What I Learned About Crime Prevention in Seattle Tonight
If you didn’t make it to tonight’s Neighborhood Crime Prevention hosted by the View Ridge and Hawthorne Hills Community Councils, we have you covered. Here are some of the things that Sarah Lawson, Northeast Precinct Crime Prevention Coordinator, told us
1. This surprised me at first but Sarah explained it: she was pleading with people to CALL 911. What?!
It turns out that Seattle residents are so discouraged by the lack of police staffing that they don’t bother to report crimes…and this isn’t good. If there are no reports then the upper brass thinks crime has gone down and resources aren’t needed. Don’t worry about “bothering” them with something—bother them with it!
The police dept. is very data-driven and the Seattle police crime dashboard only reflects REPORTED calls, not just calls. So make sure you file a report if you want it to count. Note: Homicide, domestic abuse, and any crime involving children are considered too sensitive to post on the public dashboard. One woman piped out, “Don’t you think it’s important for us to know about any murders on our street?” Sarah responded that once the investigation into such crimes was over they could be made public.
CHECK THIS OUT: Here's a little secret: non-emergency calls get routed to same place as 911 calls—same place, same people. So if you want to minimize your chances of being on hold forever, call 911 and let THEM triage the call! This puts you higher up on their priority list.
2. If you don’t have an emergency yet still want to report something but don’t want to be tied up on the phone forever--you can call 911 and request a “Telephone Report” and tell them what time you’d like to be called back. Note: you can’t do this for car thefts as they must be reported in real time.
3. It turns out that as convenient as online reporting is for non-emergencies… it really isn’t that great. Better to “telephone report” by calling 911 and asking for the reporting unit to set up a call time of your choice.
4. If you use an alarm company, make sure you give them two contact numbers! The police can’t go out to investigate until 2 attempts are made. Also, there is a charge if officers must check out your alarm.
5. Block Watch Program. You get to know the people on your block, you say hello and notice their comings and goings (but not in a stalking way). By being aware of your surroundings you increase your chances of noticing when something doesn’t seem right. And that’s when you call your neighbors to compare notes...and then call 911!
6. Registration for Seattle’s “National Night Out” begins next week. Held in August, this is one of the most-highly anticipated events of the year (OK, well, for those who don’t get out much). Everyone on your block shares some dinner, maybe music, and some good gossip while hanging out during a balmy August evening.
This year for the first time there will be an online map revealing all the fun blocks in Maple Leaf. This will give people who don’t identify with their actual address a chance to shop around and glom onto another group’s party.
You can ask the City to send officers, district council members (ours are Alex Pederson and Deborah Juarez), and/or any City official, so start figuring out who you want to see on your block. (Sarah also said that if anyone on your block does NOT want any City staff to attend, Block Captains should let her know).
You can also invite candidates but the City doesn’t coordinate those visits or endorse anyone.
7. Personal Safety Classes. These aren’t the old self-defense classes from the 70s….these focus on “personal awareness.” You can ask Sarah to come to your home and you can request only female officers if you’d feel more comfortable that way. Sarah can also facilitate personal safety classes for kids 14 yrs and up.
8. SPD Safety Initiatives. I was sitting next to a neighbor from Maple Leaf who told me that she’d had an officer come to her home to assess her security and that it was very, very helpful. They can check out your locks and cameras and help you secure your home.
9. Sarah fielded questions from the large audience and announced that soon the SPD would be giving out steering wheel locks to prevent car thefts for all cars, not just the KIAs that were stolen in droves after a tech-savvy thief posted a TikTok video showing the world how to do it.
10. Sarah stressed that although the SPD is still very under-staffed, things ARE getting better. Ideally they’d like to have 1400 officers but only have 900 at the present time. It take 2 years to fully train someone.
11. Someone asked if they were enforcing the 72 hr rule for parked vehicles. “As much as they can. We try to be lenient for cars but not RVs.” So how would you report a parked vehicle? Through the FIND IT FIX IT app! Turns out this isn’t just for potholes and broken streetlights, it’s for vandalism such as public litter, needles, graffiti, etc. This is a much more efficient way to report something because you don’t have to figure out who to call.
12. All officers have crisis intervention training but you can’t specifically request a crisis intervention team from the get-go; it has to be triaged once it escalates.
13. You can call “9-8-8” for referrals for mental health assistance for those who are not in crisis.
14. Finally, Sarah asked us to please make sure we give kudos to those officers that have helped us. Policing is a tough and under appreciated job and your praise will be shared with the employee and their supervisor.
Sarah kept stressing: It WILL get better! Have patience with us, we’re working hard to improve the system.