SPD: Robberies on the rise, plus tips on prevention and response

Seattle Police Department Southwest Precinct Crime Prevention Coordinator Mark Solomon has released his September newsletter, and this time it’s all about robberies: The fact that they are spiking citywide, and several tips on how to safeguard yourself and those you love from a dangerous encounter.

"Armed and Strong-Armed Robberies have spiked. Just for clarification: an armed-robbery is one in which a weapon or threat of weapon is used to get property directly from a person; a strong-armed robbery is one where physical force or threat of force – not involving a weapon - is used," Solomon wrote.

"We’ve seen groups of individuals, male and female, rob and assault individuals," he continued. "The suspects range in age and description, as do the victims. A youth is robbed of his/her cell phone/iPod/Smartphone by other youth. An elder’s gold necklace is ripped from her neck by a teenage male who comes up from behind. A 14-year-old likes to intimidate her fellow students and take their property (this young woman is a suspect in numerous strong-armed robberies). Weapons have been implied and no injuries have occurred. In other instances, weapons have been used resulting in injury and the victims needing to be treated at Harborbview. Even with Strong-armed robberies, victims have suffered injuries from being pushed down, beaten and kicked. Almost every neighborhood has touched by street robberies."

In addition to providing a handy list of do’s and don’ts when you’re out and about, Solomon took a moment to recognize Southwest Precinct officers and citizens who were involved in the apprehension of three robbers near West Seattle’s Arbor Heights neighborhood in August. The men used a pellet gun that mimicked a handgun to rob three people in 90 minutes (two of those in West Seattle).

“We do want to acknowledge the victims who had the courage to identify their assailants, and those witnesses who stepped forward to call 911, provide aid to the victims and helped identify the individuals responsible for these crimes,” Solomon wrote. “We’d also like to acknowledge the Southwest Precinct officers who responded and were involved in this particular arrest: Officers P. Chang, J. Cole, H. Crumpton, A. Ferreira, K. Heffernan, J. Olson, N. Nguyen, J. Pitts, D. Skaar, S. Specht, and L. Steiger The reason for these outcomes is not just police response. These outcomes are the result of people willing to call 911, willing to come forward and aid a victim, and willing to identify the perpetrators of these crime. We thank you.”

Onto the robbery prevention and response tips

Preparation is key to personal safety. Before you leave home, decide what you actually need to take with you rather than automatically taking your entire handbag or wallet out of habit. For example, if you are going to the grocery store for a few items, you can carry cash, or a credit/debit card, I.D. and keys in a pocket.

Follow your intuition. Pay close attention to the uncomfortable feelings that often warn us of potential danger. “Trust Your Gut.” If you feel that a situation is not right, move out of the situation. Trusting your own instincts that a situation feels "wrong" can be the best personal safety tool you have. Don’t be afraid to cross the street, change directions, return to a business, or ask for help based on that “funny feeling;” you may be right.

Carry minimal items; overloading yourself can make you appear vulnerable.

On The Street
Always plan your route and pay close attention to your surroundings. Avoid unknown shortcuts.

Scan your surroundings and make eye contact with people, not to stare them down, but to let them know that you are aware of them and acknowledge their presence. This sends the message that you not only know they are there, but you can also identify them if necessary.
Avoid listening to music through earphones when out on the street. It can prevent you from paying the full attention needed and distracts you from what and who is around you.

If you are being followed, or you see a person or group that makes you feel uncomfortable, give yourself permission to act; cross the street, walk in another direction, go in to a business, or ask other people walking if you may walk a short distance with them.

Carry your valuables safely. Don’t display items (e.g., iPods, Smartphones, cash, small electronics), when walking to and from your destination.

Learn street names, hundred blocks and directions (i.e. north, south, east, west). Chances are you’ll be using a cell phone to report something of significance, and anything you can do to help the first responders locate you or the incident you are reporting is extremely helpful.

When Using Mass Transit
Use the transit schedules to minimize the length of time waiting for the bus or train.

Avoid using your electronics (laptops, tablets, Smartphone’s, etc). Robbers have often identified potential victims who use their electronics while on the bus/train, then follow that person once they exit to commit the robbery.

If someone is bothering you on the bus or train, notify the driver.

If few people are on the bus or train, sit near the driver.

Keep your purse, shopping bag, backpack, packages, etc., in your lap, on your arm, or between your feet -- not by themselves on an empty seat.
If you feel uneasy about getting off at your usual stop, stay on until the next stop.

If You Are Confronted
If someone demands your property and displays or implies in any way that they have a weapon, don't resist. Physical property isn't worth getting injured or killed over. You are more important than your stuff. You can replace “stuff;” you can’t replace you.

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