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Where crime rose — and dropped — on Capitol Hill in 2014 as SPD prepares for more Pike/Pine ’emphasis patrols’

On patrol in Volunteer Park -- an area in Beat C1 likely not lined up for increased patrols (Image: SPD)

On patrol in Volunteer Park — an area in Beat C1 likely not lined up for increased patrols (Image: SPD)

Screen-Shot-2015-03-11-at-10.47.23-AM-600x2611 (1)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.Screen Shot 2015-04-02 at 4.42.54 PM

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:

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The great north of Capitol Hill was relatively peaceful again in 2014. While the change in street robberies involves some small numbers, the 15% dip in burglaries should have been good news for neighbors.

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Including some of Pike/Pine below Broadway and the areas around E Olive Way, an argument could be made that E1 was in as much need of increased SPD presence as anywhere. Street robberies shot up, thefts soared, assaults climbed.

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With the First Hill side of Pike/Pine below Broadway and First Hill streets in its mix, E2’s longstanding trends of heavy, city center-style crime trends didn’t show the same kind of bump as its neighboring beats in 2014. The bad news is there were even more assaults and thefts while robberies held steady. Car thefts were reportedly cut down nearly 25% — or people quit parking there.


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7 thoughts on “Where crime rose — and dropped — on Capitol Hill in 2014 as SPD prepares for more Pike/Pine ’emphasis patrols’

    • At least when it comes to national statistics, vehicle theft is the theft of a vehicle. Theft would cover items stolen from vehicles.

    • Unfortunately, graffiti is a chronic problem that just gets worse, and has no easy solutions as the vandals must be caught in the act to be arrested/prosecuted. And for those who eventually grow up and stop this activity, there are always others to take their place.

      There are only two ways a regular citizen can combat this menace: 1) stop condoning/enabling graffiti as “art”; 2) report graffiti to the City hotline whenever/wherever you see it, and it will be cleaned up.

  1. Remember, these statistics are based on reported crime. When my car was broken in to, the police dept. website was so discouraging, I didn’t bother to report the incident. They basically stated that crime reporting is for “statistical purposes only”. Why bother? There is obviously no consequence to the perpetrator.

  2. Capitol Hill has to many bars and not enough education on alcohol. High time to start more AA groups at 12am on Pike and Broadway. The crime this and last weekend is absurd to the Capitol Hill leadership. Close the troubled bars on the hill like Seattle closed all the downtown Denny’s in the 1990’s from the raves. What’s the matter? Don’t got Milk?

    • Vancouver BC learned the hard way when genius leadership concentrated a crap load of bars along one street and they had suburban partiers flock to it like moths to a flame. Fights, fights, fights, vomit on the sidewalks, girls sexually harassed, never enough taxis at closing, etc. They eventually cracked down on over serving, made the street pedestrian only on the weekend nights, and mounted a campaign putting cops on foot patrol. In other words, they tied up a lot of city resources for a collection of bar owners. There needs to be a lot more balance in the approval of what businesses saturate a community.