It may not seem like it, but crime is down in the Southend. In fact, not only are major crimes for each beat trending in a positive direction, the Seattle South Precinct is leading the city in a trend of lower crime. According to the Seattle Police Department, “Through May 2013, three precincts are showing decreases in Major Crimes when compared with the same time period in 2012. They are led by South and West Precincts at -15% each, and followed by East Precincts at -6%. North Precinct is nearly even compared with the same time period in 2012, at +1%. Only Southwest Precinct is posting an increase in Major Crimes so far in 2013, up 8% compared with the first five months of 2012.” Seems unbelievable, right? You can check the stats for yourself, right here: http://www.seattle.gov/police/crime/stats.htm.
Now I’m going to really blow your mind. In May (which is the most recent data available), the South precinct reported LESS THAN HALF the number of major crimes than the North Precinct which includes Ballard, Fremont, and the U-district; and almost half the major crimes as the West Precinct which includes downtown, Queen Anne, Capitol Hill and South Lake Union. All three beats in the Rainier Beach area had fewer crimes than the beats for Queen Anne, Fremont, Roosevelt, Greenlake, Sandpoint, Ballard, the University Stadium area. On the spectrum, the South Precinct ranks equally with the East Precinct (an area roughly half the size of the Southend), with only the Southwest Precinct posting fewer major crimes overall.
Was May 2013 just an anomaly? Not at all. In researching data on major crimes month by month from January 2012 through May 2013, the south precinct consistently has less than half the major crime of the North Precinct, and about half the major crime of the West Precinct. A random data check back to 2008 confirms these findings without much veering with an occasional slip over half, but never, ever coming close to the number of major crimes in the North and West Precincts.
So rest a bit easier, Southenders. But two recent South Precinct officer community conversations with the Martin Luther King Business Association, and the Rainier Beach Community Club confirm that neighbors should remain vigilant to keep crime at bay.
The best way to deter a crime? The answer is much simpler and less expensive, than you might expect. According to Sargent Anne Martin, Lt. John Hayes and Captain Steven Paulsen, the best thing you can do is to be a good neighbor. Get to know the people on your street, and call 911 any time you see anything troubling or out of place. Anything. Although the 911 operators may seem nonplused by what they perceive not to be an emergency, every call must have follow up and statistical patterns for frequent problems will trigger more consistent policing of the area. It pays off. Neighbor calls are responsible for catching several thieves in the Southend over the last year.
Activity on the street definitely picks up during the summer months, but what about crimes that take place when you’re not at home, such as break-ins? The officers explained that these crimes also pick up in the summer – largely due to windows being left open in homes while folks are away. Also, extra vigilance is advised during peak break-in times of Tuesday – Thursday from 8 am to 4:30 pm. For the large number of Southenders that work from home, or around during the day, keep an eye out for your neighbors, and be sure to call in anything that doesn’t look right. If English is not your first language, don’t worry – 911 has translators for nearly every language on hand and ready to help.
Similarly, Southend businesses can boost their security by providing good customer service and meeting their neighbors. Seattle Police Officers Robert “Jojo” Cambronero, Marc Powell, Gregory Fliegel and Seattle PD Asian Liaison Lin Thach who joined an MLK in the Valley mixer recently explained that connecting with customers with a warm, intentional greeting, and following up with assistance is likely the best way to stop thieves in their tracks. Multimedia approaches and expensive alarms may also help, but a low-tech approach of getting to know local citizens and business owners as the first step to help make areas safer for everyone from undesirable activity. Kibitzing on the corner, sharing concerns about suspicious activities helps keep more eyes on the streets, helps connect the dots on who is who, and allows for earlier reporting of incidents. In one case, this communication among business owners and folks in the community helped to nab a criminal that resided in a nearby Southend housing development.
Should an incident occur, however, the officers strongly urge citizens to call 911 as quickly as possible, without worrying if they sound calm. In fact, sounding frightened or extremely stressed may be in your favor to help operators understand the urgency of the situation.
Additionally, officers had this advice:
When calling 911, what kind of information would be most helpful for the 911 dispatch to respond to the needs of your call?
• If you are feeling scared, nervous, or anything, let the operator know what are you feeling. If you try to remain calm, even though you might not be feeling calm, this does not help the operator respond to the needs of your call. (for example: if you are feeling scared, say, “I am feeling scared because……”).
• Provide pertinent background information to the operator to help provide a better picture of what is going on (for example: if you are calling about a suspicious car in the neighborhood, explain how and why it is suspicious to you so the operator can respond accordingly)
• Don’t be afraid to call. Even non-emergency calls can be called in by telling the operator that you are calling “to provide information only”.
• All calls are documented and cannot be ignored. The more documentation there is, the better the paper trail, and the better the Police Department can respond to your needs.
What other things can people do to help keep their community safe?
• Be a good witness. The community is the eyes and ears of the police department, so the more information that is shared the better the police department can respond to the community’s needs.
• Understand that action from the police is most always a reaction because they are responding to situations that are either happening or have happened, so the better a community can keep a look out for each other, the safer a community. Sharing information about what’s going on in the community helps keep the community safe.
• Organize a neighborhood block watch or a business community block watch and meet once a month to keep each other informed.
• The voice coming from an organized group versus coming from an individual has more power and leverage and will help the police department respond to your needs faster. Exercise your tax dollars.
• Get to know the police officers who work in your community. Organize a Living Room Conversation by contacting the community outreach officer in your precinct.
Some key phrases you can say when calling 911, depending your situation:
• “Suspicious activity”
• “I’m afraid”
For more tips on protecting your business, check out the MLK in the Valley blog at: http://www.mlkba.org/best-solution-for-biz-crime-may-be-low-tech/
For more information on the Seattle Police Department Business Outreach program, log on to: http://www.seattle.gov/police/together/