West Seattle, Washington
By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
Encampment and police updates comprised most of last night’s Southwest Precinct Crime Prevention Council meeting, plus community Q&A.
The group, chaired by Melody Sarkies, meets monthly as an open opportunity to talk with and hear from police and featured guests. Last night, Tom Van Bronkhorst, a city official who has long been involved with homelessness response, was the guest.
As we reported late last night, he announced toward the end of the meeting that the Harbor Avenue RV encampment is set for another sweep in late February. But he was there mostly to discuss the far-bigger encampment at 2nd/Michigan, near the 1st Avenue South Bridge, following up on the revelation at the last SWPCPC meeting that a sweep had been planned and then called off. Officially, he’s on the Seattle Parks payroll, but he participates in the Unified Care Team meetings at which priorities and planned cleanups are discussed.
Though the stolen-car-magnet encampment by the 1st Avenue South Bridge was the central topic of tonight’s Southwest Precinct Crime Prevention Council meeting, another encampment is the subject of our first headline from the meeting: City rep Tom Van Bronkhorst told the group that the Harbor Avenue RV encampment is scheduled to be swept again “at the end of this month.” RVs that don’t voluntarily move will be towed, he said. That’s unless there’s evidence someone is living there, added Operations Lt. Dorothy Kim, although she said outreach workers believe that several of the Harbor RVs are NOT being used as homes and may even have the same owner. Leading up to the sweep, Van Bronkhorst said, SDOT is going to the area for “debris removal” weekly. Lt. Kim noted that people with houses and businesses in the area need to be aware that when the sweep happens, the area will be posted as “no parking” for a few weeks. So how will they keep the RVs from returning again this time? Lt. Kim said police, including Parking Enforcement Officers, plan to be “diligent” about enforcement. What about more-permanent action like an RPZ, as has been suggested? That’s all still being discussed.
As for the 1st Avenue South encampment and other topics addressed tonight – we’ll have a separate full report on that, including video of the meeting, Friday morning.
PACKAGE GRABBER: Around 8 am today, this package thief struck in Highland Park:
Mike, who sent the video and report, says this happened near 12th SW and SW Kenyon.
MEETING REMINDER: You’re invited to hear from and talk with police at the Southwest Precinct Crime Prevention Council meeting this Thursday, in person or online. The featured guest will be from the city’s Unified Care Team, which deals with encampments. The meeting’s at 7 pm Thursday (February 16) at the precinct (2300 SW Webster); online and phone attendance info is in our calendar listing.
This month’s West Seattle Crime Prevention Council meeting offered more than police updates and community Q&A – it also offered the opportunity to learn about an agency you might never have heard of – King County Crisis and Commitment Services. KCCCS has people on duty 24/7, explained Frank Couch, to deal with complaints/allegations about someone who’s become threatening and/or a danger to themselves and/or others. Their potential tool is the Involuntary Treatment Act, which, Couch explained, despite its name, is about public safety, not treatment. Here’s our video of what he told the WSCPC last night at the Southwest Precinct:
Key points from his presentation:
The agency is headquartered in downtown Seattle but serves people countywide, working with more than 30 law-enforcement agencies. Yet to cover all that, they have just 41 people – 6 to 8 crisis responders on duty at any given time, 2 always available by phone to take calls about potential referrals. And right now, they’re short-staffed. Attracting and retaining people is difficult because It’s a challenging job – they are involved in the heat of the crisis and don’t get to see what happens after that. Couch explained, “We’re triaging all day, every day’ – the work is nonstop. But he was clear that they are not “first responders.” They investigate in person and decide if someone needs to be involuntarily detained, for up to 120 hours, after which a hospital can file to keep them for another 14 days or put them on an agreed order.
Keeping people for longer is not a default goal, Couch stressed. “Our job is not only to detain people but also to find less-restrictive options.” Their duty is to protect the patient and community – and to “de-institutionalize” people, compared to the old days of institutionalizing people indefinitely, which is now considered “not appropriate.” People need “a clear path to reintegrate back into the community …. learn to live a productive life.” It’s considered “not appropriate” to institutionalize someone forever.
They may also be called in to evaluate people in jail before they’re released.
