Heading into summer, a group of more than 40 Capitol Hill business owners are once again raising concerns about the level of nighttime police staffing around Pike/Pine. The group recently sent a letter to Mayor Ed Murray and City Council members to ask for more gang and narcotics unit cops to work the area and more foot and bike patrols on the streets. With a new (returning) commander about to be announced — the East Precinct has been lead by 10 different commanders over the past 15 years — here’s a look at how last year’s promised step-up in policing played out as crime levels in general across Capitol Hill rose.
Overall, the number of reported Capitol Hill crime incidents leapt 12.5% in 2014 marked by a huge surge in thefts like ripping off bicycles and car prowls. Assaults also climbed nearly 8% while street robberies and burglaries dropped vs. the previous year. The local trends mirrored what SPD saw across the city in 2014 — and the department claims it is making progress on vehicle thefts and car prowls so far in 2015.
In the core area of the emphasis patrols — Beat C2 — street robberies actually ended up down year over year after spiking last summer. Theft, despite the increased patrols at the end of the year, remained a significant menace in the area. See the end of the post for more areas touched by the increased Pike/Pine patrols.
But the emphasis patrols reportedly achieved some important surgical strikes. Last year, newly minted Seattle Police Chief Kathleen O’Toole held up the federal indictments of two suspected street gang members as proof that the department’s 2014 response to reducing crime around Capitol Hill’s nighttime core was effective.
The suspected gang arrests stemmed from ramped up emphasis patrols around Pike/Pine and Cal Anderson Park in response to a rash of after-hours street crime. Awad Aynisher, 31, and Robel Gebremedhiu, 32, were both charged on felony weapons charges.
So, what happened?
In February, Aynisher pleaded guilty to one count of felony weapon possession. He’s scheduled to be sentenced in June. Gebremedhiu is also being charged with felony weapons possession and is headed for a jury trial in May.
Aynisher was arrested in October after police say a security guard at the Broadway and Pike Shell gas station alerted them to a reckless driver. During a search of his car, police found a semi-automatic “Uzi type” pistol. Gebremedhiu was busted a week earlier in an episode reported here by CHS after an armed man was seen by clubgoers running down the street near Broadway and E Union just before 2 AM.
Both defendants had previously served “lengthy” federal prison sentences and were on federal supervision at the time of their arrests. According to the US Attorney, both of the indicted men have been connected to a gang known as the East African Posse.
Last September, CHS posted a letter from the ownership of Lost Lake claiming that a group of young Somali males were “terrorizing” the neighborhood. The complaint helped spark an East Precinct crackdown in the area after a late summer surge in street crime. Representatives say Somali and East African communities were unfairly targeted in the push for increased policing. Lost Lake is a CHS advertiser.
East Precinct commander Captain Pierre Davis told CHS last year that support from elected officials was key to getting more resources for emphasis patrols. “Not everyone gets this,” Davis told CHS in October. ” We may have to look at making this permanent. That will take resources.”
Apparently, those resources haven’t come. At a recent meeting of the Capitol Hill Chamber of Commerce, director Michael Wells said he was told by East Precinct commanders that officer staffing levels around Pike/Pine would be lower than last summer. Davis never responded to a request for comment.
With a new commander set to be announced, SPD and the precinct are once again planning to meet with the business owners raising the alarm. Anecdotes of more bike patrols already around Pike/Pine are also being reported.
Crime is also a fluid activity and doesn’t necessarily remain contained to specific areas, of course. Here’s a look at the rest of the East Precinct beats covering Capitol Hill and the issues that arose — and sometimes faded in 2014: