Home safety was the spotlight topic at the final West Seattle Crime Prevention Council meeting of the year, Tuesday night at the Southwest Precinct, so we’re starting with what the ~15 people in attendance heard from Jennifer Danner, the precinct’s crime-prevention coordinator:
She began by going around the room and asking people what they wanted to know about. Most had questions about video and cameras. Danner reminded everyone that she can do home-security assessments. She started with some myth debunking – “when a door is kicked in, it’s not the door that breaks, usually it’s the frame.” Changing the length of the screws with which your door is fastened is an easy, cheap way to help secure it, Danner said. When it comes to locks, exterior doors should have deadbolts – there too, the length is important; an inch-and-a-half throw is even better than the more-standard inch.
Window security – “You always want to add one more thing to your window,” since most windows can be broken into from the outside.
A dowel in the track is very helpful for a window that slides sideways or up. So even if someone defeats the other lock, the dowel is almost impossible to get around. Breaking the glass is loud and that’s usually a criminal’s last resort. Make sure the dowel is an inch or two shorter than the track so you can at least open the window a bit. “Security film” is another way to make windows more secure – even if the window is broken, the glass stays in place. It’s a good idea especially if your door lock is within two and a half feet of window glass. Added “track locks” are helpful too.
Lighting, cameras, alarms – First of all, Danner said, remember that burglaries almost always happen during the day when homes are vacant, not while the people inside are home at night, Danner reminded attendees. As for cameras, one high-quality camera is worth 10 low-quality cameras, she said. The clearer the better – you might catch an identifying mark on a criminal’s face or body, for example. Be careful where you place/point the camera, though, warned precinct liaison attorney Joe Everett – be mindful of neighbors’ privacy; even though it’s not illegal “you’re getting closer to getting yourself in trouble,” so it’s most advisable to point your camera at your own front door, your own property. She recommends having it cover entry points. What about motion-sensor lighting? It’s often placed in a spot where it’s not drawing the attention it’s intended to, she noted. And if you have a camera that runs all the time, be sure you have lighting in that area at all times too.
Cameras can be helpful – but they’re not the be-all-and-end-all answer – even if a criminal sees the camera, s/he may speculate nobody’ll check it, and proceed anyway.
What about an audible alarm? If you get one of those, Danner advised, make sure it’s VERY LOUD, at least 100 decibels. Then – test it and let your neighbors know what it sounds like and that you appreciate them calling 911 if they hear it going off.
Danner’s contact info is here.
FROM THE CAPTAIN: The meeting opened with the usual briefing from, and Q&A with, precinct commander Capt. Pierre Davis. He said property crimes are still the big problem year to date in this area. The recent Myers Way illegal-encampment cleanup has helped, especially in Highland Park and vicinity, and some crime statistics have since started to drop, he said. But we’re just now coming into the fall and holiday season when thieves “come out of the woodwork,” he warned. So “you have to help us help you.” Strong Block Watches, “watching out for each other’s property,” not hesitating to call 911, are all important. He said “property emphasis patrols …above and beyond what we normally staff” will be added. “There is a need.”
Officers are also watching vacant properties and RVs, Davis said. The trespass program is vital for the former – so if there’s a problem in your area, be sure police are aware. For the latter, the captain gave a nod to community members who’ve been calling attention to the Harbor Avenue parking (we count there daily and saw only one this afternoon). Note: This meeting was a few hours before the West Seattle Health Club crash/fire.
Back to crime in general, Capt. Davis said “area saturation” is a technique once they see trends in certain areas, along with arresting repeat offenders and continuing to work with prosecutors and judges to keep them in jail longer.
A longtime community member had a bit of a rant about the many questions 911 dispatchers/calltakers ask. “Yes, sometimes it’s frustrating … but there’s a reason why they ask the things they do,” noted Capt. Davis.
Another community member echoed the concerns and wondered why calltakers ask what “race” a suspect is when the more proper question would be about skin color – light, dark, etc.
Next question: If a neighbor spots a crime at the construction site next door, can they report it? Yes, said Davis. What if you have evidence, like video, of a crime at a neighbor’s house? Get the case number and use that when you contact police, but keep in mind that there may be a higher-priority situation happening at that time so the officer might not show up until later. You can also come to the precinct and talk to the desk person – there’s someone in the lobby 24/7.
Can 911 accept texted photos? asked another attendee. Crime prevention coordinator Danner said they don’t have the capability but are working on it. One small step – if you call 911 from a cell phone and hang up, they are able to send you a text asking if you are OK. (Calling 911 from any phone and hanging up gets a response, it was noted.)
Since officers have cell phones, what about contacting them directly, texting them a photo, etc.? Capt. Davis replied that they don’t have the capability to work that way just yet.
WSCPC president Richard Miller mentioned seeing the bicycle squad earlier in the day. Precinct leadership is deploying them where there’s a need, along with the Anti-Crime Team, and other resources.
Someone asked about Saturday night’s shooting and stabbing incidents. Capt. Davis didn’t have additional information on the former beyond what we reported in our Monday followup. In general, he said this year has been “better” than last year in terms of gunfire incidents overall. 34 incidents so far this year in West Seattle (just under one per week). He then mentioned the 5900 block of Delridge shots-fired incident we covered a week and a half ago, and “no one knows anything about that either” so due to a lack of witness information that one too remains a mystery.
DRUG TAKE-BACK DAY: Reminder that 10 am-2 pm Saturday, October 27, you can bring unneeded medication to Drug Take-Back Day at the precinct (2300 SW Webster), including properly packaged liquids.
PUBLIC-SAFETY SURVEY: Another reminder, this is now open for you to take it and surface crime/safety/policing issues in your community (here’s our story from earlier this week).
The West Seattle Crime Prevention Council will start up again in January – it meets 7 pm third Tuesdays at the precinct.