A news blog for Seattle's Phinney Ridge and Greenwood neighborhoods

 

SPD Chief O’Toole meets with Greenwood business owners, residents to talk about neighborhood crime

June 28th, 2016 by Doree

About three dozen Greenwood business owners and residents met with Seattle Police Chief Kathleen O’Toole on June 20 to express their concerns about rising crime in the neighborhood.

Chief O’Toole began the meeting with a statistic that has dismayed Seattle residents since she took the helm two years ago: Boston, where she previously worked, has 800-1,000 more officers for a similarly-sized city.

“Policing in Seattle is a work in progress,” Chief O’Toole said while acknowledging neighbors’ frustrations. “We are working very hard on reform. We are trying to use the resources that we have more effectively and efficiently.”

She said when she first arrived, she was surprised that Seattle didn’t have more visible police officers patrolling on foot, instead of in their cars simply racing from one 911 call to another.

One of the biggest concerns expressed by residents and business owners is the proliferation of RV camping, where derelict campers park on side streets or by parks and stay for weeks or months. Neighbors have long complained that people in some of those RVs are causing crime.

“We all agree that homelessness is not a crime, but if there are people committing crimes and terrorizing the neighborhood we need to address that,” Chief O’Toole said.

She said the North Precinct compiled a list of 207 RV and car campers and had offered services to nearly all of them, but many did not take them up on those offers of help. In the week prior to the Greenwood meeting, the North Precinct spent about 130 hours on the issue. Officers posted 86 72-hour notices to move and had impounded 26 vehicles since April. Unfortunately, with a 72-hour notice, cars can simply move down the street and start the process again.

“We’re finding a lot of people facing issues of mental health crisis,” she said of not only car campers but others committing crimes. “The property crime we see in the North Precinct, probably 95 percent of it is directly related to addiction issues.”

North Precinct Capt. Sean O’Donnell said there’s an undercover buy-bust drug operation in Greenwood every two weeks, with most of those arrested being from out of the area.

Elizabeth Chayer, owner of American Dance Institute on the corner of 80th and Greenwood, said her studio had been burglarized five times in the last few months (one of those was an employee’s car parked behind the studio). “My employees are totally wigged out,” she said.

Capt. O’Donnell said he had already directed additional patrols in that area, including officers in cars, on bike and on foot. He’s told officers on bikes to ride down alleys and those on foot to look into every doorway. Chief O’Toole said they could also ask the Major Crimes Task Force to get involved.

“It feels like we’re not safe or secure,” Naked City Brewery Co-owner Bryan Miller said, adding that his business hasn’t been hit yet but he feels like it’s just a matter of time. “It seems most of the crimes happen in the early morning hours before dawn. We just need more protection right now.”

Chief O’Toole said one offender admitted to 300 property crimes in the North Precinct. SPD is now working more closely with the King County Prosecutors Office and the City Attorney’s Office to help people get the services they need and not just go through a revolving door of arrest and then back on the street.

She said King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg recently assigned a prosecutor to work full time with the property crimes task force on prolific offenders. Two officers from the North Precinct are now assigned to work with that task force.

Marnee Chua, owner of Works Progress, a co-working space at 115 N. 85th St., Suite 202, that’s open to members 24-7, has its main entrance in the alley. She said her staff and members are increasingly worried for their safety, and a staff member recently was assaulted on their property. She said the suspects were not arrested and come by all the time and just stare at them through the window until they call the police again.

“I don’t know what else we can do. We have video surveillance, we’re doing the lighting, we warn our members,” Chua said in frustration.

Another issue that residents brought up is the number of vacant houses that appear to house squatters and possibly other criminal activity. Two vacant houses recently caught on fire, including one at 79th and Dayton Avenue on June 6, and another in the 7100 block of Aurora Avenue about a week later.

Officer Joe Bender said SPD has a Vacant Trespass Program, where they work with owners of vacant properties to get blanket authority for officers to go onto the property at any time. That way they don’t have to look up the property owner or registered agent when someone complains of squatters or other issues. So, if any neighbors know of a vacant house with issues, call Officer Bender at 206-233-3984 and he’ll contact the property owner. If an owner won’t work with the Vacant Trespass Program and the home isn’t being kept secure, the city’s Department of Construction and Inspections can be called in.

