Beating a dead horse (Property Crime, North Precinct)

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This topic contains 45 replies, has 17 voices, and was last updated by  Cate 6 years, 1 month ago.

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    This tweet, from the Seattle Police (@seattlepd) today:

    For those who don’t want to click on an unfamiliar link, here’s the text:

    “Just announced at #SeaStat: No robberies in East Precinct Pike Pine/Cal Anderson emphasis area during last two weeks.” There is a picture of a slide with some of the details of the measurements for those who are curious.

    The time period the slide in the picture covers is 9/7/14 – 10/27/14. During that same time period, according to, here are the total police report counts of property crimes* in each precinct (note that Property Crime covers more categories than just Robberies, like Car Prowls/Thefts, etc.)

    North: 1,944
    East: 858 (North total is 2.3x East)
    South: 723 (North total is 2.7x South)
    Southwest: 574 (North total is 3.4x Southwest)
    West: 1,333 (North total is 1.5x West)

    Apparently the SeaStat system has a slight flaw – it can’t tell where crime reports of this type are far larger than anywhere else in the city and recommend that emphasis be placed in that area.

    * My full definition of property crime takes more space than I have here, but it includes basically everything you will likely not see on any random episode of COPS: Violence / Assault, DUI, Narcotics, Prostitution, etc.



    Correct me if I’m wrong, but I thought “robbery” indicated a person-on-person theft, whereas a “burglary” is that thing that happens to your house. I just want to be sure we’re comparing apples to apples here.

    Also, would a per capita break-down be more useful for the precinct crime stats?



    Per-capita shouldn’t matter, and at any rate, I can’t find reliable, current population data broken down by precinct. At any rate, my understanding of SeaStat is that it is supposed to direct resources to areas where crimes are occurring in larger numbers than in other areas.

    There are 56 distinct crime types in the crime report data that is publicly available. The ones I classified as Property Crime are listed below. It includes Robbery. Just for grins, I checked the reports listed as “Robbery” for this time period, which indicate the the SPD internal reporting system is really cherry-picking its stats.

    North: 45 (2.3% of all property crime in precinct)
    East: 31 (3.6%)
    South: 26 (3.6%)
    Southwest: 6 (1.0%)
    West: 67 (5.0%)




    It does rather look like the police have largely given up and are instead trying to “be visible.”


    great idea

    do they make a distinction of ‘armed robbery’ versus, say a phone grab?

    I believe Capitol Hill and points south are more dangerous than the greater Ballard area and deserve more police attention.

    not that I am happy with the police response, but you can only stretch your resources so thin.



    Well yes, per capita crime rates do matter. And it is my understanding that is why police resources are tilted towards East, South and Southwest. On a per capita basis they have more crimes, and more violent crimes, then West and North. I mean there is a reason we chose to live in North even though property values/rents are higher on average.

    edited to add: One minute search found this map which you can overlay on the precinct map to get population estimate for the precincts. Then you can calculate per capita crime rates. Since you are so into pulling the data together.



    You have a valid point about crime rates on a per-capita basis being important. However, the data in that map is from the 2010 census and was out of date as soon as it was published due to the different rates of growth across the city.

    I was looking more at the way that SPD seems to be cherry-picking the stats to make their efforts appear more impactful than they actually are, especially as there has been an increasing public focus on their results. For instance, I just looked at the slide again, and noticed that it only covers activity from 2145-0600 (9:45 pm-6 am).

    I’ve played around with stats/data enough to know that if you want to find improvement that looks like improvement, but really only appears that way due to how the data was sliced up, it really isn’t that hard to do, which is why I used large geographic areas and put up totals for the same 7 week period – generally speaking, it tends to smooth out the aberrations that occur over data sets like this.



    I understand what you are trying to do, and there are certainly many ways to look at data to prove whatever point that a person (or agency) is interested in proving (“Lies, damned lies and statistics” Mark Twain attribution).
    But I am far more interested in looking at meeting the needs of the city as a whole then trying to get more police services in North Precinct (meaning less in East or Southwest…). What you are doing is also a type of cherry-picking to try to get more for “us” and less for “them.”



    the squeaky wheel gets the grease… unless you’re a wheel with boatloads of money.



