Two City Council notes:
PRICE TAG FOR RACING TICKET: After last week’s much-reported full-council vote authorizing speed-enforcement cameras in designated “racing zones,” including Alki and Harbor Avenues and West Marginal Way, enforcement cameras will be discussed by the Transportation and Public Utilities Committee this Tuesday. The major topic is a discussion of potentially doubling the number of school-zone speed-enforcement cameras around the city, though new locations aren’t mentioned. In the slide deck prepared for the discussion, SDOT says school-zone cameras have improved safety, with stats on page 6 saying average speeds in the zones have declined slightly, and collisions have declined dramatically. Then the committee moves on to consider legislation allowing even more uses for enforcement cameras. From the staff summary:
This legislation amends SMC provisions regarding use of automated traffic safety cameras to implement several new provisions authorized by the state legislature in 2022 with passage of the Move Ahead Washington transportation package. These provisions allow for 24/7 speed limit enforcement in school walk areas, park and hospital zones, and on additional streets – up to 1 camera per 10,000 population – that have either 1) been identified as a priority location in a local road safety plan that a city has submitted to WSDOT and where other speed reduction measures are not feasible or have not been sufficiently effective at reducing travel speed; 2) have a significantly higher rate of collisions than the city average in a period of at least 3 years and other speed reduction measures are not feasible or have not been sufficiently effective at reducing travel speed; or 3) is in an area designated by ordinance as a street racing zone.
The legislation also sets the fees/fines for the various types of enforcement – $75 for block-the-box or restricted-lane violations, and $139 for speed enforcement including “racing zone” cameras (same as the current red-light-camera fee). This does not affect or change the amount charged for school-zone speed violations, currently $237. The committee’s meeting is at 9;30 am Tuesday (August 1st) and the agenda explains how to watch/comment.
ORGANIZED RETAIL CRIME: That’s the umbrella term for organized shoplifting and fencing, discussed in the council’s Public Safety and Human Services Committee this past Tuesday. The occasion: A City Auditor report, requested by Councilmembers Lisa Herbold and Andrew Lewis, reviewing the state of the problem and how the city handles it. Here’s the report; here’s the meeting video:
Of local interest, note this table of Seattle locations that generate the most calls to police for shoplifting:
Westwood Village is number two, and Westwood Target (technically not part of the shopping center) is number five. The problem overall is estimated at $2.7 billion statewide in the past year. Here’s what the City Auditor’s Office says could be done to try to reduce it:
1. Support City participation in collaborative efforts among agencies, including collaboration with the new Organized Retail Crime Unit in the Washington State Attorney General’s Office.
2. Leverage federal and state crime analysis resources.
3. Use in-custody interviews of “boosters” — people who steal on behalf of fencing operations — to gather information on fencing operations.
4. Explore new uses of technology to address ORC.
5. Use place-based approaches to disrupt unregulated street markets.
6. Follow the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office “prosecution checklist” for ORC cases.
7. Consider City support of legislation that addresses ORC.
Tuesday’s meeting was just a discussion of the report and the problem; any action, on those seven points and/or others, would come later, and aren’t necessarily in the purview of the council. Participants in the discussion also included SPD, the City Attorney’s Office, and King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office.