Couch explained the decisionmaking progress about whether to “detain” someone – it’s not just law-enforcement referrals, but also the general public, In 2018, the law changed – among other things, references to “designated mental health providers” became references to “responders.” You have the legal right to have a behavioral condition and not be detained for it – but once it becomes a danger to others, or yourself, that’s where this comes in. Complicating matters, though, Couch continued, they run into a capacity problem – there might not be a bed if someone needs it. “We can’t detain unless there’s a bed.” They have to fill out a “no-bed” report if there’s no place for someone to go.
He also offered advice: If you’re reporting someone, tell them everything you can about the person and their behavior rather than trying to make an evaluation/determination – “don’t try to dictate it, just (tell us everything) and we’ll (figure it out) … We don’t detain everyone.” Federal rules limit how many beds a facility can have, he noted in response to a question – you can’t just decide to expand a facility by adding beds. Another question: What can be done about an area with many people likely in danger/crisis, such as an encampment? They deal only with specific individual people who are referred, Couch said.
Contact information for Crisis and Commitment Services is on their webpage.
Updates on two West Seattle encampments:
SW MARGINAL PLACE SWEPT: Thanks to those who sent tips that the SW Marginal Place RV encampment [map] has been swept again. The cul-de-sac by the bridge was swept in August, but RVs and associated vehicles eventually showed up again. At tonight’s West Seattle Crime Prevention Council meeting, Southwest Precinct operations Lt. Dorothy Kim confirmed that the encampment was swept today. The street also has been at least temporarily blocked off as closed – it’s always been a route betweem the bridge-side path and West Marginal Way, but now that the low bridge is closed to riders (among others), the street is a major link in the bike route.
2ND/MICHIGAN: Also at the WSCPC meeting, Lt. Kim was asked about the notorious encampment next to the 1st Avenue South Bridge – best known for stolen cars (she said tonight that police have recovered more than 100 there). At the November WSCPC meeting (WSB coverage here), she had said dates were set for a cleanup of that site. Tonight, when the topic came up, she said police were frustrated because the cleanup plan “fell through.” Both she and City Attorney’s Office precinct liaison Joe Everett talked about the situation. (Added: Here’s our video)
Everett said that dates had been worked out at a meeting with city and state reps – it’s state-owned land – in early December. All are well aware that it’s a “huge drain on SPD resources” as well as a major problem for nearby businesses. But as the dates got closer, something caused it to be called off – possibly concerns from the mayor’s office, possibly logistics, possibly because of a “request from WSDOT to share resources,” whatever the case, it didn’t happen, and “two bureaucracies trying to work together” didn’t make things any easier – “there’s a lot of coordination that needs to happen.” But they’re now “trying to put it together again.” We’ll be following up on this tomorrow.
By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
For the first time in more than two and a half years, tonight the Southwest Precinct meeting room was filled with community members there to hear from and talk with local police.
This was technically the return of the West Seattle Crime Prevention Council, but for several years the council was really just whoever showed up for the meetings, plus longtime chair Richard Miller. Tonight the precinct’s Crime Prevention Coordinator Jennifer Danner announced Melody Sarkies as the WSCPC’s new chair. And with that, the meeting was off and running. We recorded it on video – first, here are the introductions, and the first speaker, the precinct’s Operations Lt. Dorothy Kim:
If you don’t have time to watch the video, here’s our summary of what Lt. Kim said:
PRECINCT UPDATES: Current focuses include the Harbor Ave. and 2nd/Michigan (near the 1st Avenue South Bridge) encampments. She said some “firm dates” are set for cleanup of the latter – which had to be worked out with state agencies since it’s state land (this was pointed out to us last time we asked the city homelessness-response spokesperson about plans for that area). She said it’s more a “criminal enterprise” site than an encampment. “We all know what’s going on there … but with staffing issues,” they haven’t been able to do much. So rather than put a longterm investigation into motion, they’re just going to “clean it up.” She also explained how encampment reports are handled in the Find It Fix It system – they’re assigned a point value, and certain sites, such as those in parks and near schools, get higher point values. Then a city team. goes out to offer services; after that the city interdepartmental team, which meets weekly, will talk about what resources are needed for the cleanup. … Lt. Kim also noted that the summertime Alki “emphasis patrol” is over so now they’ve moved those resources to Westwood Village and are putting officers there at times determined by data or the past two years. She said WWV’s new management is “responsive to law enforcement.” Regarding staffing, Lt. Kim said “it’s challenging” – 10 new officer recruits are in the pipeline and she says the Southwest Precinct probably won’t get any of them. Currently they’re continuing to “augment” – volunteers working double shifts to bring staffing to minimum levels – but she notes that’s voluntary – “at some point that’s not sustainable.” She reiterated that there’s no Traffic Unit in SPD any more, a bare-bones motorcycle unit that generally deals with “big events.”
