Beneath the “defund” push to redirect Seattle Police spending to social and community programs and the political maneuverings around removing the wall outside the East Precinct and reopening Cal Anderson Park, the nitty gritty of neighborhood crime concerns was at the forefront Thursday night for the monthly meeting of the East Precinct Advisory Council.
Property crime is on the rise in the East Precinct, SPD leadership told community members Thursday evening, with car theft, arson, and burglary up compared to 2019.
SPD crime prevention coordinator Joe Elenbaas joined the East Precinct Advisory Council to outline ways to prevent mail and car theft. Recommendations included signing up for the United States Postal Service’s Informed Delivery program, which lets recipients know what mail they’ll be receiving so they can pick it up quickly, anti-theft devices in cars, and hiding electronics that might indicate there are expensive items in the vehicle.
Elenbaas said that they are hearing of increased package theft from East Precinct residents but that victims are apparently not bothering to report the crimes.
The community meeting highlighted several areas of concern from SPD including arson, vehicle thefts, and property crime at Seattle University and businesses.
There were 15 arson offenses in the East Precinct area, which includes the area stretching from Montlake to I-90 on the east side of I-5, last year. In the first 11 months of this year, SPD has counted 34 cases of arsons. One person died this week in a fire in a vacant building on 21st and Denny.
There were also 466 motor vehicle thefts last year; 564 so far this year. Burglary is up to 1,528 cases from 1,168 in 2019.
The only type of property crime that has decreased this year is personal property theft, or larceny, down to 2,585 reports from nearly 3,400 last year.
CHS’s report on summer crime trends showed overall crime down as the pandemic had radically shifted people’s behaviors and activities but the core, most serious crimes up 12% in a surge that began in January well before the pandemic and protests set in.
Focusing on the most serious crimes that SPD uses for its statistical analysis like assaults, burglaries, and vehicle related crimes, CHS showed crime was down 4% through August in 2020. In June during the height of CHOP, crime — including everything from animal cruelty to street robberies — dropped 14% from recent years across the precinct.
Bur burglaries were still surging, especially in the Pike/Pine area.
Since the summer, SPD says property crimes have only gotten worse.
Capitol Hill’s Seattle University has seen increased property crime, the school’s assistant director of operations Nikki Maryanski said Thursday night. Maryanski noted, for example, more feces in garage stairwells and a broken window at the law school in late November on the same night demonstrators targeted a nearby Starbucks.
The Safeway grocery store on 15th and John has also seen several spates of crime, with, for instance, shoplifting turning into more serious robbery, police said.
Victoria Beach, chair of the African American Community Advisory Council, said that her neighborhood has seen “nonstop” car damage for years.
But there are bigger worries.
Homicides have seen a big jump in 2020 according to East Precinct Capt. Eric Sano. SPD reports nine murders here so far in 2020. There were five East Precinct homicides in all of 2019 and three the year before. That trend has carried across the city where SPD says there have been 41 homicides in 2020 — up from 28 last year.
Gun related crimes have also climbed.
“Very, very troubling for all of us,” he said.
Sano also noted that interim police chief Adrian Diaz has recently been going over a report on bias and hate crimes in Seattle that will be released soon. Experts from the King County Prosecutor’s Office said this week that hate crime reports are up this year in the county during the coronavirus pandemic, from 30 in 2018 and 38 in 2019 to 51 so far this year.
Sano expressed hopes that the East Precinct building and nearby Cal Anderson Park could be officially reopened soon, but it remains difficult to remove homeless encampments in the Capitol Hill park during the coronavirus pandemic. Mayor Jenny Durkan has said efforts at Cal Anderson would focus outreach, not sweeps but it remains to be seen how the city’s new homelessness resources will be brought to bear at the park.
“We are trying to get back to a semblance of normalcy,” Sano said. “We can go in and continue to clean up these parks, but unless we give these people an alternative, a viable alternative to go to, they’re just going to come back into the park.”
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