North Precinct Advisory Council (Crime Stuff)

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    The plot thickens on the Danny Westneat story

    Whatever it is, when Sammamish detectives Dodd and Albright questioned the alleged car prowlers, they asked why they had hit so many cars, for so long, in so many places.

    One shrugged: “Because we knew the police wouldn’t do anything.”



    I think it’s not insignificant that someone called the police because something looked “odd,” the police were dispatched, arrived in enough time to see the situation, and that it all happened in Redmond.

    Ooh, here’s the best part: “Instead, last week Seattle police sent out one of the all-time disingenuous news releases, attempting to share credit for the bust of the car-prowl ring — though they had less than zero to do with it. “SPD, Sammamish Police on the Prowl for Car Prowlers,” the release is headlined, without noting that one of these agencies actually let Washington’s Most Wanted get away.”



    Just to keep this going. I thought there were some pretty relevant points (which Chris raised) in defense of the SPD’s handling of the situation one of which was this one:

    The (or maybe one of the) 911 dispatcher(s) that Westneat talked to was the dispatcher who was on the line when the guy near the Greenwood Fred Meyer was killed because he wouldn’t hand over his cell phone. She was talking to that guy and heard the explosion of the gun shot and the phone go dead. I can understand why she would be adamant that he not pursue the perps. That is PTSD material.

    Article in the PI today:
    The gist of this article was these lovely, fine, upstanding citizens had been at this quite a while, and were doing it for the wallet contents, and credit cards, not so much for the other stuff. I can almost predict they will be back at it the day they get out of the pokey, and probably won’t do more than a year, so will be released probably very soon after sentencing. Pretty aggravating. Hope I’m wrong.



    I’ve been doing a lot of work with analysis of crime reports as the result of this and other incidents in preparation for the Crime Meeting on the 18th at Loyal Heights Community Center, and while I want to hold off on the major conclusions until that meeting, the data that I’ve been analyzing (freely available to anyone who has an internet connection to – no login required at all) will make everyone really, really angry.

    Just a complete abdication of duty by SPD on the property crime, and a failure by the mayor and city council to allocate resources in order to stop this stuff from happening. Every time I look at it, I get more angry, and I passed irate about a week ago.



    Chris, does your analysis point to a specific failure point? Or what the solution could be, other than changing changing another human’s will? Is it as simple as more money/more police, or does it run much deeper than that? Ie: Empathic failure towards those in Ballard that experience property crime, even if they had the resources? Is the system so broken it could not function, even with sufficient funds? I wonder what the attitude of LEOs are. That alone makes a huge difference.



    The stuff that I’ve been working on can’t speak to what it will take to fix it, because the data is like accounting – all it does is show you the combined effects of whatever policies are in place and the skill (or not) of those executing those policies.

    I’ve been doing a lot of research around this topic, and it really is like the proverbial peeling of the onion – layer after layer after layer. What follows are my own theories of contributing factors, although I cannot prove all of them, and I can’t make any kind of model that shows the relative weight of each factor:

    1) Money. SPD’s budget has been pretty static over the last several years. I have been unable to determine the size of the detective force, or what percentage of that group is involved with property crime investigation.

    2) LEO performance. SPD’s record on constitutional policing in the past has led to oversight from the Feds. Two reactions have come from this – SPD “de-policing”, which may or may not have been proven to exist, and retraining of every single officer, which affects LEO reaction time.

    3) Indifference in the justice system towards repeat offenders. This leads to the often-frustrating, for both SPD and the public, “revolving door policy” at the jail.

    4) #3 leads to a simple risk-reward calculation by criminals, and increasingly, they are seeing that a) they will likely not be caught, and b) if they are caught, the punishment is so light that it makes it worthwhile to continue this behavior and expand it.

    5) Legislative / Governmental apathy and negligence. I’m not saying anything revelatory by making the observation that our city council and mayor have shown that their priorities lay in other areas, for instance in making sure that every street in this town has a bike lane. The second part of that sentence is partially facetious, but holds the kernel of truth in it.

    My opinion, after a couple of weeks of looking at this problem from as many angles as possible, is that the system is teetering on the edge of being so broken as to become unfixable without a massive infusion of resources, replacement of substantial segments of SPD, and an actual commitment to fixing this problem above all others from City Hall.

    The possible worst case scenarios if this is not stopped are not good. Pick the easiest one to imagine – individuals, fearing for their own safety inside their own homes due to the lawlessness going on outside, take steps to protect themselves. Some buy security cameras and systems. Some decide that a more aggressive home defense policy is in order. That means guns. Lots and lots of guns.

    I’m actually pro-gun, for lots of reasons. I am not pro-gun for people who are inexperienced in handling them, or who think that just having one will solve all their problems. These individuals have likely not put a lot of thought as to when and under what circumstances they are prepared to use a gun for its sole intended purpose.

