Personnel shortage hits King County Sheriff’s Office hard, precinct commander tells North Highline Unincorporated Area Council

September 7th, 2014 Tracy Posted in Crime, King County Sheriff's Office, safety, White Center news 1 Comment »

By Tracy Record
White Center Now editor

Tough to have a meeting during a big game – but the issues before the North Highline Unincorporated Area Council couldn’t wait, and its Thursday night meeting went on as scheduled, despite the Seahawks’ concurrent home opener (ending, just before the meeting ended, with fireworks exploded by fans somewhere, audibly, nearby).

The marquee guest was King County Sheriff’s Office precinct commander Major Jerrell Wills (photo above), speaking about changes in KCSO, including scheduling changes, and the storefront-deputy situation (as previously reported, Deputy BJ Myers has been promoted to a new role and is no longer in the storefront; West Hill, to the east, has lost its storefront deputy too).

Maj. Wills said two candidates initially had sought the North Highline position, and neither worked out; he posted the job again (along with West Hill) and had no applicants, so he reposted, and “still doesn’t have any interested applicants” though the second posting was about to expire.

He says, “I’m not inclined to just pick someone” – a community liaison is a position to which he doesn’t favor drafting an appointee, he says, so he plans to discuss it again with Sheriff John Urquhart – he will not repost it, but hopes the sheriff will be “open to some of my operational ideas.” But, he says, White Center does still have “what most communities don’t have” – a community service officer (Peter Truong).

Major Wills stressed repeatedly that the “storefront deputy” is not the only KCSO position that can respond to concerns. Asked about current staffing, 6 deputies are on in the area per shift – 2 on Vashon, 2 in White Center/North Highline, 2 in Skyway. That would be more, Maj. Wills said, except for the fact his precinct alone has eight vacancies – the personnel situation is not a budget problem, but a personnel shortage problem, he insisted, adding that retirements are hitting the KCSO hard; many are getting to 30 years of service. (He mentioned that he’s been serving for 26 years.)

“We’re fighting an uphill battle,” he said about the problem, “so now we’re in a situation we’re calling redeployment.” For example, detectives who might be in specialized areas are being “redeployed to supplant our lack of staffing just to keep us at six (in the precinct) each shift.” That’s been happening since July and the union has agreed to let them keep doing it through January – “just so we can get to minimum every day.” And yet the retirements and other departures keep coming, he said.

“If not for the (staffing shortage), would we have more deputies assigned to the community?” asked NHUAC president Barbara Dobkin. Yes, there would be more per shift, Maj. Wills said. “What would that number be?” he was asked, but he didn’t have the specific number. “Per shift you might have two to three additional people.”

The attrition/recruiting problems are not unique to KCSO, Maj. Wills said. He also pointed out that the process of going through the academy causes a fair number of dropouts. They want to fill the positions, he insisted, “it’s just a challenge.”

Council member Elizabeth Gordon then asked Maj. Wills about homelessness/graffiti problems in certain areas, and he said he didn’t know about those specific problems, but did have an update on the pond/bog area. “That’s been a source of homeless encampments for some time,” he said, for the entirety of the two years he’s been here. Now signage is posted “all over” to warn campers that clearing is coming – “signage everywhere to notify, you can’t be in here, this is not a campground. … That’s the first part, education,” he said. Next part is cleaning – “King County code enforcement has been actively partnering with us to clean up the hedges, etc.” The cleanup was expected to start the following day and “they’re going to cut a road” so deputies can drive into the area, he added.

Once it’s been cleaned up, “then we’re going to go in and identify the people who are in there illegally and serve them with written notice that ‘you, John Doe, are no longer able to come back here … you’ve been warned’.” Then Community Service Officer Truong will help with figuring out some possible services/referrals for the people who are there: “We can’t arrest our way out of this,” declared Maj. Wills, so they hope to find housing/services for campers rather than just hauling them off to jail.

Major Wills also brought up the recent White Center bicycle-corral meeting and said while he’s not voicing a position on the proposed parking configuration, he found it helpful to be at that meeting – held in the KCSO storefront – to hear community concerns such as fears about safety (and lack of it) in the alleys. He said he plans to do some foot patrol in the alleys – “not to make arrests (but to) survey some of the issues I’m hearing about, the homeless, alcohol- and drug-addicted people who are impacting residents of North Highline.”

Another attendee wondered about whether anything can be done to attract a business or traffic to the vacant grocery store at 1st/112th in Top Hat, because, she says, it’s become a magnet for trouble. Dobkin said she’s been in touch with the owner, a Bellevue resident, who told Dobkin she is getting ready to sell the site, which is why there was tank abatement recently.

All in all, Maj. Wills said that they’re just trying to do “something” about a variety of problems. But, the people now camping at the bog “are not going to just vanish,” he said, then quipping, “It would be great if they would just go to the north side of Roxbury.”

Asked about recurring graffiti problems, he said covering it up as fast as possible is vital, or else it might just attract more.

A Metro Transit Police deputy (that agency is part of the King County Sheriff’s Office), Bill Kennamer, spoke up after Maj. Wills departed. He said he is assigned to the general West Seattle/White Center/vicinity area. The trouble spots he has addressed include 15th/Roxbury – “we’ve pushed them away, and now we all know where they are, they’re in the valley. … I try to tackle transit-related community problems.” He said he had “come to an agreement” with people who had sat in bus stops drinking their beer. He said, “The bus system is better now than it was before.”

Asked if the Westwood Village transit concentration had made anything worse, he said he had a “problem-solving project” open for that area, visited it “dozens and dozens of times,” and “closed it” because “the problems there are not Metro problems, they are park problems.”

There was a question about new graffiti vandalism on the former restaurant property on 16th/Ambaum, and about vandalism painted on some of the commercial buildings in downtown White Center. In general, it was reminded, they need to get owners’ permission to clean up graffiti and other such problems on private property.

King County Councilmember Joe McDermott, who was in attendance, was asked if his office might have meetings, a regular meet-and-greet, or a regular presence in downtown White Center. He said it might not be efficient or ideal for his office to continuously be the filter for county issues, when county government has other agencies and reps who can work with the community directly. But, McDermott added, he was there because it’s helpful to hear about community concerns.