CITY ATTORNEY: Ann Davison (above) was the second speaker. That’s where the rest of our meeting video begins, followed by our summary:
She says she’s been to the precinct previously to speak to SPD roll calls. “We are closing in on my first year of being in office,” she noted. She said she “walked into a 5,000-case backlog” of cases waiting for months on charging decisions. That sent the wrong message to both victims and suspects, she said.
Just got last-minute word from Southwest Precinct Crime Prevention Coordinator Jennifer Danner that the West Seattle Crime Prevention Council meeting scheduled for tonight – first one in almost a year and a half – has now been postponed to 6 pm Thursday, October 13th.
It’s been almost a year and a half since the last West Seattle Crime Prevention Council meeting. It was always an opportunity for West Seattle community members to hear from and talk with Southwest Precinct police, regarding any crime/safety concerns, from specific incidents to general trends/issues. Tomorrow (Monday, September 19th), it’s the first WSCPC meeting since April of 2021 (here’s our coverage of that meeting), and much has changed since then, including precinct leadership – Captain Martin Rivera became SWP commander last November. All are invited to tomorrow’s online meeting. It’ll start at 6 pm; connection/call-in info is in our calendar listing.
The third Tuesday of the month usually brings the West Seattle Crime Prevention Council meeting, primarily a chance for community members to hear from and talk with local police. Since that’s tomorrow and we hadn’t heard anything, we checked – the. precinct tells us there’s no meeting this month. (If you missed last month’s coverage, read it here.) But police reps are often at local community-council meetings, so watch for news of those if you have an issue to bring up. The most recent briefing we covered was at the District 1 Community Network‘s May meeting.
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. Read More
The third Tuesday of the month usually brings your chance to hear from and talk with local police at the West Seattle Crime Prevention Council meeting, but Southwest Precinct Crime Prevention Coordinator Jennifer Danner tells us it’s canceled for this month, so no WSCPC meeting tomorrow. Local police often have a spot on the agenda at neighborhood council meetings – like the wide-ranging update at last week’s Fauntleroy Community Association meeting – so watch for those announcements, and if you have a crime-prevention question, Jennifer’s at firstname.lastname@example.org. (Don’t email her to report a crime, though – if something’s happening right now, call 911; otherwise, call 206-625-5011 or report it online.)
By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
For the first time in six years, City Attorney Pete Holmes visited the West Seattle Crime Prevention Council for Q&A, one week after he announced he’s running for re-election.
Much has changed in the six years since that previous visit, though the City Attorney’s responsibilities have not: The office is responsible for prosecuting low-level crimes – misdemeanors – while felonies are handled by the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office. It’s also the official legal representative for the city in a wide variety of matters, whether it’s defending the city in court or taking action against, say, a nuisance property owner.
That last type of work is most often handled by the City Attorney’s Precinct Liaisons, a position that Joe Everett currently holds for the Southwest and South Precincts, and that was explained as Holmes began speaking. (It was also reiterated in response to an attendee questions; if the City Attorney’s Office can help with “chronic neighborhood problems,” for example, Holmes said, then that lightens the load on police and can lead to a “better resolution.”)
Though the Southwest Precinct helped circulate this citywide alert about being prepared in case of civil unrest tomorrow, our area has no planned demonstrations and no threats.
So confirmed Lt. Dorothy Kim during tonight’s online West Seattle Crime Prevention Council meeting, a short and sparsely attended gathering. It was led by precinct Crime Prevention Coordinator Jennifer Danner. Precinct commander Capt. Kevin Grossman was unable to attend, so the meeting-opening update was brief, just a quick recap of some of the 2020 crime stats we reported last week.
#1 – The one-week-delayed (because of the holiday) Camp Second Chance Community Advisory Committee meeting is tomorrow (Sunday, September 13th), 2 pm, online. If you have questions or concerns about West Seattle’s only city-sanctioned tiny-house encampment, or if you want to hear updates firsthand, be there. Link here; password 9701; access code 858 5523 4269; or, call 253-215-8782.
#2 – No West Seattle Crime Prevention Council meeting this month, says WSCPC president Richard Miller, because precinct leaders are unavailable. (The meeting otherwise would be this Tuesday; instead, next meeting is October 20th.)