In the case of the vacant house at Aurora and 71st, Officer Bender said the owner had joined the Vacant Trespass Program a few months ago and officers had been on the property a few times before the fire.

SPD also has a graffiti detective who can link graffiti to a suspect. So it’s important to report any graffiti right away. Take a picture and send it to SPD online before the graffiti is painted over.

Click here for a list of contact information for the North Precinct Community Police Team.

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SPD arrests two men for early morning burglary in Phinney Ridge

June 16th, 2016 by Doree

From the SPD Blotter:

Two men are in custody following an early morning burglary on Phinney Ridge.

Shortly after 3:00 am this morning, neighbors in the 6500 block of 1st Avenue NW called 911 and reported hearing shattering glass and a possible burglary at an unoccupied home. Patrol officers and a K-9 Officer Mark Wong and Ziva arrived quickly and began checking the block.

Two men took off running from the home and were quickly arrested after a brief foot chase.

Upon further inspection officers discovered a broken basement window where the suspects had entered the burglarized house.

Police found one of the suspects was carrying a large quantity of prescription pills in his backpack, as well as probable stolen items. Detectives interviewed the suspects before the two men, ages 23 and 24, were booked into the King County Jail for burglary. The suspect with the pills could also face felony drug charges.

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SPD arrests suspected car thief in Lower Phinney/Ballard

June 15th, 2016 by Doree

From the SPD Blotter:

Police found a car thief asleep at the wheel Monday night after tracking a stolen Honda from Queen Anne to the West Woodland neighborhood.

A Queen Anne resident called SPD around 9 PM Monday from the 3200 block of Conkling Place West and reported someone had stolen his Honda Prelude in the last 24 hours. Fortunately, his car was equipped with a GPS system, which showed the vehicle was parked in the 6500 block of 5th Avenue Northwest.

Officers quickly found the car and discovered there was a 21-year-old man asleep in the driver’s seat. After arresting the man, police found he was carrying a collection of filed-down keys—a tool commonly used by prolific car thieves—along with a tool for breaking windows, a can of lubricant spray, and two passports belonging to other people. Police also recovered a backpack, a briefcase, a box of wrenches, car and stereo parts from the car, none of which belonged the the car’s owner.

Officers booked the 21-year-old–who has previous convictions for auto theft property crimes—into the King County Jail for investigation of auto theft and returned the car to its owner.

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Seattle Police Chief Kathleen O’Toole to discuss public safety concerns with Greenwood neighborhood on Monday

June 14th, 2016 by Doree

Seattle Police Chief Kathleen O’Toole will discuss public safety concerns with Greenwood neighbors and business owners from 12:30-1:30 p.m. on Monday, June 20, at Taproot Theatre, 204 N. 85th St.

Chief O’Toole will provide an update on neighborhood crime and police efforts, then open it up for a question and answer session. She will be joined by SPD Chief Operating Officer Brian Maxey and officers from the North Precinct.

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SPD responds to reports of armed and barricaded man at Greenwood & 117th

June 14th, 2016 by Doree

Update: The Seattle Times reports the man has been charged with a hate crime. Read the full story here.

Earlier: Seattle Police officers now have a suspect in custody after reports he was armed and barricaded at Greenwood Avenue and North 117th Street.

SPD tweeted just before 3 p.m. that SWAT and hostage negotiators were on scene. SPD tweeted again just before 3:30 to say the suspect was in custody.

Metro buses 5 and 355 were rerouted to Aurora Avenue between North 105th and 125th streets.

Update 4:05 p.m.: Metro buses routes 5 and 355 are back to their normal routes.

Update 4:07 p.m.: KOMO 4 is reporting the man allegedly threatened to shoot up a mosque at Northgate. KOMO has a gallery of photos from the scene, and so does KIRO 7.

Update Tuesday 6 p.m.: More info from the SPD Blotter:

SWAT officers arrested a 37 year-old man at his Greenwood apartment today after receiving information from his out-of-state friend the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) that he had made threats against a Seattle mosque.

