Alki, Westwood Village, repeat mail-theft suspect, police staffing, more @ West Seattle Crime Prevention Council

By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

After last month’s cancellation, this month’s West Seattle Crime Prevention Council meeting had plenty to talk about. It happened online last night, moderated by Southwest Precinct crime-prevention coordinator Jennifer Danner and featuring precinct commander Capt. Kevin Grossman.

CRIME TRENDS: Data shows crime up 8 percent in West Seattle over last year, Capt. Grossman said, showing the SeaStat dashboard for Southwest Precinct stats.

Part of that: Violent crime is up 21 percent – mostly because of domestic violence, he said. Property crime is up 7 percent; the most-common types are burglaries, auto thefts, and arsons at encampments. (Those too have included domestic violence – here’s one example.) He’s working with the Arson/Bomb Squad to see if there’s anything more proactive they can do. The Junction is the current hotspot for property crimes, especially parking-garage storage area break-ins – if one burglar breaks into multiple storage units in a single garage, each one counts as a separate burglary.

STAFFING: Capt. Grossman repeated what he and precinct lieutenants have said at other meetings – that a third of the officers have been lost since he came to the SW Precinct last July.

Chief Adrian Diaz‘s decision to move specialty-unit officers to patrol didn’t help much. The precinct no longer has its own detective unit; that work is now centralized out of the East Precinct. Grossman disbanded the precinct’s Bicycle Squad because he needed those officers more to be in cars, answering 911 calls. He talked about the Anti-Crime Team being lost for the creation of the Community Response Group, though that citywide unit does provide some help, serving as a fourth shift of sorts, roaming the city depending on where there’s the most need. The precinct’s Community Police Team, he said, was lost as most of those officers retired; one sergeant remains in a role working on “a lot of long-term issues.” Overall, though, the number of people leaving SPD has slowed to a trickle, he said, and they’re getting some academy graduates, so the staffing picture is brightening a bit. Later in the meeting, an attendee question brought out some specifics about how many officers are on duty at a particular time. The three shifts are 3 am-noon, 11 am-8 pm, 7 pm-4 am. There are minimum numbers for each shift based on the usual call load – 8 for first, 10 for second, 9 for third. But on many shifts he has to bring in officers on OT just to hit the mimimum. Seldom does he have someone extra. And just one high-risk call, say a domestic-violence incident, might take the entire contingent of officers who are on duty at that time.

ALKI BEACH: Racing is an increasing challenge, with “club racing groups on the rise,” Grossman said. He’s received permission to “upstaff” Alki, with extra officers on overtime, on the weekends as needed; the State Patrol is the racing-emphasis lead, and that’s why they were involved one recent weekend. Regarding the beach overall, he warned, “I’m going to be honest, it’s going to be a challenge … we’ll have to monitor it, (also) to be sure the Parks Department is onboard assisting us as much as they can.”

WESTWOOD VILLAGE: The shopping center remains the precinct’s top 911 call location, “a big draw on resources.” Lots of theft that’s not just shoplifting but also “organized retail theft – they’re doing it for a living.” For example, according to Grossman, Ulta Beauty is losing “thousands of dollars a day (in product) walking out their door.” Historically SPD has had some challenges working with the center and chain retailers there but Grossman says Westwood Village has had a management change and now they’re enthusiastic about working with police, so they’re building that relationship and working on prevention as well as information-sharing between businesses so they can avoid “the same crew vicitimizing multiple stores.”

JASON TURNER: The case of this repeat mail-theft suspect – arrested last Sunday for the 7th time this year, charged Monday – is “frustrating.” So far Turner hasn’t “risen to the level where the feds are interested” in taking over the case, Grossman said, noting that though a postal inspector has interviewed Turner, USPIS is not interested in the case so far, so it’s up to SPD and the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office. In Grossman’s view, it appears “there are some mental health issues … I’d rather get him some help.” So he’s working with KCPAO to try to get his case into Mental Health Court so there’s dome enforced treatment; they’ve also made a referral to LEAD, which could get him housing and food, so he’s not stealing as subsistence. “I’m hoping we can intervene and stop the cycle. … We don’t want to keep arresting him, we’d rather see him stop stealing mail. He doesn’t seem to understand that what he’s doing is wrong.” Grossman has committed to showing up at Turner’s first appearance “to try to persuade the judge to at least try to keep him in custody so we can get all these things in place.”

COMMUNITY QUESTIONS: This is always the main event of a WSCPC meeting – attendees have lots of time to ask the SPD rep(s) about general concerns and/or specific cases.

Any followup in the shooting near Roxhill Park? Short answer: No.

What should people do about traffic collisions when no one’s hurt but there’s significant damage? If there’s no crime and no one’s hurt, police may not be needed – “we end up working for the insurance companies” in those incidents,, he observed.

