What can you do to try to prevent/deter someone from stealing from you? An informal discussion with SPD was the spotlighted topic as the West Seattle Block Watch Captains Network met last night at the Southwest Precinct.
Neighborhoods represented – according to around-the-room self-introductions – included North Delridge, Fauntleroy, Highland Park, North Admiral, High Point, Gatewood, Top Hat, South Delridge, Arbor Heights, Sunrise Heights, and Alki. District 1 City Council candidate Phillip Tavel also was in attendance.*
PREVENTING/DETERRING PROPERTY CRIME: Officer Erin Nicholson (WSB photo at right), who joined the Community Police Team recently, gave topline advice that just can’t be offered too often. Make sure “your house is visible – (that) there aren’t really hiding spots in the yard,” she said, adding that lighting is important, including on alleys, “because that’s where a lot of the crime is really focused these days.” While deadbolt docks on doors and dowels for windows aren’t foolproof, they’re better than going without, she added. In case you do get victimized, keep a list of serial numbers for your valuables – better yet, have them engraved (remember, the precinct has equipment you can borrow for this). If you’re traveling, the precinct does keep a “watch list” when people report they’ll be gone for a while, so that if things get slow, they can go by – file a “request to watch,” she said. Even if you don’t have a formal alarm system, hardware stores sell devices that will “make a lot of noise” and draw attention, she noted. Windows on doors might “look nice” but are a “huge, huge invitation to criminals to break in” and turn the deadbolt. A substance to make glass shatterproof was mentioned by two attendees.
Jewelry is popular with burglars/thieves, said the officer, and its sentimental value to you far outstrips its nominal value to them – and it is seldom recovered, so if it matters to you, find a way, such as a safe or safety-deposit box, to keep it “very, very safe.” Most burglars make a beeline for the master bedroom, as that’s where they’ll typically find those types of valuables, she said.
For those wondering about motivation, she told the story of asking a juvenile burglary suspect once why he did it. She said he replied that he needed money and figured the homeowners had insurance “and would get everything back.” She subsequently explained to him about deductibles and the rest of the hassle that would ensue.
The discussion meandered to what it takes to get a search warrant, if you believe that stolen property is at a certain location, for example (it started with discussion of someone whose relative got a stolen iPhone back). Officer Nicholson described the issue of officers waiting around until they get a warrant, and said department policy is continuing to evolve regarding how to handle cases in which stolen electronics emit locator signals.
OTHER QUESTIONS/ISSUES: Participants warned each other about phone scams. Officer Nicholson mentioned the scams such as callers claiming to be relatives or friends who are in trouble overseas – noting that the scammers tend to find personal details about you online, and exploit that. Warnings were also shared about not letting strangers into your house.
PROTEST POSTMORTEM: In the first 15 minutes of the meeting, those in attendance talked about the disrupted-and-ended-early February 3rd meeting with SPD Chief Kathleen O’Toole (WSB coverage here), which the Block Watch Captains’ Network co-presented. It was explained again that the protesters weren’t removed because what they did was as legal as what those participating in the meeting were doing. A counterprotest might be an effective tactic, it was suggested, if the chief returned and this happened again.
FUTURE TOPICS: Founders Deb Greer and Karen Berge asked for suggestions of future meeting topics beyond the ones they’ve presented several times each. Suggestions included the “buy extra police for your neighborhood” movement and a closer look at juvenile crime (one attendee recalled the spate of very young burglary suspects arrested a little over a year ago), as well as, if you have a particular kind of problem, how do you know who in SPD to take it to – the Community Police Team, or a special detective team, or … ? Officer Nicholson from the CPT explained that one way situations filter through is that if patrol is called repeatedly to a particular address, they might refer it to the CPT.
*As campaign season continues, we’ll be noting candidate sightings at community meetings we cover. If the candidate(s) in attendance are officially on the agenda (not the case tonight), we will cover what they tell the group.
The West Seattle Block Watch Captains Network meets fourth Tuesdays, 6:30 pm, at the precinct, 2300 SW Webster, and is online at wsblockwatchnet.wordpress.com.