From the West Seattle Block Watch Captains Network‘s first meeting of fall 2017:
As everybody went around the room introducing themselves, WSBWCN co-founders Karen Berge and Deb Greer invited them to share what was happening in their neighborhoods. “We’re under siege,” declared one man from a street over Beach Drive, with concerns including car prowls. A resident of Beach Drive itself said that somebody opened his car hatch and another in his neighborhood last night – all cars with a keyless entry system, so he wondered if devices that hijack those systems might have been involved, and several attendees shared stories. Another man mentioned living in the Arbor Heights neighborhood where police had been searching for a burglar on Monday; another woman from south of Admiral said the burglar is lucky the woman whose house he tried to break into – a friend of hers – didn’t catch him.
Those were just a few of the stories. On to the rest of the meeting, starting with the SPD briefing:
POLICE UPDATES: Now that call volumes are down post-summer, Operations Lt. Ron Smith said, there should be more time for proactive policing/patrolling. The precinct area (West Seattle/South Park) is experiencing 25 percent fewer car prowls than at this time last year, though. Auto thefts were up for a while in the Alki area until one incident resulted in multiple arrests of juvenile suspects, he said. … Precinct commander Capt. Pierre Davis acknowledged the summer was “active” but said many “significant arrests” were made. While West Seattle “has always been a property-crime mecca,” police are using what tools they can to detect for example stolen cars – automatic license-plate recognition devices have been helpful. Auto thieves and burglars “are often one and the same,” he noted. When they detect trends, they work to get the information out. And as always, he lauded Block Watches for obtaining and distributing information and helping police keep ahead of trends. They’ve made “a number of car-prowl arrests” and when they do, detectives do their best to get more information on what the suspects have been up to – the more crimes they’re linked to, the more time they might serve, and “when that happens, our crime statistics tank.” (In a good way.)
Current hotspots – Westwood Village for shoplifting, and police have a “sizable campaign” going there (and in Roxhill Park across the street) to try to catch more criminals. There’s been an ongoing effort to keep an eye out for known offenders with warrants and they hope to be cultivating a mindset among criminals that the heat might be on a little hotter in West Seattle than elsewhere. He reiterated that police want to know about everything so that they can keep track of trends.
There was also a discussion of keeping track of criminal cases and letting judges know your concerns about suspects/defendants, and bringing up cases when judges are running for re-election. (Later, an election-related question – one attendee wondered if precinct commanders such as Davis were being approached by the mayoral candidates; he said no but expected they were in dialogue with those higher-up in the department, and he added that he would like to have 20, 25 more officers. Or, “if I had 100 more officers in this precinct … we’re forced to do whatever we can with the staffing that we have, but more is always better.”)
In a year-to-year comparison, crime that’s tracked in this area is down six percent. Car prowls year to year are down by about 300, Capt. Davis said.
He also touched briefly on chronic issues including nuisance houses, mentioning that some are under scrutiny with the help of the City Attorney’s Office precinct liaison and Community Police Team. In some cases, they have to work several layers down to get to the home’s owner – in some cases, a bank, if it was foreclosed on – to get permission to kick out squatters with the help of trespass notices.
Asked about this year’s homicides, briefly, at the end of his appearance, Davis could only say that none were random.
The other big topic:
EMERGENCY/DISASTER PREPAREDNESS: Berge opened by stressing that if something happens, your nearest Emergency Communication Hub is the place to go – and asked Block Watch captains to make sure their neighbors all know about them.
In the event of an emergency, each hub needs to have some people who can “step up and go down there and help.” West Seattle Be Prepared does NOT have a huge core of volunteers – some hubs have just one person accountable – so more involvement now is vital, “so our hubs grow in strength. … In an emergency like what happened recently in Puerto Rico, in Houston, in Florida, something that could just totally devastate our area …” And that could go for many types of disasters – earthquake, hazmat spills, and more.
While there may be many gathering places in the city in case of catastrophe – Berge mentioned that the city had declared P-Patches would be involved – the West Seattle Be Prepared Emergency Communication Hubs have something special, for which there’s regular training: Radio communication, which is likely to work even if other regular forms of communication are down.
One attendee noted a gap between hubs and wondered how to suggest a new location: “Do you need someone who steps up?” In a word, Berge replied – yes, noting that there’s been attrition since the early organization. “What we need is at least one person who keeps the hub go kit, the radio …”
In case of catastrophe, another attendee reminded everyone, don’t use your phone for voice communication – use texts, which use less bandwidth.
Back to preparedness – Berge said she couldn’t instruct people on exactly what to store or what to pack but had some general advice: “What I tell people is maybe have several different kits – a go kit that’s maybe a backpack with a couple bottles of water, vs. the stuff you might want to have supplied near an exit, in a garage or an outbuilding, like your water for several weeks.”
Also think about medications, important papers, “whatever you wouldn’t want to be without” if you have to run out quickly. She also suggested “things that are going to keep you from injuring yourself as you try to help other people” – bug repellent, hands-free flashlights, respirator masks, a hard hat …
And boots under your bed, said an attendee, because you might have to escape through broken glass.
But again – start evangelizing preparedness, for yourself, for your neighbors. “As a neighborhood, talk about preparedness – talk about ways (you would) approach the food and water and what as a neighborhood you have, from everyone’s homes, so nothing goes bad” in case of catastrophe. “Some of the things you may want to figure out as a neighborhood is who has generators, who has tools, who has skills …” nurses, for example – to know what resources are available, rather than having to figure it out if and when disaster strikes. Also think about what you would do if something happens while you’re at work.
One attendee mentioned items that could be worth obtaining such as a filter you could use with an outdoor faucet or your hot-water heater.
The WSBP website is laden with lots of info you can use to plan – check out pages like this when you have time.
Also at the meeting:
COFFEE WITH A COP: The announcement we published earlier Tuesday night was shared to the WSBWCN attendees by Jennifer Burbridge, Southwest Precinct crime-prevention coordinator.
MAILING LIST: Burbridge also wants to make sure all local Block Watch captains are on a mailing list she’s keeping – if you’re not sure whether you’re on it, e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org. She can also help startup Block Watch groups, too, and is happy to answer other crime-prevention questions – same e-mail address.
The West Seattle Block Watch Captains Network meets at the Southwest Precinct at 6:30 pm on fourth Tuesdays most months. Watch its website for updates between meetings.