Prosecutor to White Center Community Safety Coalition: Be “squeaky wheels”

(WCCSC’s Kathy Kaminski takes notes as King County PAO Dan Satterberg addresses the group)
By Jonathan Stumpf
Reporting for White Center Now

Tuesday night, King County Prosecuting Attorney — and Highline High School graduate — Dan Satterberg visited the White Center-South Delridge Community Safety Coalition meeting at St. James Place to “talk about what you want to talk about,” as he put it in his opening statement to the approximately 20 attendees.

As he began his talk, which was similar to the one he presented to the Rotary Club of West Seattle in March (covered by partner site West Seattle Blog), he discussed the effectiveness of an ongoing crackdown on car thefts.

He reported to the group that in 2005, Washington was sixth in the nation in car thefts. Since the state passed legislation in 2007 that funnels a $10 surcharge from every speeding ticket citation — totaling almost $6 million per year — to fighting car theft, the state is now ranked 26th in the nation. Additionally, a King County car theft task force has helped to contribute to the 53% decline in auto thefts. (Before divulging these numbers, Satterberg offered steering-wheel locks to those individuals that could guess these stats. Two meeting attendees now have an added layer of protection for their cars.)

Satterberg did say that although car thefts are declining due to tougher sentencing, there is an increase countywide in burglaries. He said this is a serious concern and the approach to preventing burglaries is being modeled after the car theft task force.

The recent budget cuts are putting a strain on his department, said Satterberg, as well as on the Sheriff’s Office. The threshold for prosecuting a theft as either a misdemeanor or felony may go up from the current $250 level to $1000. Additionally, the time spent behind bars for a simple drug charge is now half what it used to be.

But violent crime, sex crimes, burglary and auto theft remain at the top of the list for King County law enforcement. While many in attendance were glad to hear this, a common theme was the community problems with drinking in public and suspected disregard of liquor laws by local businesses. Satterberg urged residents to keep the police informed of any suspected problems. “The system of government responds well to squeaky wheels,” said Satterberg, referring to citizen complaints. He also suggested writing letters to the liquor control board asking for revised neighborhood regulations. “To vigorously enforce that would have a big impact,” Satterberg said of public drinking, but cited budget cuts as the primary reason for not doing so.

Before Satterberg’s arrival, the safety coalition reviewed crimes and properties of concern from the past month. King County Sheriff’s Office provided the crime statistics from the past month and the numbers were below average. Deputy Jeff Hancock reported 5 auto thefts, 4 drug arrests initiated by undercover officers and no violent crime. He noted this was surprisingly low, but a great statistic. One resident asked how many weeks that covered and was met with a joking reply from another resident, “Just for today!”

In the spirit of Earth Day, Hancock said, he did not supply the meeting with hard copies as he normally does.

Some residents voiced a concern of prostitution returning to White Center and Deputy Hancock said anytime a resident suspects prostitution, they should call King County Sheriff’s Office’s White Center annex to report it.

Meeting facilitator Kathy Kaminski discussed a few nuisance hotspot businesses with the group of residents and business owners, and it was reported that all problems have drastically quieted since last month. Some residents attribute this to the opening of a new club near Sea-Tac that is pulling clients away from the smaller clubs in White Center.

Up for review was the approval to move forward with a county-approved mural to be painted on the retaining wall near a residence on 108th Ave SW. Signatures were gathered as most residents agreed the mural — to be done by a local artist — is much better than the tags usually put on the wall.

Residents noted that illegal dumping seems to be a problem along the alleys on 17th Avenue SW and Barton Street. Residents have reported that since the alley was paved, mattresses and couches are regularly being illegally discarded. One resident did recover a trash bag with some papers in it that had an address to a house. When she confronted the resident at that address, it turned out the resident had given the illegally dumped items to her son, along with money to pay for the proper disposal of these items. Once confronted the boy did admit to the crime and returned to remove the items from the property. One resident quipped if they could use the discarded couches to slow down speeders in her alley.

Additionally, the coalition approved new by-laws and voted three members to its newly formed executive committee.

The White Center-South Delridge Community Safety Coalition meets the fourth Thursday of every month from 6 – 8 pm at St. James Place (9421 18th Ave SW). Dinner is provided and all are welcome.

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