Earlier today, the suspect posted threats online and, in a separate posting, claimed to have purchased an assault rifle and extra ammunition.

Acting on that information, SWAT and Hostage Negotiators went to the man’s home in the 11700 block of Greenwood Avenue North and arrested him shortly before 3:30 PM.

Investigators have learned the man has previously been contacted by area law enforcement who are investigating harassment and threats to another mosque.

Seattle police are working closely with the FBI to investigate the rapidly developing case.

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SPD arrests alleged prolific thief on Aurora near Greenwood for stealing two RVs

June 8th, 2016 by Doree

From the SPD Blotter:

Complaints about needles and noise from a generator around an RV in North Seattle led SPD’s Major Crimes Taskforce and patrol officers to seize two motor homes and arrest a former car salesman and suspected prolific thief, after police found him passed out behind the wheel of a Winnebago.

Police were called to the 10000 block of Aurora Avenue North just before 8 AM on June 2nd after receiving complaints from neighbors about needles and generator noise associated with a motorhome in a parking lot.

Officers arrived, found a 34-foot 2014 motorhome and discovered it had been reported stolen from a dealership lot in Enumclaw. Police interviewed several witnesses and neighbors about the RVs purported owner, but no one seemed to know his name. However, witnesses said the 33-year-old had a distinctive upside-down flag tattoo on his arm, described him as a “smooth talker” and told officers he had recently driven through the neighborhood in a second black and grey RV.

Officers towed the stolen motorhome and began searching the neighborhood for the black and grey Winnebago. They soon found it idling in a parking lot a few blocks away and immediately took notice of the RV’s license plates—or the lack thereof and discovered the 33-year-old man sleeping in the driver’s seat. After being awoken by police, the man told detectives he had stolen the motorhome from a dealership in Everett.

Major Crimes Taskforce detectives booked the man into the King County Jail for stealing the RVs—valued at over $200,000—and are now investigating him for a number of other crimes in the Seattle area.

Since launching an emphasis effort in February focused on property crimes in Seattle, MCTF detectives have identified and arrested numerous prolific suspects , sometimes tied to as many as dozens of burglaries, car prowls and other thefts.

In keeping with that trend, detectives believe the “smooth talking” suspect in this case is involved in numerous crimes, aided with knowledge he gained when he previously worked as a car salesman. Detectives believe the man is tied to multiple auto thefts at dealerships in Lake City and he was also briefly detained by police near a car dealership in SODO shortly after someone tried to break-into it last month. Officers found the 33-year-old was carrying a screwdriver and walkie-talkie at the time of the incident, but weren’t immediately able to tie him to the attempted break-in.

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SPD: Men caught selling meth, printing fake checks at Aurora Avenue motel in Greenwood

February 2nd, 2016 by Doree

From the Seattle Police Department Blotter:

Police found a gun, knives, ammunition, laptops and printers from an Aurora Avenue motel last week after arresting two men for selling meth and running a check counterfeiting operation out of their room.

SPD Major Crimes Task Force detectives began investigating the men for narcotics dealing last week, and visited the room at the Klose-Inn Motel–located in the 9300 block of Aurora Avenue North–on several occasions to buy meth. During the investigation, detectives learned the room’s residents were also running a check fraud business.

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Detectives began tailing the suspects and, one occasion, followed one of the men to a Greenwood store, where he cashed a fake check for $1,000.

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SWAT, MCTF detectives and patrol officers served a warrant at the suspects’ motel room around 9:30 PM on January 27th and arrested a 29-year-old man for fraud, and a 20-year-old for narcotics and weapons possession.

Detectives found suspected stolen jewelry, a loaded handgun, ammunition, packaged methamphetamine and unidentified pills, a key-making machine, laptops and printers, along with knives, high-end watches, cash, identification and bank cards.

Detectives released the 29-year-old pending further investigation and booked the 20-year-old into the King County Jail. Police are also investigating him for additional crimes after he claimed to be involved in several incidents of gun violence in the greater Seattle area.