Council member Gordon, who had brought up the issue, said that made sense but she asked because the community seems “fractured” and CM McDermott could be a “unifying force.”

Overall, president Dobkin explained, “We have a lot of issues here, and people feel like we’re being abandoned,” due to various factors, including the ongoing unincorporated status. “I mean, there are people sleeping in my alley. … People think everything is great in White Center, but it’s not.”

WANT TO BE ON THE NHUAC BOARD? If you live and/or work in the area, you’re invited to be part of it. Contact Dobkin through the NHUAC website.

ANNOUNCEMENTS: First thing on the agenda at the meeting:

*Council member Gordon had just come from a community-development forum in SeaTac and said those involved would be happy to have input from North Highline, such as “What are the issues that we’re facing and what are some of the barriers or challenges in getting them addressed?” For example, she said, “… there’s a lack of connection between the county and what goes on in this area … in particular, homelessness, things that go on in the business district.” A survey is online; find it here. President Dobkin said that Valerie Kendall, from the group overseeing the forums, would be at NHUAC next month, and that the survey is open for people to voice needs such as sidewalks.

Gordon also addressed the bike-corral concerns in downtown White Center, mentioning that possible alternatives are being looked at so that “another proposal” could be put out. She said community members’ opinions are being sought as well. Dobkin said that since it seems to be controversial and divisive, regarding the corral possibly replacing two motorized-vehicle-parking spaces, she thinks NHUAC shouldn’t take a position. Council member Pat Price said she found it hard to believe 20 people would come to downtown White Center riding bicycles. Dobkin and an attendee who didn’t identify himself pointed out that some of those who participated at the meeting and expressed support for the bike corral weren’t from White Center but instead were from West Seattle.

*Gordon also mentioned the Roxbury SW road safety project that is in the works (led by the Seattle Department of Transportation) and pointed people to the proposals that had been discussed at recent meetings. Dobkin said she had been to the first of the two meetings and was concerned that much of the work seemed to be happening on the west end; Gordon pointed to some of the proposals for the east end.

*Council member Price mentioned the White Center Food Bank‘s gala is coming up next month.

From the community, Gill Loring brought up four homeless camps in the “bog” (Neighborhood Pond) area, and said that another clearing operation is apparently planned in the area. He is particularly concerned that camp residents’ waste is going into the water. He added that there’s word of someone sleeping in an alley near his house, and urged people to report to 911 if that sort of thing is found (and, he added, make sure the dispatcher is clear you’re talking about the county, not the city).

*Final announcement – Gordon said seamountathletics.com has information about local high-school sports and their need for community support.

Watch northhighlineuac.org for word of the next meeting.

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Making Roxbury safer: What’s being proposed, including a ‘road diet’

August 1st, 2014 Tracy Posted in safety, Transportation, White Center news 6 Comments »

Though the city/county line runs down the middle of Roxbury for most of its length, Seattle is accountable for taking care of what’s between the north and south curbs. So it’s leading the way on the SW Roxbury safety project, for which North Highline Unincorporated Area Council and neighboring Westwood-Roxhill-Arbor Heights Community Council led the campaign. The Seattle Department of Transportation unveiled its proposals on Thursday night, at the first of two meetings (the second of which is in White Center on Monday). Here’s a sneak peek via the slide deck:

The biggest part of the proposal is from downtown White Center westward – proposing “rechannelization,” or what’s also more conversationally known as a “road diet,” for the segment between 17th and 35th, converting it to one lane each way, with a center turn lane, and five-foot-wide buffers (shoulders) on each side. For full details on what’s being proposed – but far from finalized – on the full stretch, see our report on West Seattle Blog. Bring questions/concerns/ideas/etc. to the Monday meeting (August 4th), 6 pm at the Greenbridge Y, 9720 8th SW.

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Dates set for SW Roxbury safety-plan meetings

July 21st, 2014 Tracy Posted in safety, Transportation, White Center news Comments Off

Two meetings are set for the Seattle Department of Transportation to go public with how Roxbury might be made safer – dating back to the joint call a year ago by the North Highline Unincorporated Area Council and the Westwood-Roxhill-Arbor Heights Community Council. SDOT has announced two meetings at which it plans to show “several different engineering options to improve safety for all modes.” The first one is on the West Seattle side, Thursday, July 31st, 6 pm at Southwest Branch Library. Second one is on the White Center side, Monday, August 4th, 6 pm at the Greenbridge YWCA.The project’s official page is here; check out the maps linked from the left side, including this one showing speeds, volumes, and intersections with the most crashes.

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Traffic-alert update: Tree on eastbound Roxbury now cleared

June 27th, 2014 Tracy Posted in safety, Traffic, White Center news Comments Off

1 PM: Also published on partner site West Seattle Blog: Thanks to Krista for the tip (with photo) about a tree down across eastbound Roxbury at 10th SW. As you can see in the photo she shared, King County Sheriff’s Office is on the scene. We are en route to see if cleanup is under way yet.

6:25 PM: It wasn’t cleared as of three hours ago, but when we went back to check a few minutes ago, it was off to the side, and traffic was back to normal.

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Second meeting about SW Roxbury safety: Tonight in West Seattle

February 26th, 2014 Tracy Posted in safety, Transportation, White Center news Comments Off

The first meeting was in White Center, and now the second big meeting about the in-the-works safety project for SW Roxbury is happening on the West Seattle side of the street – tonight, 6 pm, at Roxhill Elementary School. More details here, including the Seattle Department of Transportation‘s recap on what happened during the Greenbridge meeting earlier this month.

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Early-morning crash at Roxbury/Olson

February 16th, 2014 Tracy Posted in safety, White Center news Comments Off

The Olson/1st Ave. hill to/from Highway 509 at the east end of SW Roxbury is open again after an hour-plus shutdown following a one-car crash.

(First two photos courtesy Jason)
According to monitored radio communications, three people were taken to the hospital.

