Want to learn the basics of deterring criminals from targeting your residence or business? The slide deck embedded above (or in PDF here) shows the highlights from Southwest Crime Prevention Coordinator Jennifer Danner‘s presentation at last night’s West Seattle Block Watch Captains’ Network meeting.
As always, the meeting at the precinct was led by WSBWCN founders Karen Berge and Deborah Greer. Precinct commander Capt. Pierre Davis started with a briefing, saying property crime was front and center as always.
Addiction and homelessness are major factors, he said, as are repeat offenders who “many times don’t get the time in jail they should, and are right back out on the street.” But they’re going after them, “to set the tone and tenor” as summer approaches. Right now, they’re keeping close watch on “several different areas,” Capt. Davis said, including a continued focus on reducing theft at Westwood Village. He didn’t cite specific stats (you can track those here, neighborhood by neighborhood).
First question for him cited our recent report about a man arrested in Morgan Junction with stolen property … and quickly released by a judge, without bail even being set. “Is there anything we can do?”
Capt. Davis talked about a letter-writing campaign in one particular case that swayed a judge. But, as City Attorney’s Office precinct liaison Joe Everett observed, that’s the sentencing phase; when people make their first appearances after arrests, even before they’re charged, “it’s hard for the community to get information in front of a judge.” He said if fast action is needed on someone’s who’s just been arrested, he might be able to provide information. (email@example.com) “It IS tricky on a first appearance.”
Next question: A resident in the Fauntlee Hills area said the neighborhood experienced multiple crimes recently – car prowls, vandalism, more in two months than she’s seen in 10 years. She mentioned that three of the car prowls hadn’t even been reported – and Capt. Davis stressed the importance of reporting them so resources can be redeployed – though she said four others had been. Lt. Steve Strand said, “We are aware of (what’s going on in) that area.”
Third question: A man wondered about technological assistance such as bait cars or tracking devices. “We use technology all the time, and some of the newer cars are equipped with GPS,” Capt. Davis noted. He said prevention advice like not leaving items in cars is vital – criminals do return to the same areas time and time again, and share information such as where they were able to find items in cars. Davis said they use “heat maps” to look for patterns where they might then place perhaps a plainclothes/unmarked car, etc., to try to catch criminals in the act. Capt. Davis said police have tried putting out a car with visible items as bait – “and nobody touched it.”
CRIME PREVENTION THROUGH ENVIRONMENTAL DESIGN PRIMER
Crime Prevention Coordinator Danner now has national certification in CPTED, after a strenuous course, and presented this briefing to WSBWCN for the first time (the group has had some CPTED demos in the past, including this one at a local home, captured on WSB video in 2011) – a sort of primer.
The four main elements of CPTED:
First one means controlling access to a site, how people are guided through it. You can achieve this in ways such as visible and well-lit entrances, clearly defined entryways, clearly marking public pathways/walkways, and a wayfinding system – how someone gets around in a place.
Second one is defined as “the placement of physical features, activities, people in a way that maximizes visibility.” That means maximizing “eyes on the street,” which doesn’t necessarily mean “the street” itself, but also your yard, pathways around your building, etc. – and alley, too. The point of this, Danner said: “Individuals are less likely to commit a crime if they can be seen and identified.” Tall fences can get in the way of this kind of crime deterrence, she noted – hop the fence, and you’re out of sight.
Yet the right kind of fencing plays into the third element, which “refers to people’s sense of ownership,” showing that “somebody owns this space and somebody cares about this space.” Danner showed a street lined by a sidewalk and rowhouses, pointing to the different ways ownership of each space was delineated.
Last but not least, maintenance/landscaping: “Well-maintained spaces send the message that someone cares for the space.” Overgrowth, broken windows, broken lighting, all can send the wrong message. Lighting, she added, is a key component of effective CPTED.
This isn’t just a message for house residents – apartments, townhouses, rowhouses, condos, all types of buildings can benefit from CPTED principles/techniques.
By the way, she can set up a free consultation with you at your home/business – it’s part of her job: firstname.lastname@example.org or 206-256-6820.
Asked where cameras fit in, Danner said they’re part of the technical component of surveillance. They’re more reactive than proactive. “If you do decide to put up cameras – doorbell, motion – I don’t want you to have a false sense that it’s going to prevent a crime from happening.” She does encourage all types of surveillance, including cameras just in case something happens, “but it’s something you need to decide for yourself.” Precinct liaison Everett noted that if you put up a camera you have to be aware of privacy laws and you also need to be aware of the law against recording audio without consent. Danner added, in response to a question about how much footage seems not to be very helpful in identifying people, check the lighting and clarity when purchasing and setting up a camera. She didn’t see much value in putting up signs saying “you’re on camera,” nor in putting up “fake cameras.”
Asked if any particular type of fence is “less climbable” – wood fences, especially if their support beams are on the inside rather than the outside.
She expressed hope that everyone would take just one thing from the presentation and make a change.
The West Seattle Block Watch Captains Network meets on fourth Tuesdays, 6:30 pm at the Southwest Precinct – watch the WSBWCN website for updates between meetings.