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Greenwood burglaries on the rise, community meeting with SPD Feb. 4 at Couth Buzzard

January 29th, 2016 by Doree

Couth Buzzard Books, which has been burglarized twice in the last two months, has organized a community meeting with Seattle Police Department representatives at 7 p.m. next Thursday, Feb. 4, at the bookstore at 8310 Greenwood Ave. N. SPD will talk about a recent surge in burglaries and how residents and businesses can try to reduce crime.

Couth Buzzard owner Theo Dzielak said he had not been burglarized in the five years he’s been in Greenwood until mid-November, when burglars broke the glass in his front door and stole $950. Then on Jan. 18, thieves pried open the back door with a car jack and stole about $25 in coins and some beer and wine.

“They go in very quickly and get what they can and leave very quickly,” he said. “I don’t think they’re professionals. They’re not going after places that have high levels of cash. They’re going after tiny mom and pop stores.”

Dzielak said he’s talked to numerous other businesses owners and discovered seven of them within a three- or four-block radius have been burglarized a total of 11 times in recent months.

One block away from Couth Buzzard, Chaco Canyon Organic Café owner Chris Maykut said his restaurant was burglarized last week. The thieves broke in through the back window and stole a 300-pound safe and a hand truck. Maykut said surveillance video from a nearby business showed one person standing in the alley for two hours acting as lookout.

His total loss is about $6,000, including the safe, cash, the tablet they use for a menu at the front counter, and a broken window.

“It’s kind of a blessing in disguise in some ways,” Maykut said. “Nobody got hurt. There’s no great tragedy except property loss and that’s not the end of the world. But we’ve installed some bars in the back window, we’re putting in new lighting, we’ll be putting in unbreakable windows in the back and a new alarm system.”

Chaco Canyon’s front door was heavily damaged about four months ago when someone took a screwdriver and hammer to it, but they didn’t get inside.

“They must have made a hell of a lot of noise and there’s a light right there so I don’t know how nobody saw them,” Maykut said.

According to SPD’s online Crime Dashboard, there were 59 non-residential burglaries in Greenwood in 2015. Ten of those were in December – the highest month total for the year. August had nine.

That’s up from 40 non-residential burglaries in 2014, and 39 in 2013. Those numbers do not include residential burglaries, or burglaries from secured parking areas, whether residential or non-residential.

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Non-residential burglaries in Greenwood by month for 2015. From SPD’s Crime Dashboard.

Phinney Ridge had 15 non-residential burglaries from April through December 2015 (there’s no data for the first three months of the year). Six of those burglaries were in December.

Modern Japanese Cuisine at 6108 Phinney Ave. N. in Phinney Ridge told me they were robbed of money and an iPad on Dec. 20. Violet Sweet Shoppe at 65th and Phinney Avenue was burglarized on Dec. 13 by someone smashing the glass and stealing computers. (The store has since closed, not due to the burglary.)

Burglars also recently hit St. John School at 120 N. 79th St., just a few blocks from Couth Buzzard and Chaco Canyon. On Jan. 15, school officials sent a campus alert email to families and staff that someone broke into a boy’s restroom in one of the school’s portables and removed plumbing and fixtures from the sink. According to the email, the thieves also stole a brass dedication plaque off the portables, along with equipment and fixtures from outdoor faucets.

“It’s kind of amazing in our little tiny block radius that all this has happened,” Maykut said. “It’s surprising to me because it’s such a public area.”

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Guardian 1 helicopter over Phinney-Ballard is looking for occupied burglary suspect

January 15th, 2016 by Doree

The King County Sheriff’s Office’s Guardian One helicopter was hovering over Phinney Ridge and Ballard for over an hour this morning looking for a burglary suspect who broke into an occupied home in the 100 block of NW 59th St.

Det. Patrick Michaud told me Seattle Police swarm the area whenever there’s a burglary while someone is home because of the potential for someone to get hurt. He says no one was hurt in this case, and they don’t believe the suspect was armed. The burglar did steal a few items.

SPD also searched using a K-9 officer.

Photo by PhinneyWood reader James McFarlane.

Photo by PhinneyWood reader James McFarlane.

Thanks to Peter and Sue for the tips.

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