The red Lexus went off the road, and rescuers had to cut its top off. The crash was reported at about 6 am and they finished pulling the car out around 7:30.

(Photo by WCN’s Patrick Sand)
This crash comes less than a week after SDOT officially launched the SW Roxbury safety project with a meeting at Greenbridge. We don’t know the victims’ conditions.

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Making SW Roxbury safer: Come talk about it tonight in Greenbridge

February 13th, 2014 Tracy Posted in safety, Traffic, Transportation, White Center news Comments Off

A project to make SW Roxbury safer is finally becoming reality, after White Center and West Seattle community leaders, including the North Highline Unincorporated Area Council and (just over the city-limit line, Westwood-Roxhill-Arbor Heights Community Council), joined forces to campaign for it. Seattle Department of Transportation is coming to Greenbridge tonight for the first of two meetings, and you’re invited to come speak out – help shape the project! 6:30 pm at Jim Wiley Community Center, 9800 8th SW.

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Crime updates and sex offender info @ North Highline Unincorporated Area Council’s public-safety forum

October 7th, 2013 Tracy Posted in Crime, North Highline UAC, safety 3 Comments »

By Tracy Record
White Center Now editor

Another information-packed public-safety forum was presented by the North Highline Unincorporated Area Council last Thursday night at the NH Fire District HQ:

AREA CRIME UPDATE: Deputies BJ Myers and Mary Syson led the briefing. She works 2-10 pm and is usually one of two deputies in the area on swing shift, she said – “Write to your King County Councilmembers, we need more officers!” How many officers would be optimal? At least three at any given time, she said. There are always two on, though, any shift, around the clock. When she comes on shift, there are usually calls holding.

(Staffing concerns arose again when a transit deputy spoke saying that at times only six officers from that department are staffing the entire area served by Metro.)

Deputy Myers spoke of recent arrests involving burglary suspects on both sides of the city/county line – many charges filed, many more – detectives are bringing in victims to identify property and get it back to them. “It’s been great, we don’t always get to see the property returned to the people,” he said.

He then went on to show the September crime map. Nothing too much out of the ordinary, he said; crimes are coming down from a July peak, “pretty typical this time of the year as the weather gets cold, kids go back to school, fewer people out and about.”

Motor-vehicle thefts had something of a spike in July and August.

Theft trend that might surprise you: If you have an outdoor outlet in a publicly accessible place – you might consider finding a way to not have it accessible, because more and more such outlets are being used – to charge phones among other things – amounting to power theft that suddenly turns up on the victims’ bills.

“Have you seen a change (in crime, etc.) since Nickelsville moved out (of Highland Park)?” Deputy Myers was asked. His answer: “No.”

On the prevention front, advice from Deputy Syson: Home security is vital. Outdoor lighting, in particular – “criminals don’t like to be lit up.” Also, she echoed “follow your intuition – call us. Get a plate. Vehicle license plates are great – we can maybe figure out where they live. If you guys don’t call us, we don’t know there’s an issue going on in your neighborhood.”

SEX OFFENDERS: Detective Michael Luchau from the King County Sheriff’s Office Registered Sex Offender Unit – a subset of the Special Assault Unit – gave the featured presentation, which he said was basically what he presents to neighborhoods after Level 3 offenders move in – or used to; because of low attendance, they don’t always have meetings – they might just circulate the notice.

14 people are in the unit, including 9 detectives, and he’s one of them. He also went back to the offender-registration law’s roots – the 1988 Diane Ballasiotes case and the case of Helen Harlow‘s son, leading to the Community Protection Act. The national requirement dates back to 1996, following the kidnapping and killing of Megan Kanka in New Jersey two years earlier.

He also went through background of how long offenders are required to be registered – anywhere from 10 years to lifetime (the latter is mandatory for a Class A felony, which includes first- or second-degree rape and/or first-degree child molesting). Level one offenders are not required to register – unless they are “noncompliant” and that level usually means “no violent history, usually know their victims.” They are rated with various “tools” including police reports, court files, criminal history, pre-sentencing psychological reports.

What happens while they are in jail/prison can affect their classification too – Det. Luchau gave an example of someone “continuing to act out their deviancy.”

Notification about a homeless offender generally “depends on the risk level.”

*Almost 4000 sex offenders in King County right now, he said, and almost half are level 1 – the lowest risk level, while 323 are classified level 3, the highest.

There are 333 in this precinct, which also includes Burien, Vashon, and Skyway. 53 of them are in North Highline, 32 level 1, ten level 3.

20,315 sex offenders are in the state in all, and of them, the detective said, about 708 are in violation of the registration laws, and nobody knows where they are. But if they have registered and are following the rules, there are no other rules/guidelines they have to follow, at least one attendee was surprised to hear. But Det. Luchau stressed – you don’t need to be afraid of (most of) them, just be aware.

Being aware is vital – children are sexually assaulted in much higher numbers than you might expect, such as, one of every three girls has been assaulted by age 16. He also talked briefly about trusting instincts – don’t hesitate to report a suspicious person, maybe someone who seems to be at the park watching kids; be clear about your concerns so that police can at least check on them. Also – be sure you know a lot about anyone who would be caring for your child without supervision, and know a lot about the situation at a house your child is going to visit. “If you don’t feel comfortable with the situation, don’t send them (there)!” said the detective.

Are there halfway houses? asked NHUAC council member Liz Giba, noting that notifications seemed to include the same addresses for multiple offenders. “There are some group homes,” acknowledged the detective. And, he said, there are some group homes that try to pretend they’re not – sometimes by claiming to be “clean and sober” houses.

To find out more about sex offenders in your area, kingcounty.gov/sheriff has the listings of level 2 and level 3 everywhere in the county – look for the link on the left sidebar. The lookup tool also enables you to sign up for e-mail alerts if a “published offender registers in your area.” It’ll give you more information on the offender’s background.

For the entire state, you can go to ml.waspc.org – all registered sex offenders in the state, level two and three.

There’s also the National Sex Offender Public Website.

Don’t ever assume you know how a sex offender looks – they come in all sizes, shapes, etc., he said.

