It’s a summery spring night on Alki. Despite signs like the one above, SFD has been called out to handle unauthorized beach fires tonight. And SPD has been summoned to investigate reports of racing/stunt-driving at Don Armeni Boat Ramp. Reckless driving was.a big topic at last night’s Alki Community Council meeting, including late-night crashes like this one hours after the meeting:
Southwest Precinct Lt. Dorothy Kim represented local police at the ACC meeting. She recapped what we reported on Monday about last Sunday’s multi-agency show of force – noting that the State Patrol is “really interested in the street racers” because the groups often use I-5 to get from one point to another.
WSP sent five cars. The plan, Lt. Kim explained, was to limit access to Don Armeni to boaters, so “that prevented the street racers from being able to congregate there.” The Crowd Response Group helped out, as well as an emphasss team from the precinct. “We want to set the tone – come down and emjoy the beach, but no shenanigans. I feel like that was really successful.” One previously untold part of the story – Tacoma Police had identified a reckless-driving suspect and circulated images, and that person wound up on Alki, “so we were able to arrest him and impound his vehicle … to end the evening.” She said that precinct commander Capt. Kevin Grossman has authorized some emphasis patrols this weekend too, “so we’re going to do something similar.” Top department brass, she said, also has been asking if they need additional resources.
In crime trends, she said violent crimes on Alki are unchanged but property crimes up, particularly car prowls and auto thefts.
One attendee thanked Lt. Kim for police presence on the Alki Point Keep Moving Street. Another attendee who said he’d noticed a problem with public drunkenness Sunday afternoon wondered about DUI checkpoints; those aren’t legal, Lt. Kim said. She noted that while all officers can conduct a DUI investigation, the department has lost its dedicated DUI unit in recent changes, “so it’s harder to do targeted enforcement of DUIs anywhere in the city.” That was part of the shuffling of specialty units to patrol to ensure there were enough officers to respond to 911 calls.
Also regarding the staffing issue, in response to an attendee question: Every day this month and next is challenging, Lt. Kim said – they have to bring people in on overtime, for example, just to have a minimum level, and after a while, that leads to burnout. After May, based on training and people coming back from injury leave, things should be a bit better, she said (though she also noted that two officers she supervises are currently in the process of seeking to move to a department outside Seattle).
What about a private security firm? asked a resident. Lt. Kim noted that some neighborhoods in the city hire that type of help.
Another attendee noted that while police were focused on Alki last weekend, a group of drivers clogged the road along Beach Drive.
“Thank you for making a huge difference,” one attendee told Lt. Kim before she left the meeting.
CIVILITY: Attendees had a bigger-picture discussion about behavior at the beach. ACC president Tony Fragada exhorted not only listening to each other, but also to neighbors from other parts of West Seattle. “A lot of people are struggling now … having bad behavior because they don’t know what else to do.” Neighborhood conversations often tend to focus on complaints, so how do they change that?
One attendee said they’d like to see people who come to visit behaving with “a modicum of civility … we’re just trying to get some basic behavioral standards enforced.” Another suggested that the people from various parts of the greater Alki community need to band together to leverage their power. She observed that there would likely be enough support to for example calm traffic with “islands.” Also: What about privately funded speed bumps?
They shared anecdotes including racers blocking the roads, late-night/early-morning collisions that damaged parked cars, debris left behind including license plates. How to organize and join forces was a major topic of discussion. They contend the point is safety – the reckless driving is making the beach unsafe for bike riders, pedestrians, beachgoers, even other drivers. West Seattle “is a very family-oriented place,” one person declared, “and we need to keep these streets safe for children.”
Fragada asked for volunteers to organize a discussion at the next ACC meeting, which will be Thursday, May 20th.