January Queen Anne Car Prowls & Thefts

Several readers have emailed or posted in the Forum about their experience with car prowls. From the Forum, a poster described her experience with a car prowl at Galer and 1st West, and another resident cited one at 9th Ave W and W Bothwell St. Via email, we received reports of frequent prowls on 9th Ave W between Halladay and Raye, and a reader who’s car has been rummaged through twice in the past few months.

We’ve pulled the SPD stats for January car crimes (prowls and thefts) from the SPD Report map– and there was nearly a car prowl a day on Queen Anne in January. There were also a number of car thefts, bringing the total number of car crimes to 49 for the month.

Here’s what the total map looks like – car prowls + car thefts (49) for January – note, only incidents reported to SPD show up on the map:

And, here are the breakouts for car prowls (26) and car thefts (23) – click the maps for larger views:

Car Prowls, January 2013

Car Thefts, January 2013

I contacted Francisco Tello, SPD Crime Prevention Program Coordinator East and West Precinct, for more information on preventing car prowls. In addition to keeping any items out of sight and reporting car prowls to SPD, Tello also encourages people to report suspicious behavior. For example, a Queen Anne resident emailed him about a man looking into every parked car as he walked down the middle of Warren Ave N, and they had a good description of the man, a specific time of day, and a location – all excellent information for SPD.

In this example, and for other suspicious activities and people, Tello advises calling 911 as soon as possible. Here are the key items of information that help SPD when you call 911:

  • Good description of the person
  • Location – street name, number or hundred block, or address
  • Direction of travel
  • Another key tip: Tello advises practicing describing people, as when incidents happen, it’s typically sudden and you’ll want to be able to provide a useful description. Some items that will help SPD: race, gender, height, weight, age, clothing, and any distinguishing features. Are they carrying a backpack? What color is it?

    Remember to report all crimes and suspicious activity to SPD by calling 911 or the non-emergency number (206.625.5011). If someone breaks into your car, but doesn’t take anything, report it – this is how SPD builds their database of crime statistics. For more on reporting crimes, see the recap of the SPD Queen Anne Community Meeting.

    And, to end on an up-note, SPD’s West Precinct Anti-Crime Team (ACT) conducted a car prowl detail on January 19th, arresting two suspects for car prowling in the vicinity of 900 Block of Westlake Avenue North.

    SPD captain speaks at Queen Anne Council Meeting

    The June Queen Anne Community Council meeting last Wednesday night was highlighted by a visit from Seattle Police Department’s West Precinct Captain Joe Kessler and Sergeant Paul Gracy – both natives of the Queen Anne/Magnolia area.

    The crime rates in Queen Anne remain relatively low, said Kessler.

    “Overall Queen Anne is one of the safest areas around,” said Kessler.

    Violent crime rates are down only a little from the same time last year, but Kessler said they weren’t that high to begin with. Car prowls and car thefts are down significantly from the same time last year. Burglaries, however, are up slightly.

    “Burglaries are one of those tough ones for us,” said Kessler. “Personally, I hate burglaries. Short of a violent crime, I think one of the worst things that can happen to you as a citizen is to have a burglary.”

    Burglaries tend to come in bunches and are often perpetrated by the same individuals, so that once a burglar is caught it often brings the number of burglaries down, said Kessler. The SPD has been working with the prosecutor’s office extensively to  target repeat burglars under the Repeat Burglary Initiative.

    “We’re concentrating on the prolific guys that need to be in jail for a substantive period of time,” said Kessler.

    Concerns over budget cuts and staffing were also discussed. The number of department staff is expected to remain stable despite budget cuts, said Kessler. SPD is firm on not cutting any of their patrol officers, and the current numbers are the highest they’ve ever been, said Kessler. However, increases in overall officers, like they’ve seen in previous years, is likely to stop.

    The Crime Prevention Coordinators, who coordinate block watches and other neighborhood actions, may be phased out at the end of this year, said Kessler. It hinges on what the budget looks like for mid-year, but those positions will probably disappear, Kessler said.

    “They do an incredible service, and they help the officers out tremendously,” said Kessler. “It’ll be a difficult thing for us to replace that … I don’t know how we will.”

    It was encouraged by Kessler and Gracy that residents take advantage of the SPD’s online resources, in particular the SPD Crime Blotter for the West Precinct and the crime statistics on My Neighborhood Map. The King County online sex offender search was also mentioned.

    Council Chair Ellen Monrad brought up the issue of the 7-Eleven the sells high-octane alcohol drinks on the hill. Gracy said officers have met with owner to discuss the problem, as well as notify the liquor control board. Stings to try to catch staff selling alcohol to minors have been performed, and they are working on an operation to address homeless buying alcohol for minors, said Gracy.