“Why aren’t these people locked up for good?” Some are locked up tfn.

But he also warned that people should use the knowledge responsibly – the notification act could be canceled if it leads to many incidences of harassment, vigilantism, etc. – and authorities do not want to lose it as a tool.

So what happens when an offender gets out of prison/jail? Nobody’s holding that offender’s hand, as Luchau put it. And, as an audience question pointed out, failure to register may just be a misdemeanor. But in other cases, it could be a Class B felony, sending the offender back to prison for longer than their original sentence.

What if you look someone up – is there any chance they might still be on the map even if they are no longer in that neighborhood? Maybe, said the detective, so you’ll want to try alternate lookups to check on that person’s status, as many public records as you can find.

WHAT’S NEXT: According to NHUAC president Barbara Dobkin, the next public-safety forum probably won’t be until March, but they will continue monthly NHUAC meetings on first Thursdays.

Two community announcements:

WHITE CENTER KIWANIS: They’re selling See’s Candy bars for $2/bar, with more than $1 funding their service projects.

COALITION FOR DRUG FREE YOUTH: NHUAC councilmember Elizabeth Gordon says the coalition is circulating a survey on alcohol/drug use, and provided copies; they’re accepting filled-out surveys at her family business, Uncle Mike’s Superlicious Barbecue. The survey will be linked on the NHUAC website.

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Next NHUAC public-safety forum one week from tonight: Learn about registered sex offenders

September 26th, 2013 Tracy Posted in Crime, North Highline UAC, safety, White Center news Comments Off

One week from tonight – the North Highline Unincorporated Area Council hopes to see you at its next public-safety forum:

Save the Date

Thursday, Oct 3
7pm
North Highline Fire Station
1243 112th Street, SW
(entrance in the back)

The North Highline Unincorporated Area Council is pleased to be hosting a Public Safety Forum

Want to know more about the King County Sex Offender Registry and Community Notification Program? Then plan on joining us for an informative presentation and discussion with Detective Michael Luchau of the King County Sheriff’s Department Sex Offender Unit.

Share your concerns regarding community safety with White Center Storefront Deputy, BJ Myers and Deputy William Kennamer of Metro Transit Police.

All are welcome!

OUR COMMUNITY MATTERS
BE INVOLVED
BE INFORMED
BE HEARD

SEE YOU THERE!!

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Two weeks till Night Out: Block party planned in downtown White Center

July 24th, 2013 Tracy Posted in safety, White Center news 1 Comment »

Night Out – THE night to be out with neighbors and friends, celebrating community, in the name of safety – is just two weeks away, Tuesday, August 6th. A big block party has been announced for downtown White Center on Night Out – right in the heart of the business district. Here’s the Facebook invite, which mentions, so far:

-$2 food walk with some of White Center’s most delicious eats
-free bike education classes & emergency preparedness planning for your family at White Center Community Development Association
-beer garden at Big Al Brewing
-live music

And Center Studio will have a free class outside, proprietor Lonjina Verdugo tells us. Stand by for more details on all this.

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From cannabis to crimefighting: North Highline Unincorporated Area Council’s public-safety forum

February 8th, 2013 Tracy Posted in Crime, King County Sheriff's Office, North Highline UAC, safety, White Center news 2 Comments »

By Tracy Record
White Center Now editor

From fighting graffiti vandalism to forming block watches to learning where legal marijuana stands, about 40 people got a more-than-full serving of public-safety information last night at the North Highline Unincorporated Area Council‘s quarterly forum.

Here’s how it went:

LIQUOR (AND MARIJUANA) CONTROL BOARD UPDATES

Tim Thompson from the Washington Liquor Control Board started off by warning he didn’t have much information about marijuana, referring to the I-502 rule-drafting process now under way (including public forums, with an updated schedule). You can get all the latest in this section of the WALCB website.

No specific current liquor cases were discussed. (If you need to contact Thompson to report a problem, 206-439-3739 or TAT@liq.wa.gov.)

Asked how privatization is going, he mentioned there are about 1,000 retailers now and still growing, at least over the next two years – “after that, we’re not sure where that’s going to go,” regarding the current restriction to spaces 10,000 square feet or more (unless it was a grandfathered ex-liquor store).

He mentioned that the trend of liquor thefts was on the wane; if you find any bottle locking mechanism disposed of – it can be tracked by matching it to the store from which it came, so contact the LCB (or other law enforcement).

MORE ABOUT MARIJUANA

What’s it like on the front lines, as a sanctioned recreational-marijuana industry forms, while the medical-marijuana industry forges forward?

Chris Cody of Herban Legends in downtown White Center said, “Up till now, it’s been very Wild West-y … I’ve done my best to be as conscientious as possible,” and he’s even been part of a coalition working on “cannabis standards and ethics,” which he says they are trying to convert into legislation in Olympia for a “more formalized system.”

He foresees that the medical-marijuana industry might go away completely as part of all this – and says that will be a shame because “if you think liquor is taxed now – ” he envisions even higher marijuana taxes.

“A lot of the places that are open now, (probably) won’t be open in a year.”

One attendee asked about testing standards at shops, saying she needs it for insomnia – she quit smoking marijuana 40 years ago “because it put me to sleep” and now that’s exactly the effect she’s looking for. She suggested that recreational users might appreciate analysis of the different strains’ contents and strength, too.

Asked where his supplies come from, Cody discussed the “collective gardens” with which they deal, and how he checks on what they use while growing.

In a wide-ranging Q/A, he was asked if major pharmaceutical companies are likely to jump into the marijuana business. He didn’t think so, unless it was reclassified at the federal level (where, despite legalization in our state and elsewhere, it remains illegal).

Overall, Cody believes, “This is going to be a boon for Washington – whether you like it or not – it’s going to bring people here from all over the world.”

Invariably, before the discussion ended, somebody asked if Cody had samples. Giggling ensued. NHUAC president Barbara Dobkin moved the agenda along.