    Would I like to see more resources, or at least more effective resources, deployed closer to my home? Yes. Hard not to – it is, I guess, a part of human nature to want something like that.

    I actually think that the real solution is a) more resources in general, and b) more effective deployment. When I started out playing with this data, I really expected that the crime levels would be far higher south of the city, in the CD, for instance.

    As it happens, SPD has really done a pretty good job, at least as far as I can see, of limiting the amount of crime that falls into the “Things you will see on COPS” categories. Across 4 years, the numbers don’t really vary much, and in some categories, like domestic violence, I really have no idea what SPD could do to stop it before it happens – those things tend to be fueled by alcohol or passion.

    As you correctly noted, I am a fan of that Mark Twain quote (I had considered including it, but thought it was a bit heavy-handed). I know that my expectations are probably unreasonable, but it seems that while every time SPD brings out more stats-based good news, they are telling the truth, but not the whole truth.

    To be fair, the Westneat articles that are part of all of this sudden attention are also the truth, but they are not the whole truth either. I understand that it exists, and why, but I don’t have to like it.



    Cate, you’re looking at police resources as a zero-sum game. Just as Seattle’s population count isn’t a zero-sum game, we need to boost resources (e.g. sworn officers) and funding for the Dept. Perhaps Mayor Murray’s new budget is enough for this year; perhaps we need even more and should consider a levy, just as it seems we do for other government services that have been neglected in past years. I’d support one.



    Oh, I agree that the real answer is more resources, for every part of the city. But I don’t see that happening soon and the interim solution is not to rob Peter to pay Paul, particularly when Peter is the needier of the two.



    Cate, I admire your response and your personal commitment to helping keep down the robbery crime rate, especially against that poor Peter guy. He’s always getting robbed.



    Peter being the East, South and Southwest precincts of Seattle? Yeah, he is always getting robbed. While Paul up in the West and North precincts, not as much.


    great idea

    yes, and Peter is more apt to be beaten or shot, whereas Paul’s car gets broken into every now and again.
    this may present an inconvenience, but is hardly an excuse to draw SPD resources from where they are really needed.

    personally I don’t know how the clamoring for more money will go over after so many reports of overtime abuse, etc.

    I also don’t buy the argument that increased training is cutting into response times. it’s an 80 page report for crying out loud. read it and get on with your job.



    So, resurrecting the beat to death horse, I didn’t get a chance to go to either meeting yesterday.

    King 5 News coverage of yesterday’s afternoon meeting at Loyal Heights:

    The news clip is too short, and likely a pretty lame summary of what went on. Did anybody go? What was your impression? Chris?

    Chris, with all the data you looked at, did you come to any hard and fast conclusions, do you have a precis you would be willing to share?



    I was at the meeting yesterday at Loyal Heights Community Center. There was a man in the crowd who insisted on repeatedly interrupting the meeting by verbally attacking the City Attorney. Apparently the man thinks the City Attorney should upend the American justice system by outlawing bail for anyone who is arrested. At least that is what I got from his rude outbursts. Anyway, I almost applauded when this guy left the meeting early.



    I was at the first meeting. The primary organizer received about 30 RSVP’s, and over a hundred people showed up for a meeting in the middle of the day on a Tuesday. I think that the message was received loud and clear by the council members and their aides that this problem is growing and is not just going to go away.

    My thoughts on the meeting, in no particular order, follow. These are my impressions only, and not representative of any individual or group other than myself.

    – SPD sent 7 people, all of whom were woefully underprepared to have a conversation. At the very beginning, all 7 were given the opportunity to introduce themselves, with the implied idea that perhaps one of them would bring a presentation or at least some prepared comments to address the obvious problems. NONE did.

    – I can’t remember the officer’s name, but the sacrificial lamb who is apparently responsible for community police outreach is probably there for a reason. He was asked, repeatedly, for specific, concrete steps that the civilian side of the equation can take. He repeatedly came up with the most vanilla of answers, including “get a dog”. I love dogs, and so I am in favor of this, but that was as deep as he was willing to go, and as a professional crimefighting organization, I expected far more from SPD.

