@ West Seattle Block Watch Captains Network: Police updates; how 911 works

From Tuesday night’s West Seattle Block Watch Captains Network meeting at the Southwest Precinct:

NEW CRIME-PREVENTION COORDINATOR: Last October, we noted that the new city budget called for each Seattle Police precinct to have its own Crime Prevention Coordinator – Mark Solomon, assigned to the Southwest and South Precincts, has been one of two doing double duty. And now, the plan has become reality – precinct commander Capt. Pierre Davis announced at the WSBWCN meeting that Jennifer Burbridge, who worked extensively with the precinct and community groups as a Seattle University graduate student, got the job. The centerpiece of her work during that longterm assignment was development of the Micro-Community Policing Plans. We’ll have a separate story Thursday morning with more about Burbridge and her new job.

Also at the meeting, local crime updates and a version of what you might call 911 101:

NEWEST CRIME PROBLEM AND OTHER POLICE UPDATES: We thought we’d heard more scanner dispatches for shoplifting lately, and we weren’t imagining things – shoplifting is on the rise in a big way, said Capt. Pierre Davis. He says he has Community Police Team Officers working with businesses on Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design strategies to make them less-attractive targets. Changes can make a difference – such as, don’t keep the alcohol by the door.

Car-prowl numbers are declining, he said – “word on the street is it’s ‘hot’ in West Seattle.” Arrests will continue but suspects do get out, he said. In fact, they’ll be asking at a command-staff meeting this week, what can be done to keep these criminals in jail? “We’ve made a number of arrests” of high-profile repeat offenders, “we’ve caught them – maybe four, five, six times already,” said Capt. Davis. “It’s a morale-buster for my officers to finish the paperwork and (find that the offender) is already out, back down the street.” But “we’re going to keep arresting them.” So “if you see something, say something.” Operations Lt. Ron Smith added that they check to see if warrants are out for repeat offenders, often issued because they don’t show up for court.

Meantime, Capt. Davis says they’re getting close to being able to go public with mugshots of prolific repeat offenders that are being sought on warrants. So far, he said, they haven’t had to go public because he’s gotten a face and name to his officers – and they find the suspect.

Asked if there’s any progress in the home-invasion-robbery case from last week, Capt. Davis said yes, without elaborating. No arrest yet, though. The department’s robbery detectives are on the case.

Precinct leadership also was asked about last Friday’s Spokane/E. Marginal trail attack – it’s not in the Southwest Precinct, but it affects West Seattleites, so they’re keeping watch on the case and the cleanup plans. No word of progress toward an arrest so far.

One attendee brought up a concern that the plan to move people away from East Marginal/Spokane already has some moving this way, mentioning a tent at Spokane/Harbor tent (gone by Wednesday morning). Lt. Smith acknowledged the “toothpaste tube” effect of moving people from one site and having them turn up elsewhere, and said they are aware of other places that people are camping. Current rules say that if there are three or more tents, they have to follow a specific set of rules. Also brought up: RVs on SW Trenton near Southwest Athletic Complex/Westwood Village. Precinct leaders said that they believe a 72-hour warning has been given to at least one, by Officer Todd Wiebke, the Community Police Team rep who’s become the precinct’s point person on homelessness-related issues.

One attendee asked about the “expectations” for the RVs that are still on Trenton. Lt. Smith asked for a description of them and said he would have Officer Wiebke look into the situation. But, he warned, even when they tow an RV away, “they wind up somewhere.” West Seattle has already seen that happen – the RVs that were by the railroad tracks along the west end of West Marginal Way, the ones that were on SW Andover by the gym for a while, etc. Capt. Davis said they have spoken with the mayor’s office about not just how to put a band-aid on the situation, but “how to address it long-term.” And they’ve seen some ideas fizzle, such as the scrapped-one-year-ago plan for an RV “safe lot” near the former Highland Park Way/West Marginal encampment site. Being homeless is not a crime, but “residual crime issues” do get dealt with, Capt. Davis said.