GRAFFITI VANDALISM / “BROKEN WINDOWS THEORY”

Burien police Sgt. Henry McLauchlan, a 35-year veteran with the King County Sheriff’s Office, first marveled that he never expected to find himself following up a discussion about legal marijuana shops. He had praise for Cody trying to rationally and responsibly work through the issues.

Then – to the “broken windows theory” – the domino effect if one bit of vandalism or disrepair is left unattended to.

While examples of tagging were being shown, someone called out a certain prolific vandal’s name. “Gonna get that j*****s one of these days,” Sgt. McLauchlan laughed. He also mentioned that Facebook is a tagging-fighting tool – since the vandals “love to brag,” and the investigators know how to find what they post.

But the front-line defense is up to property/business owners:

“The only response you can have is to get it painted out as fast as possible,” he exhorted attendees. He also explained that taggers are showing off, but gang-graffiti vandals are marking their territory.

Veering off the track for a moment, he discussed the concept of responsibility – saying that gun control doesn’t seem to him a matter of how many guns you have, as long as you’re responsible and nobody else can “get their hands on them.”

Burien, for example, has an ordinance requiring people to clean up graffiti.

Some of the vandalized unincorporated-area properties photographed by NHUAC president Dobkin included the former Bernie and Boys, the former El Chalan/Wendy’s/Ezell on 16th, the old NAPA building, and some other sites in areas including Top Hat. “It just doesn’t bode well for a community,” Dobkin lamented. “And then people start (illegally dumping on the site) …” NHUAC councilmembers and volunteers have periodic paintouts, and also engage state Department of Corrections-provided crews are engaged by KCSO when possible.

What about property owners who are sent repeated letters about violations/concerns? County Councilmember Joe McDermott, who was on hand for the entire meeting, said it was complicated, once people wind up being summoned to court.

He was challenged by a community member who expressed frustration that “we’ve been putting up with this for years” (regarding the business properties) – at which point McDermott said he’s drafting a letter himself to contact the property owners (ostensibly the El Chalan site owners, listed as NB Partners LLC, which traces in county records to Mark and Tom Nickels).

Sgt. McLauchlan then recounted how he and his teams worked on shutting down muisance multi-family properties, and “It’s a nightmare.” He suggested, though, that publishing the names of the nuisance property owners might have some effect. How to go about that?

One attendee then said it was a shame that Burien annexation hadn’t passed, since that municipality has tougher laws than the county itself. Later, Sgt. McLauchlan went on to detail the difficulty of catching graffiti vandals in action. Is there another way for them to express their creativity? one person asked. One woman said she hopes to start a “White Center as an art zone.” campaign.

If you have graffiti problems – contact NHUAC for advice on how to handle it! (Lots of info on their site at northhighlineuac.org.)

DEPUTY MYERS’ UPDATES

White Center Storefront-based Deputy BJ Myers took the spotlight next. He says there’s been a high level of auto thefts for many months and one detective is now taking the lead on most of the investigations. He’s been analyzing patterns, seeing themes, and working on ways to catch the auto thieves before they steal the cars. Myers said “small groups of thieves stealing many cars” is what they believe they are seeing the most.

By the way – one way to reduce auto thefts, he suggested, is: Don’t leave your car idling while it’s warming up; one investigator “is getting tired of reading those reports!” Myers said.

Mail theft also has been high in the past month – but “we’ve also caught and identified some mail thieves,” as has Seattle Police‘s Southwest Precinct, said Deputy Myers, “so hopefully those numbers will start moving down.” In areas where are non-locking mailboxes, they’ll find “piles of mail at the end of the street,” he said.

He also shared detectives’ requests to document serial numbers on expensive items – electronics, tools, etc. Could be as easy as taking a photo of your items. And be sure to keep that photo – or the info, otherwise documented – someplace you can find it no matter what happens! And he talked about suspects who can be one-person crime waves, like someone who stole a car, then went and stole a lawn mower, and had committed about five thefts before he was caught.

“How did you catch the mail thieves?” Deputy Myers was asked. Answer: Somebody called in a tip, seeing someone looking in a mailbox that wasn’t theirs. He said that’s almost always the way it goes.

He mentioned the recent serial robberies; the robber is pretty well covered up, so it’s tough, but they’re working on it, Deputy Myers said, noting that nobody has been hurt – yet – and the heists have tended to happen late in the evening. The detectives in the Major Crime Unit are working on it. “I think we’re going to catch this guy,” he said.

BLOCK WATCHES

Burien Police Community Service Officer Nicki Maraulja brought longtime volunteers Patty and Pam to talk to the group about how Block Watches work; they are members of the Burien Citizens’ Patrol: “It starts small but has a big impact.”

They mentioned North Highline’s late Barb Peters as an example of somebody “so involved” in their local community, full of personal responsibility.

The size of a “block” for a Block Watch is not necessarily rigorously defined, the volunteers said. They talked about time-proven tacics of dealing with possible suspicious folks in the neighborhood – go up to them, talk to them, ask them how they’re doing. She also advocated setting up websites or groups for neighborhoods.

But first – be sure you have a block watch! Asked how many people in the room have one, close to half of the 40 or so raised their hands. The unincorporated area has about 25; Burien has more than 120.

One person suggested they might set a goal of doubling the number of block watches this year.

Informational booths at community events “are a great way to reach out to your neighbors,” too, the volunteers had.

If some neighbors don’t want to participate – don’t let that stop you, they urged. “Just do it.”

Officer Maraulja said, “It’s fun,” and the volunteers mentioned Night Out, getting together wth your neighbors, etc.

E-mailing her is the best way to organize a Block Watch.

“The more people you have watching out for each other, the better – don’t wait till something happens.”

FINAL WORDS

Sgt. McLauchlan said the four most important words on the topic of public safety are:

AWARENESS – it’s simple, if you’re not awareness of your surroundings, you can’t help your neighbors, you can’t help yourself.

AVOIDANCE – Be the eyes and ears (though don’t get TOO involved, and don’t confront a criminal – “that’s why you have 911.”

KNOWLEDGE – that’s a Block Watch, a Crime Prevention meeting, “a lot o things’ – including personal responsibility. (and call 911 when you see something suspicious)

PREPARATION – work together – put together Block Watches – make this work for you – if you do, “it’s going to make this a lot nicer place to be.

