By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
We recorded it all on video:
If you don’t have time to watch, here are the toplines:
Capt. Davis, who has led the West Seattle/South Park precinct for four years, began with an overview. Data “tell(s) us what and how to do our jobs,” he said, stressing the importance of reporting so that the data exists and is accurate. Though staffing is lower than ideal, “you will never hear from me or my officers (that it’s) why we can’t do anything,” he said – resources from outside the precinct will be sought if needed.
Important tactics include “area saturation,” “targeted enforcement.” Crime-prevention coordinator Jennifer Danner (who was also in attendance), Community Police Team officers, bicycle officers are all part of the arsenal, as is tracking offenders post-arrest.
Crime overall is down 13 percent in the precinct jurisdiction this year. Crimes against persons – including robberies, which spiked earlier this year – are up 17 percent year to year; Capt. Davis said arrests have led to “diminish(ing)” stats in that category, but he warned “we still have a whole lot of summer going. … We’re gearing up for that as we speak.” Property crimes are down 15 percent year to year and “we have some covert units that are out there just knocking them dead.”
Areas of highest emphasis right now are Alki – with foot-beat officers deployed as well as a “dedicated traffic force” and “embedded” parking-enforcement officers – and South Park. In fact, before we finished this story, we noticed two spots of high-profile SPD presence at the beach Friday night – a group of traffic officers with motorcycles, and the team with this car:
First question: What effect if any will the mayor’s newly announced policy have on RVs in West Seattle?
“Hopefully it’ll have a more positive impact than the last five policies we’ve had in (recent) years,” Capt. Davis replied, sparking laughter. He acknowledged “it’s a very very hard problem to wrap yourself around.”
The next question had to do with vandalism problems at the Seattle Chinese Garden and whether police ever had community meetings (on Puget Ridge). Capt. Davis pointed the questioner to Danner to connect with details.
If the precinct could stand more officers – how many DOES it have? Between 75 and 80, the commander said. Realistically, at least 15 more would be good, he added.
So there’s money in the budget for more officers? someone followed up – in other words, funded openings in need of more candidates?
Capt. Davis’s answer boiled down to “yes.” In response to a later question, he reiterated that recruitment is a challenge, and not just for the reasons you think you’ve heard – police work in general (firefighting too) isn’t necessarily appealing to young people these days.
Next question: What’s the standard response time for non-violent property crimes?
This answer could be summarized as “depends” on the prioritization from the dispatch center, what else is going on, etc.
After some clarification on what a priority call entails – something is happening right NOW, for example – another person mentioned an apartment complex that was hit by the same burglar(s) three times, but officers didn’t respond, though, the questioner said, it was reported “at the time.” That’s “unacceptable,” Capt. Davis agreed, and said he wants to hear directly if a call to dispatch does not lead to a response.
To support reducing crime, people should be supporting mental-health services and housing, suggested one attendee, looking for confirmation. Capt. Davis replied that the city can’t “arrest our way out” of anything and does need to make services available but in some cases, “some individuals of the criminal element” might get assistance “through incarceration.”
An attendee said she’s a business owner, a homeowner, and a recovered addict – and feels she should be getting more support when victimized by property crime.
Shortly thereafter, it was pointed out that West Seattle has pioneered a Business Block Watch, launching in the West Seattle Junction area.
More than 50 businesses are participating, Danner said, explaining that it results in education for business owners and staffers, and now there’s a second one in Westwood Village, too. She’s assisting the North Precinct in launching one too. Intragroup communication is vital – the Junction group, for example, is using a Slack channel to share real-time updates if there’s an alert to share with others. “We’ve been notified within minutes of a problem,” enthused a participant.
Some participants started sharing stories and one person said “the yelling guy” in The Junction was finally able to be arrested and to get help thanks to police work.
A businessperson from South Delridge wondered about SPD cooperation with King County Sheriff’s Office regarding the White Center area immediately south. “The collaboration is there,” Capt. Davis assured her, adding, “a lot of times their bad people are our bad people as well.”
How much local crime is related to gangs? another attendee added. She brought up a rumor that some gang-related crimes “weren’t allowed to be identified as such.” Capt. Davis’s reply started with context from decades ago, saying he was one of SPD’s first gang detectives way back when. He said it does take a lot to put the gang label on a crime. “A lot of these individuals that are involved in … shootings do identify themselves with a clique,” but not necessarily a true “gang,” he said. Some recent shots-fired incidents might be in that category but again, labeling it as “gang” activity has a high bar, he explained.
As usual, the lunch meeting also provided attendees a chance to make announcements:
REUSE/RECYCLE EVENT: 9 am-1 pm June 29th in The Junction, volunteers needed
CHAMBER’S NEXT LUNCH MEETING: 11:30 am July 18, with King County Executive Dow Constantine
OTHER ANNOUNCEMENTS: Among them: June 20th, World Refugee Day storytelling event at South Park Senior Center … June 20th, ArtsWest‘s next opening, a musical … June 22nd, the Terminal 5 pre-construction open house at Jack Block Park … June 22nd, kite festival at Seattle Chinese Garden … West Seattle Clothesline donations are on hold because of its upcoming move … July 18th, the Chamber’s City Council Candidate Forum at SSC’s Brockey Center, 6:30 pm, RSVPs will be requested so they know how many people to plan for (watch for details).