    Even more than that, the increase in guns just increases the chances that Something Bad will happen that was unintended. A kid gets a hold of a gun and accidentally shoots himself or others. A kid being bullied at school decides to take matters into their own hands, and has the means due to an unsecured weapon. An unstable relationship takes a turn for the worse. A homeowner panics under stress and does something stupid. I could go on for a while, but you get the idea.

    One of those things will happen. It is a near-certainty in statistical terms. It won’t matter which of the 5 areas that I identified were the proximate cause. A life, or multiple lives, will be ended prematurely, and the blood will be on all of our hands (citizens, government, police), because we saw what was happening and collectively chose to do nothing to address it.


    great idea

    @ JM98107–
    thanks for link to SPD blog. Funny that the first story I clicked on went like this:

    “Officers Catch Wanted Fugitive After he Breaks into Car
    Written by Detective Drew Fowler on November 9, 2014 7:33 am

    Two witnesses caught a wanted fugitive out of Oregon after he broke into a car in the University District Saturday morning.

    Officers were called to Northeast 64th Street and Brooklyn Ave Northeast when two witnesses observed a man breaking into a car. The two witnesses detained the suspect till officers arrived and arrested the 30-year-old man.

    Officers also found the suspect to have two fugitive warrants from Oregon for larceny and identity theft.

    The officers later booked the suspect into King County Jail on the fugitive warrants and the car prowl.”

    good work officers! er, rather, witnesses who actually did the work.

    @ Chris
    “I’m actually pro-gun, for lots of reasons.”
    ” the increase in guns just increases the chances that Something Bad will happen that was unintended. ”

    those two notions seem at odds with one another. so it’s ok for you to have a gun, but not less responsible people?

    these are mostly property crimes, right? I get that the situation can escalate quickly, but typically (as you mentioned), it is the “homeowner (or phoneowner) (who) panics under stress and does something stupid.”

    from an acceptable risk standpoint, I’d actually rather see my taxes go to increased bike lanes than throwing more money at the police dept. statistically, I would bet more lives would be saved, if that is indeed our goal.



    @great idea – I made several extensive comments on this post regarding my thoughts on guns. Please read all of the words.

    You picked up on two quotes in isolation. I’m pro-gun for a lot more reasons than just home defense. I’ve also spent a tremendous amount of time thinking about what they mean for me. My ownership of one, adn preparation to use it in an extreme circumstance, is not a knee-jerk reaction to an increase in crime, but the product of a lot of thought.

    The simple fact is that ownership, at least for me, had a couple of different phases. I do have a concealed carry license, and for about a 6-month period after I purchased the weapon, I would carry everywhere. I wasn’t exactly looking for a fight. In my own mind, I was just taking advantage of the rights that are granted under the law. I would expect that this is a fairly common reaction, based on limited conversations with others.

    If you read the quote that you cherry-picked from this post: ”the increase in guns just increases the chances that Something Bad will happen that was unintended”, this matches exactly with my previous post on the subject, as well as the tone and theme of the post that you quoted from. Property crime causes fear. Fear causes rash reactions. Rash reactions combined with inexperience and / or inattention to safety can cause “Something Bad” to happen.

    I can’t change the laws that exist regarding guns. I can encourage those who are considering them to stop and really think about what they are trying to accomplish, just as I have. I can try to make people aware of a scenario that is within the realm of possibility, at least as I see it.

    Your position on bike lanes vs. police spending suggests (correct me if you my interpretation is incorrect) that you see these two things as an either/or proposition. I look at this way: I have the right, or at least the expectation, of living in my house, with whatever possessions I may have, in relative peace. I’m not one who blindly quotes the Constitution, but I remember some on-topic phrases from the Preamble about domestic tranquility. Like it or not, it forms the original mission statement for the government under which all of the rest of the governments (state, city, etc.) operate.

    I know you think of it as “just property crimes”, but let me ask this hypothetical – who will be using those bike lanes if their bikes have been stolen? There is a lot more gray in this issue than I think that you’re either seeing, or willing to see.




    good work officers! er, rather, witnesses who actually did the work.

    read part one on how SPD really responds:

    part two the follow up
    It seems that it is better to call the Sammamish police then SPD

    Also because of the new background check law – it is (at this time) difficult to purchase a gun – they are out of stock – one dealer I spoke to said “one person came in said he had $600, what can he buy?”
    Note: this happens whenever there is talk about restricting sales or whatever about guns, and not just this particular instance.