By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
Hours before a protest group gathered outside the Southwest Precinct, its new commander was talking about police reform at the first online meeting of the West Seattle Crime Prevention Council.
Capt. Kevin Grossman and his second-in-command, Operations Lt. Sina Ebinger, had a lot more to say – from West Seattle’s crime drop, to police staffing.
The WSCPC, rather than an organized group, has long been a monthly gathering of whoever shows up, coordinated by community member Richard Miller, often with special guests as well as local police leadership. Meetings went on hiatus after February because of the pandemic; last night, the WSCPC returned, with the help of SW Precinct Crime Prevention Coordinator Jennifer Danner.
Capt. Grossman opened with a recap of his background (which we’ve covered at other community meetings, as well as in our interview with him). Then – the trends:
“We currently have crime rates much, much lower than 2019,” he said, while making it clear that the pandemic and bridge closure were undoubtedly major factors.
Last time the West Seattle Crime Prevention Council met, it was mid-February, pre-pandemic (WSB coverage here). But this group is ready to get going again, online – as we first noted in last week’s District 1 Community Network report – and will do so one week from Tuesday, at 7 pm
August 18th. The WSCPC has always been a chance for community members to hear from, and bring concerns to, local police. At this meeting, you’ll get to “meet” the Southwest Precinct’s new commander Capt. Kevin Grossman and operations Lt. Sina Ebinger. It’ll be conducted via Microsoft Teams. at this link (we’ll be checking on a call-in option).
After the holiday, the first community meeting of the week will be your monthly chance for Q&A with local police at the West Seattle Crime Prevention Council meeting, 7 pm Tuesday (February 18) at the Southwest Precinct (2300 SW Webster). After Q&A with, and updates from, police, you’ll hear from this mnnth’s spotlight guest, from the SPD Victim Support Team (which is currently recruiting new volunteers).
Here are the toplines from the West Seattle Crime Prevention Council‘s first meeting since October:
CRIME TRENDS: Southwest Precinct crime overall was down almost five percent in 2019 from 2018, said the precinct’s operations commander, Lt. Steve Strand. They’re hoping to repeat that in 2020. Lt. Strand stressed the importance of reporting all crime so they know what’s happening and where to focus patrols. (If it’s happening now, call 911; if not, most crimes can be reported online – go here.)
Three months have passed since the last West Seattle Crime Prevention Council meeting (WSB coverage here), and tomorrow, it reconvenes after holiday hiatus. Who is the WSCPC, you ask? President Richard Miller has long worked to keep it going – but otherwise, it’s really whoever shows up. A centerpiece of each meeting is an update from Southwest Precinct police leadership and a chance to bring up questions and concerns. There’s often a spotlight guest, too; tomorrow night, you’ll hear from a rep with the state Corrections Department. It all starts at 7 pm Tuesday at the precinct meeting room right off the parking lot, 2300 SW Webster (next to Home Depot).
Burglary is down, but not out, in the Southwest Precinct jurisdiction (West Seattle and South Park). So the last West Seattle Crime Prevention Council meeting of the year got in-depth advice on how to make homes as burglary-resistant as possible.
First, those in attendance Tuesday night got an update from precinct leadership. Operations Lt. Steve Strand said burglaries are down eight percent this year compared to last, but had a spike a few weeks back. He acknowledged that many people are catching prowlers or thieves on security video and sharing that with neighbors, but not reporting it to police, so if they get a call such as “hey, that guy who’s been prowling (a specific area) is here now,” they have no idea what you’re talking about – so report everything to them too.
Also in precinct updates: Police met earlier in the day with the new Westwood Village Business Block Watch … The Anti-Crime Team had been out looking for a “prolific three-county auto thief” and “almost had him” when a chase and crash ensued; an attendee asked why the suspect’s photo couldn’t be distributed so everyone could be on the lookout, and precinct commander Capt. Pierre Davis explained they didn’t want to tip their target about the search … Davis also noted that “shots fired” incident are down this year, 32 so far.
One community concern was brought up – drug dealing near Solstice Park. Capt. Davis invited the resident to call him and get a “long-term project” started. That sort of exchange is what the WSCPCC meeting is all about – come to this meeting, get your questions answered, “this is why we do this.” They’d like to see better turnout, too (Tuesday was single-digit, not counting precinct/police personnel).
One reminder: Drug Take-Back Day is next Saturday, October 26th – 10 am-2 pm as usual. Bring your unwanted/expired prescription medication to the precinct (2300 SW Webster).
