By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
Last Friday’s 24th/Kenyon gunfire was a major community concern discussed at the May meeting of the West Seattle Crime Prevention Council, which regularly provides a chance to tell local police leadership what’s on your mind.
We also asked what had transpired since news at last month’s WSCPC meeting that the precinct planned to deploy the SPD observation tower in this area.
Present from the precinct – where the WSCPC met last night, as usual – were commander Capt. Pierre Davis and city attorney’s office liaison Joe Everett. A featured guest from Seattle Fire spoke later in the meeting.
CAPTAIN’S UPDATE: “Directed patrolling” is being used to target chronic problems like property crime. Sometimes that entails “covert operations” and it’s made some dents. Data isn’t caught up right now, though, because of SPD’s change in report systems. “Anecdotally – when the warmer weather comes out, a lot of things happen.” They’re also deploying “targeted enforcement” and keeping an eye on known offenders, including tracking people who have been released from jail. He mentioned the Alki/Beach Drive emphasis patrols – “not new, we do this every (summer)” – as well as South Park. If you’re having chronic problems, talk to precinct leadership and they can see about an emphasis patrol for your area too, he said. Update on robberies: They targeted the youth/phone robberies – “some had a gang tinge to it, some didn’t” – and made arrests in those cases, “and those type of incidents seem to have subsided, so far.”
Regarding the gunfire incidents such as last Friday: “That should not happen … (but) Groups are going at it, it’s very dangerous and people don’t seem to care … a lot of it is very target-specific … unfortunately people get caught in the crossfire. Throughout the whole city there seems to be an issue … (including) other jurisdictions, Renton, Federal Way, Tukwila …” Capt. Davis said they needed more information. Then as soon as he started taking questions, a woman said she had video of the incident and called police but no one returned her phone calls. “I tried to give information and no one wanted to return my calls … that’s why I’m here tonight.” Capt. Davis asked if there’d been “any activities” at 24th/Kenyon since Friday. She said no and declared the corner would “be empty” for a while.
Asked later about whether there’s a time limit for the “vigil” that’s been kept at that corner for more than a year, Capt. Davis said there’s no rules but some of the elements of it have broken the laws – painted roads/curbs, noise from cars playing the music of the murdered rapper to whom the long-running vigil is dedicated – “I know every single JuiceTheGod song,” the attendee said. He contended that it’s brought other crime to the area – his car’s been broken into three times. “None of this stuff happened before April 1st last year.” Capt. Davis promised to continue the conversation with area residents outside the meeting.
Back to Alki: Last weekend’s noise enforcement seemed to work, another attendee said: “This last batch of warmer weather, the noise was way down.” Capt. Davis said that was in large part thanks to help from the Traffic Unit. “From what I understand, they did a stellar job.” He said there will be extra patroling during the three-day Memorial Day weekend, too.
Also: There’s a “swing gate” at Don Armeni Boat Ramp now, “so if things get too bad we have the (option) of shutting that down.”
A South Delridge resident said a prolific car prowler is busy again in the area – as are other “new” prowlers his security camera has recorded. Capt. Davis said his Anti-Crime Team will be on the lookout in the area.
A Gatewood resident asked if police had been getting many complaints about door-to-door soliciting. Capt. Davis said not lately but observed that they come and go and it’s tough to tell who’s legit and who’s not.
Asked if there’s hope that police will get more of the resources they need, Capt. Davis said there’s always hope, but in the meantime, he works with whatever he can get, and is appreciative of alert community members, and hopeful of increased support from other branches of city government. “Our team needs to expand” – by everyone being part of it.
Speaking of resources …
ABOUT THAT TOWER: Though last month’s mention of plans to use the SPD SkyWatch tower locally sounded like a hard-and-fast plan, when we asked about it last night, Capt. Davis said that was more of a “testing the waters” mention. He said that given the uproar when the tower was used in Southeast Seattle, he wanted to see how people would react here. His gauge of the resulting reaction was about 70 percent pro, 30 percent con. So, he said, he wants to have complete buy-in of his supervisors before using it, and that includes data warranting its use. Bottom line, no specific plan right now.
Finally, the featured guest:
SEATTLE FIRE LOW-ACUITY-ALARM PROGRAM: Jon Ehrenfeld from SFD agreed the program name was a challenge “but we’re working on it.” Its goal – explained here – is to make sure firefighters/paramedics are more available for the truly serious calls; a fire in June 2010 that killed six people “was a catalyst moment” – nearby Engine 9 was not in its quarters because of a “low-acuity” call. Up to 85 percent of SFD’s 100,000 annual calls are medical – fewer fires, and fewer fatalities, “which is very good news” but it mean they’re often busy on other things if fire strikes. Only a small percentage – 6,000 of the 85,000 people who were the subject of medical calls – required medic unit transportation to the hospital. Almost half the annual medical calls were “lower acuity” – not much the system could do between sending you to the emergency room and leaving you at home. There’s a West Seattle woman who is one of the highest utilizers of services in the city right now and was taken to hospitals twice the previous morning alone – both times, Ehrenfeld said, she was released shortly after arrival.
“We’re just starting to see what works in this realm.” One program is their high-utilizer program – at least six calls in a quarter – last year more than 3,000 people had at least three EMS calls. So their program does case management and outreach, trying to figure out how to connect people to services, to reduce their needs.
Who are “these folks who are calling 911 so much?” They often are or have been experiencing homelessness and/or they have multiple medical/behavioral problems; “they tend to be older, they tend to be sicker” but “we think this is a working project and we’d like to expand.” He said he could probably use five social workers to connect with “frequent utilizers” but only currently has one.
What’s next for the program: Integrative health care, “trying to break the cycle of we respond, we take you to the emergency department, you’re discharged.” He talked about a typical call – say, someone with diabetes who needs an infusion – instead of just treating them, the would ask, why did this happen, have you seen your endocrinologist lately, have you seen your GP, do you have a doctor, etc.
The first official low-acuity unit will launch later this year with firefighters and social workers – the latter will have the holistic view. They don’t have the funding to run 24/7 so they’ll be set up to respond during weekday hours. “Our expectation is we’re going to see a lot of folks experiencing homelessness, a lot of mental health, a lot of substance abuse. … It’s a pilot, we’re going to run it, we’re going to see what happens.” It’s starting downtown but they hope they will be able to expand it citywide – even in areas like southwest West Seattle, served by Engine 37, they have a lot of calls that this sort of unit could be handling, he said, describing it as the SFD version of community policing.
In Q&A, the money issue came up. SFD is a non-billing agency so where their work pays off is in saving other agencies/departments/entities money because of what they do, but they need to figure out how to get credit for that.
The West Seattle Crime Prevention Council meets third Tuesdays at the Southwest Precinct, 7 pm. The June 20th meeting will be the last one before summer hiatus.