaks louder than words.  Here’s hoping for a peaceful sunny summer!

  • jrr May 22, 2016 (1:52 pm)

    We go with our son all the time. I have handed people trash bags because it “looks like you forgot yours.” We can and should all do more, peaceably and with a recognition that there will always be a few bad apples. Like anything.

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