SPD "Community Conversation" with business owners applies to others too
A meeting with West Seattle business owners and the Seattle Police Department (SPD) on Thursday July 27 revealed the complexity of how to deal with crime and security but in short boiled down to one idea. Call 911.
Even with a depleted force Lieutenant Dorothy Kim and Crime Prevention Coordinator Jennifer Satterwhite emphasized repeatedly that because the department is “data driven” those calls matter.
They said that the calls comprise data points that influence deployment decisions and help the department allocate resources. “We know 911 is the is the priority but when in doubt just call 911 explain the situation and they will prioritize the call from there they will determine the best resources based on what you share with them.,” Satterwhite said.
The SPD representatives spoke about chronic offenders in the area that are difficult to deal with.
Satterwhite explained, “If I'm seeing someone in my community who I believe is in mental health crisis. And I'd like to get them some resources or a welfare check on them, “regarding 911, “That's going to prompt them to try to send very specially trained folks to that call to handle that in the most appropriate way.
All officers are trained in crisis intervention, but we do have a specific unit and that's what they primarily focus on.
They might also send a mental health professional or case worker or call in something like LEAD (Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion), which is a great community service based organization that assists with calls."
There were questions about what a business can do with those who steal from them. Satterwhite and Lieutenant Kim explained that a business has a right to refuse service in this context and they should inform them they are no longer welcome, and subsequent visits will be regarded as trespassing. That let's police take action. In the case of threats or harassment they urged people to seek a protection order requiring individuals to remain at a distance (usually 1000 feet).
Everett said that if someone who has stolen from a business before comes back, "To steal from you again, you can also report that as a burglary.That's technically a burglary. That's entering a building unlawfully with the intent to commit a crime. That's the definition of burglary in the Washington law." He also said that "The priority for SPD, so if they threaten to cause you harm or your employees harm, it's a credible threat, or if they credibly threaten to damage your property, that can be a separate crime. It's called harassment."
Satterwhite also explained a bit more about 911 noting that you can text to 911 or if you are in a difficult situation you can dial and "put the phone down to let the operator hear what is going on." but emphasized that the context of the call was important and especially any use of weapons of any kind.
For non-emergency crimes (see below) such as stolen vehicles or vandalism you can even file them online.
Satterwhite, Kim and Everett agreed that evidence from phone call recordings, to video footage are all valuable evidence in the prosecution of criminal cases.
They spoke too about homeless encampments and urged the public to use the Find it, Fix it app on their mobile devices to bring it to the attention of authorities. Lieutenant Kim said, "Every encampment that people report to find it fix it goes on this huge database that the city maintains and any one of those items will prioritize it higher." It's also possible to call 206-684-CITY to make a report. They ask that you take a photo if you use the app since it "geotags" the location.
Everett explained, "
The reports that come in through the app are prioritized in terms of urgency with "needles on the ground" getting more attention than something less pressing.
Business alarm systems were discussed and Satterwhite said typically alarm companies will call the account holder first who then must call 911. Those get the priority. Systems that have the alarm company call 911 are lower priority,
Drug use, especially in public came up and Lieutenant Kim explained that it is "very difficult because the City Council did not pass the law that allows us to book them and charge them with a crime."
Everett continued the explanation, "The Supreme Court basically invalidated the simple possession of controlled substances law a couple of years ago in a ruling called the Blake Decision.
Prior to that decision, " It was a what they call strict liability offense. If you had drugs on you at all, it could be a felony. the legislature has passed a fix for that so that now simple possession is a misdemeanor but the City Council has not adopted that as a city law, which makes it very complicated for SPD.
"We can technically arrest them," explained Lieutenant Kim," but there's nowhere to bring them because the city can't charge them, and the King County prosecutors office has already said they're not going to charge for crimes that Seattle should be doing."
Everett added, "But even though SPD can't take in most cases immediate action for that issue...police reports can help us do other things downstream if it were at a bus stop we could take police reports to Metro to see if they could take some action."
They noted that calls regarding drug use or sale in a house or other location could mean action could be taken regarding the location itself.
It was discussed that the Admiral District Association uses a text chain to keep members informed of matters they are concerned about and the Junction uses the Slack App for a similar purpose.
Satterwhite mentioned that she and other members of SPD will perform free security sweeps of a business to assess window, door and other access security and that the department conducts personal safety training as well.