    This is what Chris, and I, are afraid of, if folks feel unsafe in their homes or on the streets, is the folks that will, without thought or education get and carry a gun.


    great idea

    I had read your previous posts regarding guns. You mentioned that you are “terrified of its implications, especially when things go bump late in the night in the new high-crime environment that we find ourselves in.”

    we’re talking about property crimes still, right? I have not heard that home invasions are on the rise. possibly home burglaries, but primarily car prowls, yes?

    if you woke up in the middle of the night, and looked outside to see someone rifling through your vehicle, what action would you take? (assuming you call 911 first knowing full-well they won’t help much). would you scare the prowler away? try to detain him, possibly with your weapon?

    thanks for the links Richy– I had seen the articles previously.
    I do find it interesting that both the victim and the SPD partially blame the weather for the predicament:
    “It was pouring, so we foolishly left a purse in the car.”

    “the call came in on the night of the 65 MPH windstorm, and the North precinct received, according to him, 2900 calls, which would overwhelm just about any PD in the country.”
    -Chris paraphrasing SPD Captain

    if I’m ever looking to commit a crime, you bet I’ll check the forecast for an opportune night.



    I asked you to read ALL of the words. It is clear that one of two things are true – either you did, and chose to ignore what I said, or you didn’t, which is your fault. From

    “My rule on the use of weapons is that I will not do it specifically to protect my property. When things go bump in the night, I have sat at the top of my stairs with zero intention of going down them to protect what I own, but the moment I hear someone coming up, I will chamber a round and wonder aloud exactly how big a hole that round will make as it exits their body (best guess is at least the diameter of a silver dollar). If they continue to climb the stairs, however, the decision gets a lot easier.”

    As for the question about what I would do if I saw a car prowl happening outside my front door: I would go out on my porch, unarmed (I am not looking to escalate the situation, which is exactly what happens when you introduce a weapon of any kind) except for the cell phone on which I was calling the police, in an attempt to scare off the criminal, no more than one step from the relative safety of the interior of my house. I can retreat into the house and have the deadbolt in place far more quickly than someone can make their way across my lawn and through my gate.

    The police have their job, which is to suppress this kind of activity. They aren’t doing it. I have chosen an approach to how I would deal with crime being visited upon my house that I feel comfortable with, on a legal level, but most importantly on a moral/ethical level.

    As far as whether home invasions are up or down, I encourage you to visit, where there are nearly four years of police report data open and available for anyone to download into a spreadsheet and determine if there is a trend in any classification that SPD keeps track of, and determine the answer to your question yourself.



    Chris, my thought when you mentioned the legislature and bike lanes was “be visible.” When I worked in janitorial and I was doing my job correctly, but the client complained, I was given the instruction “be visible.” Anything that is improved within SPD is relatively invisible to people, especially if SPD is doing their job well enough to catch criminals before Redmond police do. Bike lanes are really visible – it looks like govt is doing something, even if we don’t agree with it.

    In a really weird, backwards way if the “de-policing” continues to its logical conclusion, I think we would almost be better off if SPD announced they were disbanding. Utter chaos and horrible lawlessness? You bet. But then citizens would be free to organize their own patrols (this is NOT vigilantism), maybe hire a firm (or found one?) for investigative work, etc. People would KNOW they were on their own and just maybe would take up the responsibility. Right now no one is taking responsibility and currently that responsibility legally rests with SPD.

    I know a few friends who used to live in Seattle and they all moved out and are currently very thankful to be out of SPD jurisdiction. Because when you neighbor’s relative has gone bonkers and is holding someone hostage yelling about how he’s going to blow her head off, SPD is a mere 45 minutes away.

    I appreciate your thoughtful posts, Chris. It’s a very thorny problem to be sure. I feel the whole system is broken and I include 911 operators in that. I’m not saying they are all bad operators, but they tend to sound burnt-out and I suspect they may be being asked to do things that are not their job like make judgement calls. As a bonus, it must be demoralizing when they can see first hand how the police respond.

    Another way of thinking about property crime is that if someone steals a car and that person is living on the edge so they only have liability insurance, how will they get to work? Will they now lose their job? Not everyone is well enough connected to have someone sell them a spare car for cheap or free. Some folks are isolated and if something gets stolen – it is gone. Is the thing that got stolen a treasured heirloom from a dead loved one? Did someone break in and steal something creepy like panties that makes the owner feel incredibly unsafe? Granted, many thefts don’t fall into these categories, but let’s face it: many people dropped when the economy did and still aren’t back up to what they were which means stuff that gets stolen probably won’t be replaced.

    Once when I was newish to Seattle I did see a car prowl. I may have done the wrong thing by not calling the police, but although I had only been here maybe a year, I had already had contact with 911. I knew the police wouldn’t come, especially in time to catch the guys who were moving quickly down the line of cars. Now that I’ve been here longer and read many threads in these forums about crime statistics driving patrols, I probably would call the cops even knowing they wouldn’t show.

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