Other issues – “homelessness issues are no longer police issues,” Grossman noted, as he and others have also said at other meetings. If there’s a concern in a park, it’s Parks, if there’s a concern on a sidewalk, it’s SDOT, if it’s a concern related to RV camping, it’s Seattle Public Utilities. Otherwise, it’s up to the Human Services Department. If a crime is being committed, though, he clarified – whether an unhoused or housed person – that’s a 911 call.

Driver issues – Speeding? No plates? “That’s not something we have the bandwidth to respond to.” Stranger on the front porch? That could be a 911 call. Someone with mental-health issues? If someone is a threat to themselves or someone else, there’s a law that allows police to get them taken to the hospital. If it doesn’t rise to that level, there are other options for getting them some help.

THOUGHTS ON THE MINNEAPOLIS VERDICT: The meeting began just a few hours after a former officer was found guilty of murdering George Floyd while on duty last May. Grossman started with his thoughts, including: “I’ve been a police officer for 25 years and when I saw the video, I said to myself ‘that shouldn’t happen’ … for my colleagues I talk to informally, I was heartened that they were all on the same page … professionally it causes me to double down on my efforts to make policing a better profession, even more resolute that my profession is worthy of the public’s trust.” He said he sits down with every new officer for a chat and tells them “policing is a service organization.” Also, “that everyone deserves dignity, no matter what they’re accused of, they’re all human beings who deserve dignity.”

The West Seattle Crime Prevention Council meets third Tuesdays most months, lately at 6 pm online.

24 Replies to "Alki, Westwood Village, repeat mail-theft suspect, police staffing, more @ West Seattle Crime Prevention Council"

  • KD April 21, 2021 (7:41 pm)

    Honestly, I don’t know why Ulta and Safeway and all other store with the high ‘walk or run out’ disgusting crime (Safeway on Roxbury and 1st. Ave. So. is daily theft running too) all do the Costco way. Have someone stand at the front and you can’t pass unless you present your receipt. I KNOW that stores are afraid of offending people, but if we all are asked to do it, and unlike Costco, have the receipt checker be a big buff security guard (they can’t tackle anyone outside of the doors, but inside they can) none of us law abiders that pay higher prices for all the theft won’t be offended at all to gladly show receipts! Do the Costco version amped up security style! (Please!!) 

    • BetteDavisEyes April 21, 2021 (9:29 pm)

      I would be more than happy to show my receipt before leaving any store, especially if it reduces shrinkage and helps to keep costs down and the stores in business.  The cost of staffing the exits should easily be offset by the reduction in daily losses at some of these locations.

      • KD April 22, 2021 (2:36 pm)

        @BetteDavisEyes… EXACTLY!!

    • StopCuttingDownTrees April 21, 2021 (9:50 pm)

      Costco can keep anyone without a card out in the first place and cancel memberships of thieves who refuse to show receipts. Safeway, Target, and Ulta has to let everyone in. I would love to see those stores go members-only with cheap $5 – $10 annual memberships.

      • Foop April 22, 2021 (10:00 am)

        If this idea isn’t a direct attack on the poor then I don’t know what is.

        • CMT April 22, 2021 (1:43 pm)

          I think it’s a great idea and I’d be happy to donate to a fund to provide memberships for those to whom it is a financial hardship if it would help reduce the currently consequence-free level of shoplifting that takes place.  

        • KD April 22, 2021 (2:34 pm)

          @Foop… POOR DON’T GET TO STEAL EITHER!!! Stop it! Beer cases out of Safeway isn’t ‘feeding the poor!’ Stealing thousands of $ worth of hair and beauty products weekly by the same selfish %@&# ‘crew’ from Ulta isn’t ‘the poor.’ Plenty of and multiple food banks around this area open daily and government services available to apply for assistance to NOT steal for fun. It ain’t cause their poor, it’s because they ‘can’.. just stop your whining. Whine for is hard workers who pay our taxes for their services. Don’t you dare equate poor with thug stealing. Rude to the truly hurting poor. 

          • Foop April 23, 2021 (7:33 am)

            Restricting access to things like groceries and consumer goods to those who can pay a membership fee (on top of our already regressive tax code) hurts the poor. I was saying nothing about thieves. Y’all are willing to burn the impoverished masses to hurt the relatively few thieves. And yes, poverty does drive people to steal.And who’s whining? Poor people pay taxes too, in fact, in WA they pay more in proportion to their income than our wealthiest.

    • bill April 21, 2021 (10:28 pm)

      I’m having trouble recollecting ever visiting a Costco where the receipt checkers were remotely physically capable of tackling a shoplifter. 

      • StopCuttingDownTrees April 22, 2021 (12:07 am)

        The Costco receipt-checkers don’t have to tackle theives. If they get a customer who refuses to show a receipt they simply have loss prevention review their path via cameras back to the register. Then they cancel their membership if they paid for the merchandise and refused to show receipt. If they bypassed the registers and stole the item(s) they can show card-checkers at every local Costco their photos to be-on-the-lookout. It doesn’t eliminate theft but it greatly reduces shrinkage.

      • Lindsey April 22, 2021 (5:45 pm)

        It’s actually intended to be a sedentary position and often used as a position for people on short-term disability to transition back to work. So yeah, nobody’s getting tackled. 