The spotlight discussion:

ANATOMY OF A 911 CALL: As a guest was not available from the 911 Center, Crime Prevention Coordinator Solomon took this on, running through when to call 911 and when not to, and what happens during those calls. “There are some things you want to talk to a police officer in person about, and some things you can report online.” Whether you call 911 or 206-625-5011, “you’re calling the same place” – “it’s the same operators picking up the same phones. … same room, same operators, same place. Which number you call gives you a different priority.”

So the calltaker will ask you what you’re reporting. If it’s a medical emergency, for example, they’ll be routing you over to the Fire Department. Or, say, English isn’t your primary language, tell the call-taker which language you need so they can get a translator on the phone. They’ll get a third party on the phone.

Meantime, there’s the issue of location. If you’re calling from a landline, “we know where that is.” But they’re always going to ask for the address anyway, to confirm where you are and where the crime is occurring, and a question will be “does the person committing that crime have weapons?”

Depending on where it’s happening, they’ll send the info to a dispatcher. There are four frequencies for the five precincts – South and Southwest share one dispatcher. West, East, North each have their own. The dispatcher sends the info out to officers. “Sometimes people get the impression that when you call 911 you’re calling here – but you’re calling our communications center at 8th and Virginia.” And, you’re not talking with an officer – you’re talking with a civilian employee, who’s dealing with another civilian employee, who’s sending information to a sworn officer. “If there’s something really pressing, like an armed robbery in progress,” you might be routed directly to the dispatcher so they can get it right from you and on to the officers.

Some things to consider:

-If you’re calling from a cell phone, they may not know where you are. 70 percent of calls come from cell phones. So they need to know where you are, and you need to know where you are. You might not even start off with the correct agency, so if you’re calling from a cell, tell them immediately where you are. That’s why the department has been pushing people to register for Smart 911, so that when your number pops up, it will come up with your address and any other information you want to put into the system, like medical conditions.

-Also sign up for AlertSeattle – which is meant to send notifications about major incidents (such as the recent I-5 tanker-incident closure).

-Police hear complaints that “The operator was rude.” Solomon explained that the calltakers are very efficient, they have a punchlist of questions they have to ask in a specific order. They need to know what’s happening NOW – they don’t need a backstory – so focus on what’s happening now. Call 911 – they’ll ask you what you are reporting – then “let them control the conversation – do not volunteer information (you’re not asked for). … They get the information they need, you’ll get off the phone quicker.”

Two more announcements during the meeting.

DRUG TAKEBACK DAY: April 29th, 10 am-2 pm, you’ll be able to drop unwanted/unneeded medications at the Southwest Precinct, announced Capt. Davis.

Not crime/safety but …

STREET TREE MANAGEMENT SURVEY: WSBWCN co-chair Karen Berge said SDOT had contacted the group asking that they let folks know about the Street Tree Management Plan outreach and survey – find it all here.

The West Seattle Block Watch Captains Network meets fourth Tuesdays most months, 6:30 pm, Southwest Precinct (2300 SW Webster). Watch wsblockwatch.wordpress.com for updates between meetings.

4 Replies to "@ West Seattle Block Watch Captains Network: Police updates; how 911 works"

  • Holly & Paul Seim March 31, 2017 (9:46 am)

    I didn’t know this group existed, and would like to join. Is it alright to just show up to next meeting and join then?

    • WSB March 31, 2017 (9:49 am)

      Absolutely. They’ve been in operation for years, and we usually cover their meetings as well as promoting them in advance via our calendar. You can find contact info on their website (which is also in our story) at http://wsblockwatchnet.wordpress.com – TR

  • Holly & Paul Seim March 31, 2017 (9:47 am)

    Any additional info I can pass to our Block Watch group would be appreciated.

  • West Seattle Block Watch Captains' Network April 1, 2017 (11:31 am)

    Holly & Paul, we’d love to have you join our group! Our next meeting will Tuesday, April 25th from 6:30 until 8, at the SW Precinct. If you show up a bit early, you can meet other BW members and SW Precinct folks. As well, we always have a table with various informational materials that you can take for your neighbors.

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