BURGLARY PREVENTION: Detective Jon Flores spoke first. He’s in his 12th year with SPD, all in Southwest Precinct, previously patrol and Community Police Team. Here’s what should happen if you’ve been burglarized:
-Report it. Even if it’s something like, your neighbor’s out of town and you think they’ve been broken into.
-Leave the scene undisturbed. Police will be searching for fingerprint evidence, DNA evidence. “When our officers are there, we need it to be as undisturbed a possible.”
-Video is a big deal. Not that it’s going to prevent you from being victimized but it’s a “great tool for identification.” Check with neighbors whose cameras might have caught the suspct – officers will canvass but might not get to everyone.
-Case gets assigned to burglary/theft unit. When it arrives on his desk, he’ll review – evidence? fingerprints? video?
Something you can do now just in case:
-Document serial numbers. It might help police recover stolen property. Highly recommend – model numbers, photos of valuables like jewelry. That too might help them find it.
Print cards – or items with prints – go into evidence. Not a guarantee it’s going to lead to a match but they get examined. Can you get prints from, say, a candy wrapper? asked WSCPC president Richard Miller. Generally no, says Flores, adding that 206-233-2623 is the SW Burglary Unit, if you have a tip. Got video of someone behaving suspiciously? Doesn’t necessarily have to be a confirmed crime for SPD to possibly be interested in it.
Also: Cases labeled “inactive” don’t mean closed forever. Cases can be fluid. May be reopened.king cou
And then – Crime Prevention Coordinator Jennifer Danner and her North Precinct counterpart Mary Amberg took over. Here’s the slide deck from their presentation (or here in PDF):
By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
Post-summer hiatus is over for the West Seattle Crime Prevention Council. Here’s what happened at WSCPC’s meeting Tuesday at the Southwest Precinct:
POLICE UPDATES: Precinct Commander Capt. Pierre Davis and Operations Commander Lt. Steve Strand were there. Capt. Davis said “summer was very good for us – fairly quiet – we had a big game plan going into it – with emphasis patrols … in South Park and on Alki. It was fruitful.” That was with the help of added resources including help from the Traffic Unit. “They put a dent in a lot of the activity early on. … We’re hoping to resurrect that again next year.”
Community input is key to making extra resources possible, he stressed. If you don’t report crimes/concerns, they can’t do anything about it, much less push for extra resources from citywide units. “Please …let us know what in the heck’s going on.”
That also can lead to community partnership, too; Capt. Davis said Westwood Village has a Business Block Watch going (following the trailblazing one in The Junction).
This past Tuesday’s West Seattle Crime Prevention Council meeting was its last one before fall. No headlines, but here are the toplines:
CRIME TRENDS: Same stats Southwest Precinct commander Pierre Davis brought to the West Seattle Chamber of Commerce five days earlier: Down 13 percent overall year to year. One point of note, emphasis patrols have helped quiet things at Westwood Village.
COMMUNITY CONCERNS: The recurring gatherings at 24th/Kenyon in memory of murdered musician JuiceThe God (whose downtown killing remains unsolved) are still a concern for nearby residents, as voiced a month earlier too. The night before the meeting, people had gathered there for the victim’s birthday. Capt. Davis said Community Police Team officers had gone out earlier in the day for some cleanup, but he and City Attorney Precinct Liaison Joe Everett said some other approaches might be needed in the long term, such as trespassing enforcement and ensuring the right of way (streets/sidewalks) remains clear. As for the gunfire on that corner in mid-May, Davis said the Gang Unit has identified a few potential suspects and continues to investigate. … A concern about camping in Me-Kwa-Mooks Park had arisen a few days earlier; Davis said officers went to the park earlier Tuesday but didn’t find anyone. He promised to continue patrols. (Later in the week, we heard from an area resident who had CC’d us on her letter of concern to various officials; she said she had been notified “that the City’s encampment crew removed the camps” on Thursday.)
NEXT MEETING: WSCPC meets on third Tuesdays and is expected to resume that schedule in September.
Every month, the West Seattle Crime Prevention Council meeting brings the chance to talk with local police about neighborhood concerns. Tomorrow night brings the last meeting before the WSCPC’s summer hiatus, and leader Richard Miller tells us there’s no featured guest – though local police leaders will be there as always – so that means more time than ever to ask questions and bring up concerns. Be at the Southwest Precinct (2300 SW Webster) at 7 pm Tuesday.
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