    – The second in command of North precinct (I’m great with data, not no much with names) who sat on the far left hand side was also woefully underprepared as well. A big issue is response times, of course. He had exactly zero data with him to support SPD’s claim that calls are being responded to in a timely manner, although he made the claim repeatedly. I know that this won’t go over well in this neighborhood, but Ronald Reagan was right: “trust, but verify”.

    – The city attorney’s rep did not really do a very good job of walking everyone through the steps that it takes to get someone off of the streets for any length of time, nor did he address the criteria that they use when deciding whether or not to charge someone. I’ve seen enough Law & Order to understand the process, but the fact that he didn’t address any of this was troubling.

    – Councilman Burgess mainly listened, but took a few minutes to speak. His first move was to apologize that the city was not providing services that we are paying for. At least we got that acknowledgement in front of cameras, which the clever amongst us can start replaying on a regular basis every time this issue comes up. The rest of his comments were about as vanilla as possible – nothing was committed to, nothing was really offered.

    – Generally speaking, the public side met every single expectation that I had of a Seattle meeting. One or two really crazy people, a couple of loudmouths who insisted on monopolizing the conversation. Mostly people who wanted to a) vent, b) ask what they can do, and c) ask what the city or SPD was planning on doing. A) was done fairly effectively, B) was not really addressed very well, and C) if they know, it doesn’t seem like they are telling.

    Did a lot got done to actually solve the problems? Nope. Is the ball at least rolling in the correct direction? Yep. As for next steps, I’m not really sure what is going to happen. Continued pressure on City Council and the mayor will help. Seeing through the sudden influx of news releases from SPD about criminals being caught will also help – those are mainly red meat to satisfy the angry mob. I’m still thinking about what else can/should be done to move things forward.



    Thank you Chris,

    I’m truly impressed that many people showed up. Too bad the new police chief didn’t make her presence felt. I’ll bet if she was there, the 7 others would have been well prepared to present something or else.

    Just before I got to this page, I found the article on the front page here which is way more than the fluff piece from King 5:

    Kudos also to the MyBallard folk for covering the meeting!

    “I encourage you to pressure your politicians to support law enforcement and provide us with the resources that we need to serve the community. However, I don’t want people to walk away with the understaffing issue as an excuse. Use us, call 911, you pay for it,” says Sgt. Arata.

    Sgt. Dianne Newsom also expressed her frustration about the under staffing issue within the SPD. “There isn’t a policeman in this precinct that isn’t frustrated. We want to make it safe for our neighbors,” says Newsom.

    And of course there is more gasoline thrown on the fire today. Danny Westneat has some interesting commentary about the folks in Laurelhurst hiring SPD officers to work 5 hour shifts:

    This quote from Westneat’s article was really interesting:

    “Subscribe now to Laurelhurst’s Private Security Patrol,” reads the November newsletter for the neighborhood due east of the University of Washington.

    Calling it a “police force” is probably a stretch. Laurelhurst still is patrolled, officially, by the Seattle Police Department, and all 911 calls remain routed to the city.

    But on any given night, listening in to those calls, and potentially responding to them first, could be off-duty cops paid for by a fund set up by Laurelhurst residents.

    According to the newsletter, here’s what you get for $200 per family per year: “Uniformed, off-duty Seattle Police officers patrol the neighborhood approximately six nights/days a week for five hours each shift. Officers are in uniform, carry police radios and their police firearms and drive unmarked personal vehicles. They monitor incoming 911 calls and will respond to any Laurelhurst calls if on patrol and work with the official response from the on-duty police officers.”

    Why do I now have even less confidence in the department than before?



    Wow, “get a dog.” To me that sounds like “We know the police probably won’t show up on time, so best to get yourself some protection.” Yarr. I love animals too, which is why this concerns me a little because generally “crime deterrent” is not a good reason to adopt any animal. It can be in the list of reasons, but not as the primary reason. Some people could pull it off, but the majority will probably poorly execute the care and training of the animal if security is #1.

