So far this year, burglaries inside residential garages are up nearly 60% citywide, according to statistics from the Seattle Police Department.
In the East Precinct, which covers Capitol Hill and the Central District, the problem is even more dramatic: a 69% increase in break-ins compared to this time last year.
That makes it a key issue for Mark Solomon, one of three crime prevention coordinators at SPD. The crime prevention team visits buildings that are dealing with specific crime trends — a feature of SPD’s recent statistics based policing efforts. 911 calls are analyzed and ranked to see which addresses deal with the most repeat offenses. Solomon then makes a visit to assess how small design changes could improve safety.
Earlier this month, CHS was there when Solomon visited Kelleher House condos on First Hill. Property managers said garage break-ins were fairly common even though they didn’t always result in 911 calls as some people enter the garage just to find a place to sleep.
Some buildings have even resorted to fining tenants if they’re caught not waiting for garage doors to close. While fines aren’t in place at the Kelleher House, the management company for the condo, CWD Group, does impose $150 fines at other buildings.
“We never have repeat offenders,” said Paul Grucza, who handles tenant education for CWD Group.
Here’s what SPD says you can do to help make garage’s at your building more secure:
- Take a moment and wait for the gate to close behind you. Bad guys like to slip in unnoticed while you are parking your car. Make it difficult for them by watching the doorway while the gate closes.
- Remember to remove any items from your vehicle. Thieves don’t know that the gym bag on the back seat is full of sweaty gym socks. To them there is a chance you forgot your bag full of gold bars.
- Help us, help you. If you see someone in the garage that shouldn’t be there, call 911. Don’t approach them, but do get a good description so officers can find them.
East Precinct, meanwhile, has had more success quelling other types of residential burglaries. “Traditional” burglary totals — often driven higher by prolific groups of thieves operating in specific areas of the city — are down 7% vs. 2014.