As East Precinct’s new commander says there will be increased emphasis on patrolling the park, a woman reported being robbed at gunpoint while sitting on a bench inside Cal Anderson Tuesday night.
According to the SPD report on the incident, the victim told police she was sitting on the bench with her friend around 11p when two males came up and tried to grab her purse from the ground where it was sitting. After a brief struggle, one of the muggers pulled out a gun. The victim told police she then quickly handed over the purse and the two males fled the park.
East Precinct commander Capt. Ron Wilson told CHS Tuesday afternoon about efforts to increase SPD’s presence in Cal Anderson and to cut down on reports of an increased level of camping and criminal activity.
“There are a host of things going on,” Capt. Wilson said. “As we moved into the summer, it’s really been a lot of effort to keep things from getting more out of hand.”
Most complaints from local businesses have been about the annual increase in people camping in the park and some of the social and criminal issues that accompany the camping. In September 2011, CHS reported on the mayor’s response to concerns about Cal Anderson and changes made by the Parks Department to curb camping, drug use and violence in the park. Whether the changes or the change of weather was more effective, reports of illegal activity in the park decreased over the winter. But Wilson said East Precinct is meeting with Parks Department reps again this week to discuss increased measures to patrol the park and keep people from camping in the area. Last night, for example, SPD responded to the park around the same time as the robbery to handle a trespassing incident, according to SPD records.
The street robbery nature of Tuesday night’s hold-up was unusual for the park so far this late summer. The victim told police she tried to pin her purse to the ground when the suspect attempted to snatch it. At that point, the victim said one of the males raised his shirt and brandished what she believed to be a handgun.
The victim quickly gave up her purse and the two males ran from the scene to Broadway where she lost sight of them. A witness on E Olive Way told police the men may have jumped into a dark sedan that sped away westbound at a high rate of speed. The victim described both suspects as black males, about 5’10” with athletic builds and wearing black pants and hoodies at the time of the robbery. The male with the pistol was wearing a red bandana across his face, the victim told police.
A search of the area for the suspects and the vehicle seen leaving E Olive Way were not successful.
Wilson said efforts to clean up the area around Cal Anderson include Nagle Place and the connective passages crossing Seattle Central’s property along Broadway. A decrease in people moving through the area due to heavy construction for the streetcar and the light rail station is one factor. The nooks and crannies and relatively empty backsides of large institutional buildings are another. East Precinct is working with Seattle Parks and the community college to do more to move people along and act before problems start.
“They have problems that they can’t manage alone,” Wilson said.