    Chris, given your takeaways, the meeting sounds largely like another execution of “be visible,” or perhaps they are required to have these meetings by law which would explain not taking it seriously enough to be prepared.



    Want more resources? Pay more taxes.



    It is difficult to believe Chris attended the same meeting I did. If he wants the readers to believe that the only advice from the police was “get a dog”, he is blatantly misrepresenting what took place.

    The panel members were well prepared and presented themselves more than adequately. There was no prepared presentation but they did take the time to lucidly explain their jobs and provide appropriate statistics.

    Phoo, nobody recommended getting a trained attack dog as you apparently assumed. Just the sound of a barking dog in the house is enough to dissuade most burglars. Dogs do not need to be trained to bark.

    As far as what should citizens do, the police had many suggestions.
    -Do not walk around in public talking on a cell phone.(invites theft)
    -Know your neighbors. Then you will be able to recognize people who don’t live on your block.
    -Always call 911, even for minor things.
    -Do not leave valuables in your car.
    -Always lock your doors. Apparently many burglars enter through unlocked doors.
    -Get a secure, lockable, metal mail box, not a cheap plastic one.
    -Join a neighborhood group of some kind.

    I could go on but, finally, Chris, referencing an inane quote from Ronald Reagan? Seriously? It was a stupid comment when Reagan first said it. It does not deserve repetition.



    Collingswood, no that’s not what I assumed. “crime deterrent” includes barking (as the #1 item on the list). And I stand by my comment that it’s a poor primary reason to adopt a dog and that someone who does will be more at risk for neglecting their care and training (all dogs need training).

    Your rebuttal of the meeting was informative. But it was weakened a bit by busting Chris’s chops for a Reagan quote. If the meeting went as you said, the facts will do the talking. Attacking people weakens the argument.



    Phoo, reread Chris’ post. Even he felt that quoting Reagan would elicit a response “in this neighborhood”.



    Rule #1: First, read ALL of the words. I’m actually pretty particular about the words that I choose, like these ones, in the second paragraph:

    “These are my impressions only…”

    Or these ones, in the 2nd bullet point:

    “He was asked, repeatedly, for specific, concrete steps that the civilian side of the equation can take. He repeatedly came up with the most vanilla of answers, including ‘get a dog’.”

    For some reason, it doesn’t appear that you’re able to understand subtleties in language, so let me translate:

    “I was at the meeting, did not take copious notes, but here are some of the things that I read into the things that were said, as well as some that were not said. What follows is not intended to be a full accounting of everything that was said, as there are other organizations who employ people known as ‘journalists’ to report on ALL of the things that were said.”

    “He was asked, repeatedly, for specific, concrete steps that the civilian side of the equation can take. He repeatedly came up with the most vanilla of answers, including ‘get a dog’.” Actually, I can’t translate that much more clearly. The sentences clearly state that officer in question came up with a number of vanilla-type responses to the question of “what can we do”, like locking our doors, etc. I chose not to list every suggestion and instead focused on one that came up more than once, as the rest of them are incredibly common-sense and really don’t need to be repeated to what I believe is a group of sentient, thinking adults.

    “Trust but verify”, for those who have not studied their history very deeply, is actually an appropriation of a a Russian proverb (see Wikipedia for a better description here,_but_verify) used by Reagan during the final negotiations of the INF treaty in the 1980’s and describes the need for verification procedures in that context. Secretary of State Kerry referred to it in what he called an updated form in reference to the removal of chemical weapons from Syria in 2013. Kerry is not exactly someone who jumps to mind when I think of “huge fan of Ronald Reagan”.

    In this context, SPD has repeatedly stated that response times fall within the goals set by the administration. I have looked for hours, attempting to find the raw data to support or refute this assertion, because SPD has shown a certain amount of creative flexibility when it comes to presenting the results of studies / data / etc. I’d prefer not to spend my time doing this, but I don’t believe that we are getting the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

    And finally, the inability to even consider the validity of a statement, apparently based entirely on the fact that it came from a political figure that you disagree with, is just one more sign of the political paralysis that is taking over this country. Reasonable ideas are sometimes available on both sides of the political aisle, believe it or not.

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