Thursday, May 2nd, is the next forum, location TBA, with a guest lineup topped, says NHUAC president Dobkin, by Sheriff John Urquhart.

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North Highline Unincorporated Area Council sets February 7th public-safety forum

January 31st, 2013 Tracy Posted in Crime, safety, White Center news 11 Comments »

Crime trends, crime prevention, and more – all in one place, one night, at the next North Highline Unincorporated Area Council Public Safety Forum, one week from tonight – 7 pm Thursday, February 7th. New location – here’s the full announcement:

Please plan on joining us for a Public Safety Forum on Thursday, Feb 7 at 7 pm at the Boys & Girls Club, 9800 8th Ave. SW in the Joe Thomas Room (behind the Greenbridge Library)

We are pleased to be hosting:
Sgt. Henry McLauchan of the King County Sheriff’s Dept. who will give a special presentation on the “Broken Windows Theory” and discuss how graffiti and other types of vandalism impact our community, as well as steps we can take to prevent and offset these problems.

Meet our new Liquor Control Enforcement Officer Lt. Tim Thompson who will provide updates regarding the states new marijuana legislation, as well as information regarding private liquor sales and distribution since the passage of 1-1183.

Chris Cody, owner of Herban Legends Collective in White Center, will fill us in on how citizens can get involved in the marijuana legislative process.

Nicki Maraulja, Crime Prevention Community Service Officer, will provide information to help you get started on forming a Block Watch – the effective program based on the principle that neighbors working together are the first and best line of defense against crime.

White Center Storefront Deputy BJ Myers will provide updates on crime trends in the North Highline area and take questions regarding neighborhood concerns.

All are welcome.

Raffle items and light snacks provided.

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Highline Public Schools consulting law enforcers for security plan

January 11th, 2013 Tracy Posted in Highline School District, safety, White Center news Comments Off

You might recall the recent controversy over Highline Public Schools‘ security plan – the district said regional-media reports were inaccurate. But the district is consulting law enforcers to talk about security – here’s a news release sent out today:

Superintendent Susan Enfield and members of her leadership team met (Thursday) with the top law enforcement officials of the five municipalities in Highline to discuss recommendations for strengthening school safety.

At the meeting, Burien Chief Scott Kimerer, Des Moines Chief George Delgado, Normandy Park Chief Chris Gaddis, SeaTac Chief James Graddon, and King County Sheriff’s Captain Patrick Butschli all agreed to assist Highline with recommendations.

“We are grateful for the partnership and expertise of our local police officials as we develop security standards that will provide the safest possible environment for our students and staff,” said Dr. Enfield. “We look forward to working with our police chiefs throughout the process of evaluating and updating our security program.”

Since last spring, the district has been in the process of evaluating its current school security program and studying state-of-the-art practices and standards. District staff is currently drafting recommendations for updating the security program. Draft recommendations are expected to go to the school board in the coming weeks. Parents, students, staff, and the public will have opportunities to provide feedback on the recommendations before the school board takes action.

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Update: ‘Rave’ planned for tonight at ex-Club Evo is canceled at last minute

November 23rd, 2012 Tracy Posted in safety, White Center news 7 Comments »

5:50 PM: Until just a few hours ago, an all-ages “rave” dance party at the former Club Evo in downtown White Center – first reported here two days ago – was still on. But now, it’s been announced on the event’s Facebook page that due to permit problems, it’s canceled. One person discussing the cancellation on that page says the organizer “was told the new building had permits and it didn’t.” (“New” building refers to the fact the event had previously been scheduled for another location.)

Separate from the moratorium that expired in August regarding nightclub licenses in the area, there also had been a permanent injunction against the site opening without problems including fire-safety concerns being issued. We don’t yet know the specific circumstances of how this got canceled at the last minute – or why it was even scheduled at the almost-last minute in the first place – but will add whatever else we find out.

6:10 PM UPDATE: County Councilmember Joe McDermott, who we’d contacted two nights ago after getting a tip about the planned party, said the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office confirmed to him that “the lack of business license precludes events such as tonight’s party at Club Evo” and says the Sheriff’s Office had contacted building owner Alfredo Lopez after hearing about the plan, “informing him that the club could not operate.” KCSO is keeping close watch on the situation tonight, Councilmember McDermott adds.

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Three days till sheriff candidates and more @ NHUAC Public Safety Forum

September 10th, 2012 Tracy Posted in North Highline UAC, safety, White Center news Comments Off

We’ve mentioned this Thursday’s event before – but now it’s just three days away. Here are the full details from the North Highline Unincorporated Area Council:

NORTH HIGHLINE UNINCORPORATED AREA COUNCIL

Invites you to a

PUBLIC SAFETY FORUM

Thursday – September 13, 2012 – 7pm
North Highline Fire Station
1243 112th Street, SW
White Center

Meet the King County Sheriff Candidates:

Steve Strachan – was a police chief, city-council member and state
legislator in Minnesota before he became chief in Kent for more than
four years. Sheriff Sue Rahr named him chief deputy in January 2011.

John Urquhart – a resident of King County for 54 years, served as a
commissioned police officer for over 36 years, the last 24 full-time with
the King County Sheriff’s Office.

Police Reports/Neighborhood Concerns:

BJ Myers, King County Sheriff Deputy, White Center Storefront,
will give an update on crime trends in the North Highline area. Deputy
Myers will also take questions regarding neighborhood concerns.

Community Emergency Response Team – CERT:

Mechee Burnett, King County Community Service Officer, will give
a presentation on the CERT program, Emergency Preparedness for
your community and sign up for fall classes.

ALL ARE WELCOME!

Additional information is available on the NHUAC website:
www.northhighlineuac.org

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Traffic alert: Crash at 26th and Roxbury

September 2nd, 2012 Tracy Posted in safety, White Center news Comments Off

Avoid 26th/Roxbury and vicinity for a while – while the crash in our photo did not result in injuries serious enough for anyone to have to go to the hospital, according to investigators, it did block eastbound traffic on Roxbury and all but one westbound lane. We’ll check back on the traffic situation a bit later to see if it’s cleared.

