(UPDATED 2:15 PM with date that new noise-enforcement ordinance was signed)
By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
No arrest yet in the south West Seattle break-ins in which residents came face to face with intruders, but they were a major topic at last night’s West Seattle Block Watch Captains Network meeting at the Southwest Precinct.
CAPTAIN’S UPDATE: Precinct commander Capt. Pierre Davis reminded the 20+ attendees that “watching out for each other” is the most important thing they can do. Property crime is still the prevalent type in West Seattle right now. He said it doesn’t generally ease until they “arrest a lot of people” and then “appeal to prosecutors and judges” to deal harshly with the repeat offenders.
Sheds and outbuildings were the big targets for burglars until recently, when the “anomaly” series of occupied-home burglaries happened (our most-recent coverage is here and here) on 11th SW, 12th SW, 13th SW along several blocks just north of Roxbury between June 17th and 19th.
He said police are trying to solve them with tactics including “area saturation,” working to put together a montage of possible suspects, collaborating with King County since the county line is so close, and more.
Capt. Davis described the burglaries as “a crime of opportunity,” with the intruder seeking out unlocked doors/windows. Asked about the description of the intruder, he said there was a lot of inconsistent information so far beyond “black male, about 200 pounds,” so that’s why there’s not a clear description in circulation. He was asked why the cases are being classified as burglaries, when nothing was taken. “A burglary doesn’t necessarily mean you steal something,” Operations Lt. Ron Smith explained. “When we do make an arrest, it may be classified as investigation of burglary, but it’s open for additional charges.” Davis added, “With a lot of these types of crimes, additional information trickles in.”
One attendee noted that the victims’ interaction with the suspect was not described as hostile. Capt. Davis agreed that was what they had heard so far. A resident of the area said that the initial investigation didn’t result in fingerprint-taking or retrieval of “clothing items” that were left behind and wondered why. Capt. Davis said he didn’t know yet but is investigating.
Another person who had been at the meeting recounted the story told by one victim who still was face to face with the intruder when another person in the house came along and wasn’t sure what was happening. That attendee suggested that people who live together might discuss having a code word that would let the roommate/family member/etc. know that they need to call for help.
Did the suspect seem like a transient type? Not according to the victims’ description, Capt. Davis said. He reiterated that they have “a couple names” they are looking at for starters because in some cases it’s “process of elimination.” But that’s only a start – they have to have probable cause for a stop/arrest.
In further discussion, he said that if residents in the area call in someone suspicious and can’t convince 911 how urgent it is to dispatch someone, call the precinct.
What about a report that neighbors weren’t seeing the promised extra patrols? Capt. Davis said he had spoken to his shift commanders and was assured that they had happened and were happening. But he warned that doesn’t mean you’re going to see “police officers lined up on the block, in the alleys” at all times.
Another resident wondered if the intruder had cased potential victims to identify and target them ahead of time. Capt. Davis said that with what he had heard so far, there was nothing to indicate that was the case.
One Block Watch captain from another area strongly recommended security cameras, saying they are invaluable in helping solve crimes. “At any given time you can scroll … on your phone, to see what’s going on around your house, on your street … it’s huge.”
FAREWELL, LT. SMITH: The meeting provided one of the final farewells for precinct Operations Lt. Ron Smith, whose last day before retirement, after 38 years, is Thursday. He had a few things to say:
WSBWCN also brought him a cake.
As announced at last month’s WSBWCN meeting, his successor as Operations Lieutenant – second in command at the precinct – is Lt. Steve Strand. Capt. Davis said he’s “really going to miss” Lt. Smith, who’s been his ops lieutenant since he took over the precinct more than three years ago.
COMMUNITY CONCERNS/QUESTIONS: Is there a “secret” that car prowlers are using to get into locked vehicles? Yes, they have technology to do that, but “not every thief has it,” said Capt. Davis. Some prowlers are still using shaved keys, “slim jims,? and other tools. “Please don’t leave (items) inside your cars, because individuals will exploit that.” … Package theft: The number ebbs and flows but if an incident just happened, be sure to call 911 … Noise enforcement: When will the mayor sign the bill just passed by the City Council? No word yet (we’re checking with its sponsor, Councilmember Lisa Herbold, to see if she has an update … ADDED WEDNESDAY AFTERNOON: Newell Aldrich from Herbold’s staff says the mayor signed it June 22nd). Once it’s signed, the education process begins, before enforcement … Is there less traffic enforcement than there used to be? The SW Precinct doesn’t have dedicated Traffic Unit members, Capt. Davis noted. (We would note that we do hear scanner traffic from local officers radioing in traffic stops.) If you have a persistent problem, notify the precinct and they’ll see if they can set up an emphasis … What about car-share vehicles that turn up in neighborhoods where they don’t seem to be needed/used? Lt. Strand recapped the 72-hour parking rule.
NIGHT OUT: It’s sooner than you think – August 7th – and you can enhance your block party by getting free materials from Southwest Precinct Crime Prevention Coordinator Jennifer Danner. The sooner you contact her, the better – she’ll make sure it all gets to you! Just e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
PRECINCT PICNIC: This is again part of the Delridge Day festival, Danner also mentioned, 11 am-3 pm August 11th at Delridge Community Center Park (Delridge/Genesee).
CRIME/SAFETY FOCUS GROUPS: As previewed here earlier today, four local neighborhood meetings are set this summer with Seattle University researchers to talk about crime, safety, and local police (who will get the info but are not part of the meetings).
NEXT MEETING: WSBWCN will meet again starting in September – fourth Tuesdays, 6:30 pm, at the precinct (2300 SW Webster). Watch the WSBWCN website for updates in the meantime.