Southwest Precinct Liaison Attorney Melissa Chin (standing, back) talks about nuisance properties with the West Seattle Crime Prevention Council on Jan. 15.

Crime Prevention Council covers recent trends and longstanding concerns

“He’s a straight shooter and a darn good precinct commander.”

That was the description given to returning Southwest Precinct Commander Joseph Kessler by his second-in-command, Lt. Pierre Davis, at the West Seattle Crime Prevention Council meeting on Jan. 15 in a broad spectrum meeting covering everything from the leadership change to pot, panhandlers and nuisance properties.

Kessler returned to the Southwest Precinct in 2013 after a two-year stint as the West Precinct commander. Capt. Steve Paulsen was transferred to the South Precinct.

Davis said Kessler was instrumental in creating strong block watches in West Seattle communities when he was here last, and that he hopes to continue that work. Kessler will meet with West Seattle block watch captains during their monthly meeting on Jan. 22.

Davis also announced a new Community Police Team officer for the Southwest Precinct, Officer John Flores. Flores will be taking over Officer Ken Mazzuca’s position helping out William sector residents.

Here is a synopsis of other items covered during the meeting:

Recent crime trends
Davis said property crimes (burglaries, car prowls and auto thefts) were on a yo-yo in December, jumping significantly up and down from week to week. He attributed much of that ebb and flow to chronic thieves getting out of, or heading to, jail. He said the Southwest Precinct keeps a close eye on the release and incarceration of known thieves to help police track crimes and hopefully make arrests.

As for crime trends in fresh 2013, Davis said car thefts are down (from an average of 12 per week down to 7) along with commercial burglaries.

His suggestion to the community in 2013 is to get involved in or create a block watch in your neighborhood.

“Once you collaborate,” he said, “it gives us a pretty good leg up on the criminal elements out there.”

Community safety concerns
Davis turned the floor over to community members in attendance, and a number of concerns were raised. One asked if there were any new developments on Greggette Guy’s murder investigation (she was found floating in Puget Sound of Beach Drive last March, with signs of neck trauma indicating a homicide). Unfortunately, the answer was no.

Others brought up concern over panhandlers often seen at Westwood Village exits, particularly traffic safety issues with their positioning and signs blocking the view of oncoming traffic as people try to exit. SPD Officer Jonathan Kiehn said he would talk with the individuals who frequent Westwood to discuss proper conduct and safety.

A new family to the Pigeon Point neighborhood was burglarized the week before Christmas and shared a warning for others: Be wary of U-Haul (or other moving) trucks in your neighbors' driveways. In their case, a neighbor saw people loading items into the truck and assumed it was the old neighbors moving stuff out to make room for the new family.

Liquor Control officers and their expanding role with marijuana
Lt. Tim Johnson and Officer Rick Smith from Washington State Liquor Control Board enforcement division stopped by the meeting to answer questions on liquor theft and the future of enforcing recreational marijuana.

On the pot front, Johnson said his enforcement division won’t play a role in ensuring producers, distributors and retail outlets are following the law until the WSLCB implements their system, which is expected to occur on Dec. 1, 2013. In the meantime, residents interested in voicing their opinion on how that system should look can attend a public forum on I-502. The forum will be from 6- 10 p.m., with public testimony from 7:15 to 10, at the Bertha Knight Landes Room, Seattle City Hall, 600 4th Ave.

When asked if pot will be sold next to the Cheetos in our local grocery and convenience stores, Johnson clarified that the intent is to have marijuana-only retail outlets, similar to state-ran liquor stores before privatization took effect.

Johnson said retail outlets – mostly supermarkets – continue to have trouble with hard liquor theft. As for his department’s role in investigating the issue, Johnson said his staff often stops by bars and checks their liquor inventory against receipts to prove the booze came from a legitimate, tax-producing source. While some liquor is being sold on the streets after being stolen, a portion is being sold illegally to bars, restaurants, etc. at a significantly lower rate.

Nuisance properties
Melissa Chin, Southwest Precinct Liaison Attorney, provided useful information on how to deal with a nuisance property in the neighborhood. While the nature of nuisance can vary, a prime example is a house at the corner of 37th and Morgan, where neighbors hit a boiling point as the tenants of the “flophouse” allegedly stole from them and dealt drugs.

While Chin said the requirements for the city to deem a property a “chronic nuisance” can be difficult to fulfill, the neighbors of the Morgan flophouse illustrated how to make a difference otherwise.

Those neighbors got a hold of Chin (she can be contacted at Melissa.chin@seattle.gov) and hired a lawyer. Chin sent what she describes as a “nastygram” (because people are usually not happy upon receiving the letter) to the landlord explaining the legal headaches she may endure if she doesn’t remove the trouble tenants. Neighbors were also working towards filing civil lawsuits against the landlord (37 of them at $5,000 a pop … it adds up quickly), prompting the property owner to move her tenants along and board up the windows.

Chin’s advice for neighbors dealing with a nuisance home is to contact her as a guide, religiously track problems with the tenants, and consider the civil lawsuit approach.

Officer Kiehn chimed in as well, stating that a good first step is to contact the landlord directly. Often times, he said, the landlord is unaware of any nuisance issues with their tenants. They are more focused on getting a rent check and making sure the water is turned on, but tend to act quickly when they hear about the problems.

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