    A few councilmembers discussed the problem of car speeding and drag racing along 10th Avenue West late at night. Gracy said they would make local patrol officers aware of the situation, and it was recommended that residents petition SDOT for a mobile speed monitor.

    After the talk by Kessler and Gracy, the council discussed briefly the elections coming up in September, and Councilmember Nicole Pastarnack volunteered to be chair of the elections committee.

    The committee reports followed, including:

  • Given the number of talks regarding traffic calming, Transportation Chair Glenn Avery said he would see about getting representatives from SDOT to talk to the group at next month’s meeting.
  • John Coney discussed the Interbay Neighborhood Association, who are mobilized to combat the possibility that a tent city would move to Interbay on a Seattle City Light site. Monrad said the office of Seattle City Councilmember Bruce Harrell said they will not put a tent city there.
  • Jim Cunningham, member of the city’s Community Center Advisory Team, said there will be public hearings on June 15 and 16, one at the Bitter Lake Community Center and one at the Jefferson Community Center, to present Seattle Parks’ latest ideas addressing the future of community centers in Seattle.
  • Communications Chair Michael Lapin spoke briefly about the opening of this year’s Queen Anne Farmers Market. There is not expected to be a significant amount of competition with the new farmers market in Interbay’s Whole Food’s parking lot, said Lapin. Internal challenges persist with the administration of the Queen Anne Farmers Market, and a solution to the controversy between the different stakeholders is still being sought for next year’s market.
  • The Queen Anne Helpline‘s annual Queen Anne Fun Run will take place Saturday, July 9, and the organization is looking for people to register, volunteer and donate.
  • Two recent car prowls reported in Interbay area

    Car prowls are not an uncommon occurrence for Queen Anne-ers, but one reader, Kevin Smith, has noticed an uptick in incidents in the Interbay area recently. He writes:
    Last week, my work truck was broken in to, the back door lock and latch was completely destroyed. Nothing was stolen, no tools, ladders, nothing. I think the prowlers were after spooled wire. Coming out to my truck this morning, I saw that another vehicle was broken in to. This time, it was a Chevy HHR work vehicle, belonging to a security (construction) company. I can only assume that they were after wire also with this break in, but I didn’t go close enough to the rig to see inside.
    Kevin says both prowls happened on 14th Ave W, right next to Gilman Drive W. And according to the Seattle Police Department’s neighborhood crime map, in the last week alone there have been four reported care thefts, and another four prowls in the Queen Anne area. Remember to keep an eye out for suspicious activity in the neighborhood to help prevent you and your neighbors from becoming a prowl target.

    Four cars stolen in Queen Anne last week

    Yesterday we received this note from Seattle Police Department Crime Prevention officer Terrie Johnston. She reviews the police incident reports on a daily basis, and while doing so noticed an alarming trend over the last week in our area:

    Today upon reviewing the reported crime for Queen Anne and Magnolia, I noticed that in the past 7 days there were three vehicles stolen from Magnolia (Volvo SW; Toyota Highlander and an Acura Integra) and 4 vehicles stolen from Queen Anne (2 Subaru Legacys; KIA Rio; and a BMW).  This is in addition to a theft of a license plate on Queen Anne, and several car prowls.  I found that number of incidents to be abnormally high.  I phoned the Auto Theft Sergeant and he said  the number of Auto Thefts in Seattle are down, and have been decreasing steadily.  In fact, we are at nearly 1/3 of the number of Auto Thefts which occurred in 2005.  However, we agreed that there are some simple things we can do to try and prevent becoming a victim of auto theft.

    This sergeant reports that he uses a steering wheel locking device on every car he owns, and he uses the device, every time he parks his car.  These devices act as a good visual deterrent.  They are just one more thing the thief has to disable in an attempt to steal the vehicle. There are also a variety of locking metal devices that can disable everything from your gearshift, gas pedal, brake pedal, hood, tires, etc.

    Johnston also suggests a few other tips for keeping your cars safe from prowls and thefts. “If you have a garage, use it. Park your car in there!” she writes. “Keep the garage and any other doors leading into the garage locked, and keep car doors locked inside the garage.”

    According to Johnston, two-thirds of all auto thefts occur at night. Because of this, installing motion-sensitive lighting around car ports, driveways, parking areas and alleyways may help deter thieves from targeting those cars. She also recommends that residents leave their front porch lights on from dusk until dawn.

    Cars are often stolen for their parts (including airbags). It can take an expert thief as little as seven seconds and one screwdriver to break into a vehicle, and less than one minute to drive away.  Please be vigilant for strangers on your block, trying door handles, looking into vehicles.  You can call 9-1-1 to report suspicious activity.