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


Greenwood business owners, residents, ask SPD about recent surge in burglaries

February 5th, 2016 by Doree

About 40 Greenwood business owners and residents filled the back of Couth Buzzard Books Thursday night to hear Seattle Police representatives talk about the recent surge in burglaries. Couth Buzzard owner Theo Dzielak organized the meeting after his store was broken into for the second time in two months.

“Besides the expense, it’s emotional,” he said. “Some of us here tonight are business owners, some of us are residents, so we can share stories and ask questions.”

SPD Crime Prevention Coordinator Terrie Johnston listens as Greenwood residents talk about being burglarized.

SPD Crime Prevention Coordinator Terrie Johnston listens as Greenwood residents talk about being burglarized.

Seattle Police Crime Prevention Coordinator Terrie Johnston acknowledged the spike in Greenwood burglaries this year and especially in December, which had 10 of the year’s 59 non-residential burglaries. Johnston used to be the Crime Prevention Coordinator for the North Precinct, but was transferred downtown. The North Precinct finally has a new CPC, Mary Amberg, who was just hired and is still in training. (She attended the meeting but didn’t speak.)

In trying to describe the numerous burglaries and reasons for them, Johnston said there isn’t any one root cause, but many, including drugs and construction in the area. She said there’s enough variety in the modus operandi of the burglars – time of day, items taken, how brazen — that police don’t believe it’s just one or two people. And very little evidence has been left behind.

“There’s a lot of construction going on. It’s not unusual for crime to go up when there’s a lot of construction in the neighborhood,” she said, explaining that burglars may have easy access to tools left out and can use them to pry open a door, window or skylight; or ladders or scaffolding to climb onto a roof; or even chunks of concrete that can be thrown through a window, which is what happened at Couth Buzzard in November. She also said construction workers may accidentally leave a door unlocked at the end of the day, giving thieves an easy way in. And sometimes the mere presence of a lot of construction workers around a certain building means neighbors don’t pay as much attention to other people they don’t recognize at different hours.

Rachael Coyle, owner of Coyle’s Bakeshop just a few doors south of Couth Buzzard, said someone used a pickaxe to break through her back door in December. Now she’s boarded up the back door to be unusable and doesn’t anticipate ever opening it back up.

Johnston said one of the problems is that many of the mom-and-pop businesses in the neighborhood don’t have good enough locks or lighting or alarm systems. She called many businesses’ locks “vintage” and said one business that was hit even kept money in a shoe box. (Although keeping cash in a safe is not a sure deterrent, as Chaco Canyon Organic Cafe owner Chris Maykut discovered when surveillance video from a neighboring business showed thieves spending two hours struggling to get his 300-pound safe out of the business and into a car.) She also said many neighborhood businesses hit by thieves either didn’t have alarms or cameras or they weren’t working at the time of the burglaries.

Mary Harris, owner of The Fiber Gallery, talks about the recent burglary of her store.

Mary Harris, owner of The Fiber Gallery, talks about the recent burglary of her store.

Any business or resident can call SPD for a safety check of their building or home. “We’d rather work with you on the front end to prevent it than come in on the back end after,” she said.

One man said the alley behind his home near 85th and Greenwood is like an open-air drug market. “I walk in on it. There’s a line of guys selling heroin,” he said. “There’s no shame there.” Johnston said to call 911 report narcotic activity, even if it will be over by the time an officer arrives, because they could prevent future drug deals. “We need evidence and we need good witnesses and 911 calls when it’s happening,” she said. And take a hard look at the alley and see why it’s attractive to criminals – could lighting be installed or cameras or something done to open up the view to passersby.

Johnston said SPD is severely understaffed, although they are in the process of hiring 100 new officers. She said Police Chief Kathleen O’Toole was shocked when she first arrived from Boston because the cities are a similar size but Seattle had 1,000 fewer officers than Boston.

One man said his car has been prowled several times and packages stolen off his porch, but every time he calls the police “I’ve been met with apathy. It doesn’t seem like the city is doing anything, it doesn’t seem like the city is responding to this problem.”

Johnston said, “If you get bad service, there’s so many ways to follow up on a bad call taker, on officers, we have so many ways you can bring that to somebody’s attention and get that called out. We don’t want an apathetic call taker.”

Johnston said residents and businesses need to let SPD know exactly what the neighborhood needs, whether that’s increased patrols at certain hours, bike patrols, foot patrols, etc. She said Capt. Sean O’Donnell of the North Precinct is responsible for that kind of staffing. She also said she’d rather people call 911 than the non-emergency line or using online reports if there is any question that a crime is currently being committed or was recently committed.