UPDATE: It’s clear now.

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Night Out in White Center: Scenes from a block party

August 8th, 2012 Tracy Posted in Crime, Neighborhoods, safety, White Center news Comments Off

Thanks to North Highline/White Center neighborhood advocate Gill Loring for sharing photos from one of Tuesday night’s Night Out block parties – 20th SW between 102nd and 104th. The host was another neighborhood advocate, Ron Johnson (who also serves as a member of the all-volunteer North Highline Unincorporated Area Council). Here’s Ron chatting with one of the King County Sheriff’s Office team members who visited, Community Service Officer Peter Truong:

Also spotted at this party, White Center Storefront Deputy B.J. Myers:

Neighbors got a chance to talk with the officers as well as with each other:

Gill reports the party went on until dark.

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Fire-safety burn ban called by King County Fire Marshal

July 17th, 2012 Tracy Posted in fire, safety, White Center news Comments Off

Like most years, mid-July means a fire-safety burn ban is going into effect, by order of the King County Fire Marshal. The announcement explains what that means:

A county-wide burn ban was declared today by the King County Fire Marshal in conjunction with Kitsap, Pierce, Snohomish and Thurston counties. This ban is prompted by forecasts calling for continued dry weather and will last until September 1, 2012.

This Phase 1 burn ban applies to all outdoor burning except for small recreational fires in established fire pits at approved camp grounds or private property with the owner’s permission. These fires must:

· Be built in a metal or concrete fire pit, such as those typically found in designated campgrounds; and not be used as debris disposal;

· Grow no larger than three feet in diameter;

· Be located in a clear spot free from any vegetation for at least 10 feet in a horizontal direction, including at least 25 feet away from any structure and allow 20-foot vertical clearance from overhanging branches; and

· Be attended at all times by an alert individual and equipment capable of extinguishing the fire shall be in constant attendance at the site while burning.

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Crime, safety, sobriety, transit – and prevention: NHUAC’s 2nd public-safety forum

May 10th, 2012 Tracy Posted in Crime, safety, White Center news 1 Comment »

By Tracy Record
White Center Now editor

Car thefts are on the rise in White Center and surrounding areas, “and I don’t expect summer to really help that,” is how King County Sheriff’s Deputy BJ Myers opened the North Highline Unincorporated Area Council‘s second public-safety forum tonight.

His tips
*Don’t leave your car running
*Don’t leave valuables out in the open
*Don’t leave your windows open

*Do have your vehicle license plate #/make/model written down or memorized
*Do park in areas that are well-lit, with high traffic – big parking lots like apartment complexes are where a lot of thefts happen

If somebody calls to report a possible stolen/abandoned car, he explained, they do fingerprinting and evidence processing, which is key to identifying “who’s stealing these cars, so that we can put a stop to it,” since many thieves are repeaters, Deputy Myers explained.

Here’s what a dumped stolen car looks like:
*Obvious damage that might not be from a collision
*Unusually parked – looks like somebody just stopped it and left
*Wheels that don’t match
*Windows rolled down on nights when they shouldn’t be
*Odd-looking seat positions
*Broken windows
*Ignition damage

“If you see that, call (911) and say there’s a suspicious car that might be a stolen vehicle,” and give them the plate/description, he advised. If they can’t get hold of the car’s owner to confirm whether it’s stolen or not, they might still take possession of the car so as not to lose the chance to investigate.

OTHER CRIME ISSUES: Deputy Myers was asked about last night’s robbery at the Subway on 16th SW (we had tried to follow up earlier today with the person temporarily handling media relations for KCSO), but had no additional information.

LIQUOR INITIATIVE UPDATE: The liquor initiative is going well, he said, about six weeks in: “The stores we really hoped would be on board are on board.” No sales of single-serving alcohol for offsite consumption from 6 am to 1 pm. Deputy Meyers says “8 or 9 stores in the downtown area” have told distributors that they are participating and have put up signs, and have been seen turning people away during those hours. “They tend to be some of the smaller shops,” he said – “I don’t think any of our big chain retailers are going along with it,” but, he added, stores of those sizes tend to keep problems down. He says that the WCCDA will offer recognition, along with KCSO, during Spring Clean next Saturday. Even Chevron has signed on, along with ZipMart, Rainbow, Shorewood Grocery, Smoke Town, Cigarette Depot on Delridge, a few small grocery stores, are among the participants he listed. But, he said, “We still see guys drinking at eight or nine o’clock in the morning” – the initiative is intended to be a “speed bump.” One storeowner told him they’re not losing business – “we just make it all back after 1 o’clock.”

SPEAKING OF INTOXICATION: … what if marijuana is being smoked openly? Deputy Myers was asked. “Call 911,” he said. “We don’t get those calls,” so far. Asked if he had been inside the Cannabis Farmers’ Market, he said that he had been asked not to go inside “because I’m not a patient.” Someone suggested, “So get a card – you can do it right next door.”

CRASH UPDATE: Asked about the man in a wheelchair who was hit by a vehicle, Deputy Myers said that he had heard the victim was out of the hospital and recovering at a private residence, at least as of a week and a half ago. They still have no idea who did it.

METRO TRANSIT POLICE CHIEF LISA MULLIGAN: Rather than launching into a speech, Chief Mulligan – who is also a Major in the King County Sheriff’s Office – started by engaging attendees in conversation, asking which routes they ride (answers included 120, 125, 113, 3, 4, 550, 216, 54, 55, 516), and whether they’d ever had a bad experience on a bus. Fare evasion and rudeness were mentioned. She leads 69 Metro Transit Police Officers, all of whom also are deputies, assigned specifically to Metro, stationed from an HQ in SODO. Almost half are patrol officers, but there also are anti-terrorism officers, captains, sergeants, bicycle officers … “We are so proud of what we do with what we have,” she said, while noting clearly that they are spread pretty thin. However, “we’ve gotten pretty good at figuring out where our bus drivers and passengers say the problems are.” They track reports written by drivers about trouble during shifts, “and that’s how we police.” Every month they have a top 10 list “based on the number of security-incident reports,” and 120 is consistently on the trouble list, “almost every month.”