  • S April 21, 2021 (8:12 pm)

    I remember something last summer about the parks department or other department being brought on to help with Alki issues but it only lasted a week because approval had to be given first. I wonder if that assistance can get approval and go forward for this summer? We’re gonna need it. I avoid the area in the summer but have been there a night a few times. Besides racing, and the occasional shooting or stabbing, there’s a ton of low level, free for all, illegal behavior like drinking alcohol, pot smoking, fires. Like previous summers detailed on WSB, last summer was crazy even though we were in a pandemic. Anyone new to this area is in for a surprise this summer.

  • Rick April 21, 2021 (10:24 pm)

    Last I heard alcohol and pot was legal. Heck, next thing ya know it’ll be OK to vote R.

    • S April 22, 2021 (12:21 am)

      Legal but not in public  places, parks, sidewalks, beaches, etc.

      • Me April 22, 2021 (5:55 am)

        Since when do we care about people following and police enforcing laws around here? Ohhhh, only when it involves nuances in our own neighborhood like these instances at the beach. 

      • CW April 22, 2021 (6:09 am)

        You can drink on the sidewalk in the junction. It’s called outside seating :)

  • Jort April 21, 2021 (10:39 pm)

    Speeding? No plates? “That’s not something we have the bandwidth to respond to.”

       24 people died in Seattle due to automobile collisions last year. I guess there’s no “bandwidth” to prevent those. Lots of “bandwidth” for officers to stand outside of empty parking garages and “direct traffic.” Lots of “bandwidth” for hundreds of armored police to confront peaceful protestors at gargantuan overtime rates. Lots of “bandwidth” to head over to the Capitol and participate in an insurrection against the lawful government. Why won’t the police just come out and say it: they, just like the vast majority of motor enthusiasts, don’t think speeding is a real crime, even though it is directly correlated with a disproportionately high rate of death among developed countries. 

    • Frog April 22, 2021 (1:21 am)

      Jort, dude, you need to travel more.  From Wikipedia, annual road deaths per 100,000 motor vehicles:  US 14.2; Thailand 60.2; Philippines 135; Kenya 640.7; Pakistan 283.9 etc.  If you had been to any of those places, you would know that Seattle traffic is relatively tame.  If you ever saw in Madagascar III and remember Marty the Zebra driving in Monaco, trying to elude Chantel DuBois  — that’s what traffic feels like in a lot of other countries.  Also, I realize you spend a lot of time under your car-hating rock, but let me catch you up on some news:  traffic stops by police have created a lot of trouble lately related to conflict with civilians, race relations, etc.  Lack of bandwidth is spin that translates to “we want nothing to do with it.”

      • Jort April 26, 2021 (1:55 pm)

        Sorry, I didn’t know we were comparing Kenya and Pakistan to United States when discussing the rate in “developed countries,” but sure, if you want to say “we’re better than Kenya!” then I guess I can’t argue with that. I do, however, agree that traffic stops shouldn’t be done by police and should, instead, be done by automated systems that hand out speeding tickets to every single person who drives one single mile per hour over the limit, and they should be installed on every block on every street in every city and town in every county in Washington. In the meantime, automobile crashes are one of the single greatest causes of death and unintentional injury in Washington and the United States and for the police to throw up their hands and say, “What’reyagonnado?” Well, that’s just further evidence they should face serious changes to what they receive in public funding.

    • Me April 22, 2021 (5:58 am)

      This is a ridiculous take. They aren’t directing traffic on shift. That’s over time paid for by private companies. I won’t even acknowledge your other points because those too make no sense. We want police to enforce speeding, but don’t let it lead to a use of force, don’t pull people over for things like broken tail lights because that unjustly targets BIPOC. People need to make up their minds about what they want from police. 

    • Stickerbush April 22, 2021 (8:53 am)

      Speeding is not a crime, it is a civil violation.

      • Jort April 22, 2021 (10:56 am)

        Careful with your pedantry – technically, ALL speeding is prima facie evidence of reckless driving, a criminal violation. And speeding, in any case, even one mile over the limit, is unquestionably a violation of law, whether that violation is treated as a criminal proceeding or as a traffic infraction. Police officers simply choose not to enforce speeding and reckless driving laws because they have entered into an unspoken compact with the rest of society that speeding law violations can be tolerated in certain circumstances and in certain amounts, and even by certain races of people (see the disproportionately high amounts of traffic tickets written to minority populations). All the pedantry around definitions in the world does not change for one moment the illegality of speeding. 

        • TM7302 April 22, 2021 (12:14 pm)

          @JORT… You make me laugh, looks like the pot is calling the kettle black…

    • PragmaticResident April 24, 2021 (2:38 pm)

      How should the police respond to speeding? Do larger and larger concentric circles from the location of original call in until they track the speeder down? Or perhaps they can take the callers word for it along with their estimated speed and assign a ticket to the registered driver? I’m not sure that is the best use of police resources.

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