Toplines from last night’s West Seattle Crime Prevention Council meeting, which turned out to have a featured guest after all:
CAPTAIN’S UPDATE: Precinct commander Capt. Pierre Davis spoke about Myers Way and says the city’s Navigation Team is “ready and willing” to remove the unsanctioned camp in the woods on the east side – outreach is under way now, posting is next, and “hopefully by the end of October that (area) will be cleaned and repurposed.” (Operations Lt. Steve Strand had said at another recent meeting – as we reported – that a big cleanup was coming up.) They have been trying for two years to get to this point, Davis said, adding that they have a small window of opportunity coming up before rainy weather and muddy conditions make it unsafe for heavy equipment. He said they’ve made the case by talking with SPD/city brass about the items found there and who’s been arrested there. Davis said, also, “the state is on board” with clearing and repurposing that area – much of which is state-owned.
Regarding area crime problems in general, Capt. Davis singled out auto theft, saying it continues to run high (you can check crime stats here). Since it’s a regional problem, not just within city limits, Davis said they’re partnering with other law-enforcement agencies to get detectives involved and tie cases together “and we go after either the ring or the individual” – and he repeated something he has said time and time again, once repeat offenders are behind bars, there’s a big dent in crime.
Capt. Davis was asked by WSCPC president Richard Miller about staffing status. He and Lt. Strand have been making their case about shorthandedness to top department leaders, and they say the reply is always that everyone is shorthanded. SPD recruiters are even working in other states to recruit officers for “lateral” – department to department – moves. They’re still working just to “catch up to attrition,” Davis said. The SW Precinct, whose jurisdiction includes West Seattle and South Park, is assigned 85 officers, he said, while wishing he could have 95. As always, he also credited watchful community members for helping solve crimes.
First community question – How has the summer gone, patroling Alki, noise enforcement?
Capt. Davis: This year “we spent a little bit of extra money and besides our walking officers …we put together a team focused specifically on traffic … I know we wrote a lot of tickets (and) a lot of parking tickets … a lot of people who came here to act up got their cars towed (and/or ticketed) … an arrest or two too. It was all good. Community members loved it. We’re going to try to do the same next year, and enhance it.” Regarding noise, he mentioned the new ordinance enhancement is “a tool” that they “haven’t used to its fullest yet” but “next summer” they hope to.
Next, a comment – a person said she was at Westwood Village about six months ago and encountered a person who was behaving erratically and aggressively, so she found police who were there on patrol, and they dealt with him, which she appreciated.
After that, another comment of gratitude, from a person said she came to thank the precinct for intervening in a drug/camping problem at the Delridge P-Patch. “We’d been picking up so much drug paraphernalia, I was just so happy” that something was done. Lt. Strand said Community Police Team Acting Sgt. John O’Neil had been marshaling that over the past week or so. The resident said there were up to 15 people camping there at one point; Lt. Strand said that there had been some connection with the camping on the slope behind Louisa Boren STEM K-8. The woman said she volunteers at Camp Second Chance and there’s a “real difference” between those living at that clean/sober sanctioned encampment and the camping they found at the P-Patch.
The police recommended Find It, Fix It as a good way to report problems/concerns from illegal camping to graffiti vandalism.
GUEST SPEAKER: School Emphasis Officer Tre Smith, who started in the Explorer program, talked about what he does at Washington Middle School – one of four middle schools in the city (including, in West Seattle, Denny International Middle School) that have these officers. The program has evolved with the Seattle Youth Violence Prevention Initiative – they are not there to enforce (unless a serious crime occurs) – school security will handle everything from drugs to fighting. His job is to pinpoint kids who are at risk, connect them with resources, get them into programs with rewards for success. Maybe 10 to 15 kids at higher risk are eligible for incentivizing like that.
When the bell rings, Officer Smith is in the hallway connecting with kids. He even does some teaching (“just got done teaching constitutional rights to 6th graders”). The SEOs are assigned to middle schools – focusing on the formative years when kids “are deciding who they are, who they want to be … becoming young adults.” He works with school counselors to be sure that the kids who need services get them. And he’s mostly there as a resource – “as a human being, to have a conversation.” He said many students refuse to believe he’s a full-fledged police officer (he is, and he’s 25 years old) but think he instead is a security guard. (The school has one of those, too, he said.)
They’re seeing less gang affiliation in middle school; he said his presence has helped cut through the fake-tough veneer that some kids put up – “hey, this guy kind of cares about me.” A lot of them have reduced adult involvement in their lives because their parent(s) are working two jobs just to keep food on the table and a roof over their heads.
Asked about school violence, Officer Smith said they are always watchful about students who might need help, might have shown warning signs.
So what’s the danger time at school? asked Miller. Varies kid by kid, said Officer Smith – depends on whether the child faced trouble as their day began at home, or if trouble built during the day at school. He keeps close tabs on “20 to 30” kids, knowing that “if we get them off to a good start in the morning, they can have a good day.” It’s important that kids “feel they can tell an adult anything, and they’re not going to face retribution for it.”
The West Seattle Crime Prevention Council meets at 7 pm third Tuesdays most months, at the Southwest Precinct (2300 SW Webster). Watch the WSB West Seattle Event Calendar for agenda info once it’s announced.