Chief Mulligan was asked what they expect to happen when the Ride-Free Zone in downtown Seattle goes away on September 29 along with a variety of other changes. They actually believe this might reduce the number of assaults in a particular category – being spit on. The expected change is because the interaction between driver and passenger will be when they get on, not when they leave, once the RFZ is abolished.

She talked about the importance of the perception of safety, and how an officer’s presence can enhance that, in an area where there have been problems. She added that transit police are in closer touch with storefront deputies like Deputy Myers now, more than ever before. “It’s finally dawned on us that … 69 of us in the whole county, we need to leverage that partnership with other agencies better than we ever have … It’s one of the things we’re doing now that feels like a really positive direction for us.” Deputy Myers “has been just fabulous,” she enthused.

One note about RapidRide – there will be fare enforcement officers on board, Chief Mulligan revealed, since it’s a “proof of payment” system – you can tap your ORCA card on the sidewalk reader, and you don’t have to do it again when you board, which also means the operator may not know whether you paid or not. So “Metro has security officers that don’t carry guns but have a vest they wear to keep them safe, and they go through the bus and check everybody” for proof of payment.

Biggest crime trend in Metro right now: “Transit has become a hot spot for people to steal electronic devices,” she said, explaining that they have seen a “huge increase” in the number of people who are robbed of their smartphones. It’s often a physical, violent crime, and she says law enforcement has talked to electronics companies to make a change that would make them less attractive to robbers. Don’t be unaware of your surroundings, don’t be walking through a dark area, don’t be walking along engaged with your device and nothing else – “having someone run up and take it away is pretty common” – if that happens, she said, don’t chase after them, it likely won’t come out well. The other ruse is, “can I borrow your phone?” and then they never give it back. “Not the same kind of robbery, but the same concept,” she said. “Keep your items close, keep them zipped, be aware of yourself, and if there is a problem around you, get up and move.”

CRIME PREVENTION THROUGH ENVIRONMENTAL DESIGN: This has been a big topic in the area, with the West Seattle Blockwatch Captains Network getting another presentation last month, and it was the topic tonight at the NHUAC forum for visiting SeaTac Police Officer Doug Reynolds. He discussed the principles:

*Access control: It’s supposed to be done through natural means – such as a hedge, a rockery, a planter strip, “something between the sidewalk/street and your front yard.”

*Natural surveillance: “Kind of my favorite,” he said – “see and be seen as you go about your daily business.” For example, he said, commercial groups have done research showing that a shopper might not go in a store that she can’t see the inside of from the parking lot – can’t see adults inside the business. “The evildoer sees a big wall, and says, ‘I can do anything I want, nobody can see me’.” He said it shouldn’t be so tough to convince the average homeowner “to open your curtains during the day!” You can be seen, you can see, “you are a natural caregiver, you are a steward to your community.” He talked about one commercial facility whose parent company wouldn’t even allow window coverings, which is not a a problem, he said, because “what are you doing that shouldn’t be seen?”

*Ownership/territoriality: Among other things, this principle incorporates the “broken windows” theory. Let’s say first a car is seen with vandalism-type damage and nothing is done about it. Then pretty soon “all the cars around there are damaged,” and it just keeps spreading.

He also discussed location, on a tangent about skateparks and whether they are located where they would best belong, or just “where the Parks Department owns the land.”

In Q/A he was asked about the window-covering issue. Leaving the windowns uncovered 24/7 is NOT a bad thing, he said, but if you can, switch it up – cover a window sometimes, open the coverings partly, leave a light on, leave a light off … If someone knocks on your door and you don’t want to answer, don’t just be silent – they might go around back or the side and break in. So at least “let them know you are home” – shout I’M BUSY, COME BACK LATER, or something else that lets them know you are home. “Say SOMETHING!”

Datapoints he shared in the final portion of his appearance: Half of all burglars are juveniles. … If you’re going to have a burglary alarm, have an audible one that is VERY, VERY LOUD, because, as he put it, “unless they come with their own ear protection, they’re not going to stick around.” … Surveillance camera? “There is no evidence that it prevents crime. It may aid in apprehension.” However, that doesn’t apply if the camera is of poor quality and therefore its images are too. “I think there’s a lot of places to spend your money before you buy cameras.”

Block Watches, he declared as the meeting wrapped up, “are the best deterrent.”

NHUAC has been holding these forums quarterly – watch their website for details on the next one, which is scheduled for August 2nd.

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Next North Highline Unincorporated Area Council Safety Forum on May 10th

May 2nd, 2012 Tracy Posted in Crime, North Highline UAC, safety, White Center news Comments Off

The first one was a hit – dozens of attendees – and the second edition is days away. From the North Highline Unincorporated Area Council, here’s the agenda for the May 10th Public Safety Forum:

Thursday – MAY 10, 2012 – 7pm
North Highline Fire Station
1243 112th Street, SW
White Center

Police Reports/Neighborhood Concerns:
BJ Myers, King County Sheriff Deputy, White Center Storefront, will give an update on crime trends in the North Highline area. Deputy Myers will also take questions regarding neighborhood concerns.

Guest Speakers:
Major Lisa Mulligan, Metro Transit Police Chief, will discuss safety aboard Metro Transit and at North Highline area bus stops.

Doug Reynold, King County Sheriff Deputy, Community Crime Prevention Officer for the City of Seatac. Deputy Reynolds will discuss crime prevention techniques to reduce the opportunity for crime in your neighborhood. Deputy Reynolds is the past president of the Washington Crime Prevention Association and is recognized as an International Crime Prevention Specialist(ICPS) by the International Society of Crime Prevention Practitioners.

Block Watch Program: Join or renew the program in your neighborhood.
Discussion of the National Night Out Against Crime-August 7, 2012.

ALL ARE WELCOME!

Additional information is available on the NHUAC website: www.northhighlineuac.org

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