Want a Seattle crime problem to solve, city leaders? Crack down on car prowls on Capitol Hill. Seattle Police statistics show that reports of car break-ins have actually dropped about 20% in the city over the past five years — but there has been not letup across the East Precinct covering the Hill and the Central District.
Around Capitol Hill, they are coming in bunches in 2022. Of the around 120 reported every month in the East Precinct, many now involve rounds of mutli-car smash and grabs. A recent spree involved 11 cars parked overnight last week on a block around Temple De Hirsch Sinai.
“They were probably looking for cash; at least in our case there was nothing visible on the car seats,” the CHS reader who alerted us to the spree writes. “The thieves rummaged through the dashboard and all they seem to have taken is some stray coins.”
A previous spree area was hit twice near Miller Community Center with a night of smash and grabs in late June in the same area of another night of busted car glass a few months earlier.
There may, indeed, be reporting fatigue and not every break-in is recorded but there are plenty of reasons owners report the prowls to police. Like most of these incidents, the CHS reader who was victimized joined the other car owners in filling in police reports as they went through the process of insurance claims.
Police advocates, meanwhile, say staffing limitations are hampering SPD’s ability to respond to crimes like car prowls.
But SPD’s statistics show that “larceny — theft from automobile” reports have continually dropped across the city, down around 20% since 2017. The rate has remained steady around Capitol Hill and the Central District — the East Precinct’s proportion of car prowl reports has now reached about 16% of the city’s total thanks in part to fewer workers and visitors parking in downtown.
What can City Hall and SPD do? Increased police presence including officers spending more time in their vehicles in areas of high prowl rates could help — especially during overnight hours. Experts say addressing factors like lighting and visibility can also be effective. But information might be the most useful resource. Providing faster, more straightforward information on where and when the break-in sprees are occurring could help Capitol Hill drivers help themselves.