Photo by Ty Swenson
Community Crime Prevention Officer Doug Reynold from SeaTac talks about crime prevention techniques at the North Highline Public Safety Forum on May 10 in White Center.

North Highline Public Safety Forum delves into crime of all kinds

Summertime equals more crime
As of late, car thefts in North Highline are up, according to White Center Storefront Deputy BJ Myers.

“Don’t expect summer to help that,” he added while speaking at the North Highline Public Safety Forum on May 10, sponsored by the North Highline Unincorporated Area Council.

As thefts rise, he said auto recoveries uptick as well.

Here are some tips from Myers on how to avoid theft and help police out:

In the DON’T category
-Don’t leave your car running, even if you are just running into the store for a brief moment
-Don’t leave valuables out in the open, advertising your vehicle as a good candidate for theft
-Don’t leave your windows open

As for the DO’S
-Do have your vehicle’s license number, make and model written down somewhere (not stored in your car) or memorized so you can quickly give police vital information when reporting the theft
-Do park your car in well lit, highly traveled areas

Helping police out with vehicle recovery
-When an abandoned vehicle is reported and police respond, they treat it as a crime scene and look for fingerprints, left items, etc. “Typically someone who is stealing a car is doing it more than once,” Myers said, “and so by getting a fingerprint or some other evidence to tie to that person (to the vehicle), it disrupts the crime trends we are seeing.”
-Signs of an abandoned car include damage not typical of a collision, a car unusually parked, wheels that don’t match, windows rolled down, unusual seat positions, broken windows or obvious ignition damage. Myers suggested gathering the license plate number and a basic vehicle before calling police about the possibly dumped vehicle. They can run the plate to see if it has been reported stolen and take it from there.

The latest on White Center’s alcohol initiative
Myers said the two-month old alcohol initiative is picking up steam, with eight to nine downtown White Center stores agreeing to the terms. The initiative asks White Center businesses to voluntarily ban single-serve fortified wine and high-octane beer sales for off-premise use from 6 a.m. to 1 p.m. The idea is to reduce public drinking and intoxication during the daytime.

During next weekend’s Community Development Association Spring Clean event, Myers said those businesses will be publically acknowledged for helping out.

Myers named the Chevron station, Zip Mart, Rainbow Mini-Mart, Shorewood Grocery, Smoke Town and Cigarette Depot in Delridge are all active with the ban. The big chains - your Walgreens and RiteAids, are not on board, he said.

“You know we still see guys drinking at 8 o’clock in the morning, so there is a way around it and those who are determined are finding a way around it,” Myers said, “but that was the idea: to put up a speed bump and see who ends up changing their behavior because of it.”

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Metro Transit Police
Major Lisa Mulligan, chief of King County’s Metro Transit Police division, spoke with the NHUAC crowd about her crew of 69 officers’ role in policing our buses. She said 69 officers to police the entirety of King County stretches the department thin, but she is “proud” of the work her deputies do.

While community concern over activities at the 15th Ave S.W. bus transfer in White Center often arise, Mulligan said with their small team, MTP mostly focuses their efforts in the downtown business corridor where the vast majority of issues occur – from the minor offenses of fare evasion to more serious assaults and robberies. On the positive, she said Deputy Myers has been communicating with MTP closely since taking over the storefront position, providing her officers with more detailed information on the challenges and problems with transit in White Center.

Mulligan said the most common transit crime is the theft of portable electronics, primarily smartphones. As tempting as it is to whip your phone out and escape the commute into an app-fueled daze, she recommended keeping those electronics hidden while on the bus and at bus stops to avoid unwanted attention from potential thieves. Keeping with the balance of good and bad, she said national law enforcement groups have been putting recent pressure on cell phone companies to make it more difficult for stolen phones to be resold or reactivated.

On question many folks have had about the upcoming RapidRide lines is how Metro will ensure you have paid if you swipe your Orca card at the bus stop prior to the bus’s arrival. Mulligan provided the answer: All RapidRide buses will have a security guard (no gun but a protective vest) on board checking transfer vouchers and Orca cards to ensure people are paying up.

For more information on the Metro Transit Police, please check out the Herald’s prior coverage from Mulligan’s visit to the West Seattle Crime Prevention Council.

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CPTED
The final speaker of the night was Community Crime Prevention Officer Doug Reynold of the SeaTac Police talking about Crime Prevention through Environmental Design (CPTED), or ways to make your yard and home less inviting to “evildoers,” as he put it.

Reynold has 31 years of experience working for the King County Sheriff’s Office and has been teaching crime prevention to SeaTac residents for the past 15 years. He breaks CPTED down into three main principles and a few tips:

1)Access Control. Your “first line of defense,” Reynold explained, is to mark the line between public and private property with landscaping techniques including shrubs, ornamental fences, etc. By clearly defining those borders, you make private property clear without resorting to 10 foot high fences with barbed wire.

2)Natural Surveillance. “My favorite,” Reynold said of the technique that allows you to see and be seen. The principle includes soft lighting illuminating your property during nighttime hours, opening your curtains during the day so you can see what’s happening on your property and in your neighborhood. He used convenience stores as an example. Are you more likely to enter a store at night with clearly opened windows or one where the windows are plastered with beer and cigarette ads so no one can see in or out? Reynold said statistics back the first option.

3)Ownership. This one is all about expressing ownership and pride in your property and neighborhood. It goes back to the “broken windows” theory, referenced by Reynold, that claims the more dilapidated a neighborhood or residence is, the more of a target it is for criminals. “Nip it in the bud,” he said of overgrown lawns or graffiti-ridden walls, “Get it fixed so it doesn’t grow and spread.”

4)Miscellaneous tips. Reynold has a few tricks up his sleeve that he shared with the crowd, including the concept of mixing it up with the curtains or blinds. He’ll put them at different depths throughout the week, and move the occasional, visible lamp inside to keep things fresh. Also, he recommends playing talk radio or a TV news station at low volume during the day if you are gone. As potential evildoers approach, they may mistake those voices for real humans inside. If someone knocks at the door, he recommends answering it or at least vocalizing that you are home but cannot answer the door (eliminating the chance of a face to face encounter with someone who just kicked in your door). And finally, Reynold is not a big fan of home security systems because they do nothing to prevent crime, and take so much time to get the warning to the homeowner, then the police that by the time anyone arrives, the burglars are long gone. If you insist on having one, he recommends cranking the siren as loud and it goes and installing the speakers indoors, thus making just being inside a brutal experience and likely limiting the number of items an evildoer takes before fleeing with sore eardrums.

The next NHUAC Public Safety Forum is on August 2nd. Stay tuned for more details on speakers and topics as the date approaches.

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