As far as what businesses can do to try to prevent break-ins:

  • Heavy-duty locks, preferably double cylinder deadbolts.
  • Better door hardware, especially very long screws.
  • Stronger windows.
  • Better lighting, especially in dark alleys.
  • Have your address prominently displayed on the alley side as well as the front, which makes it easier for police to get to the right building.
  • Have an audible alarm; thieves are more likely to run if a loud alarm goes off.
  • Clear out any debris in alley that could be used to break a window or door, or used as a ladder to the roof, such as pallets.
  • Re-key all doors after an employee leaves your employ, even on good terms.
  • Don’t leave any business keys out where someone can grab them easily, and don’t label them so thieves know exactly which door they go to.
  • Keep a minimum amount of cash on hand; keep the cash register open with no cash in it at night, and be sure to prominently place a sign that says limited cash kept on premises.
  • Don’t have too many signs and other clutter in your windows; keep a clean line of sight for passersby to see in and notice something amiss.
  • Install a chime or bell on your doors to alert you when someone comes in.
  • Keep the number for 911 by the phone, especially if you have to dial 9 to get an outside line. “You’d be surprised how many people forget the number for 911 when there’s an emergency,” Johnston said.
  • Get to know neighboring businesses and their hours of operation so you’ll notice someone who isn’t supposed to be there.

“We still believe in block watch. Watchful neighbors are still your best protection,” Johnston said. “I want Greenwood to be tight and educated and empowered.”

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Reminder: Community meeting on burglaries with SPD Crime Prevention Team at Couth Buzzard Thursday night

February 3rd, 2016 by Doree

This is a reminder that 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. Thursday at the bookstore at 8310 Greenwood Ave. N.

SPD’s Crime Prevention Team will talk about a recent surge of burglaries of both homes and businesses and how everyone can try to reduce crime.

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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.


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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Open house for new SPD North Precinct Station on Jan. 23

January 13th, 2016 by Doree

The Seattle Police Department is hosting a community open house to update folks on the progress of the new North Precinct Station, which will be at the southeast corner of Aurora Avenue North and North 130th Street.

The meeting is from 10 am. to 12 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 23, at the Bitter Lake Community Center Annex at Broadview-Thomson K-8, 13040 Greenwood Ave. N. SPD will show preliminary designs and a proposed construction schedule, and will discuss opportunities for public input.

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Reminder: Safe Routes to School audits of Wilson-Pacific site are Wednesday and Saturday

November 10th, 2015 by Doree

Remember, neighbors can take part in a Safe Routes to School audit for the Wilson-Pacific schools site near Aurora Avenue North and North 90th Street. The first audit starts at 11 a.m. Wednesday; the second audit starts at 2 p.m. Saturday. Both start at The Woodlands Pizza at 8314 Aurora Ave. N.

Three new schools will open on the site. Robert Eagle Staff Middle School, Cascadia Elementary School (Advanced Placement Program) and Licton Springs K-8 will serve about 1,700 students total, including students from Greenwood and Phinney Ridge. Many students will have to cross major streets, including Aurora, 85th, I-5 and Northgate Way. The purpose of the audits is to find safe routes for those students to get to school, and to suggest pedestrian improvements to the School Traffic Safety Committee, Seattle Department of Transportation, Seattle Police and City of Seattle.

Adults and children are welcome on the audits, which will be conducted by walking and biking. The walks will be between 1-1/2 and 2 hours long, followed by a review session. Food and refreshments will be supplied during the review session.

For more information or to RSVP to attend an audit, please email LictonHallerGreenways@gmail.com.

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K-9 unit catches armed robbery suspect in Greenwood

October 9th, 2015 by Doree

Seattle Police Department says a police dog tracked down a man suspected of robbing a man at a Greenwood ATM on Wednesday night.

From the SPD Blotter:

A 38-year-old man was tracked down by an SPD K-9 and arrested after robbing a man at an ATM in North Seattle.

Police responded to an armed robbery outside of a bank in the 400 block of N 85 Street just before 10 PM on Wednesday night.

The victim told officers he was approached by the suspect as he walked up to use the ATM. The suspect pointed a gun at him and demanded he withdraw cash from the machine, which he did.

The suspect snatched the money as well as additional cash from the victim’s wallet and ran off northbound.

Officers set up containment and SPD K9 Jaeger and his partner Officer Rory Smith were able to track the suspect to a backyard in the 700 block of N 88 Street where he was found hiding behind a shed.

The suspect was positively identified by the victim and the victim’s money was found in his pocket.

The suspect told officers he threw the gun he used in the robbery in some bushes. Officers located the gun in a nearby park, which turned out to be a realistic looking pellet gun that had its orange tip painted black.

The suspect was booked into KCJ for investigation of robbery.

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National ‘Night Out’ against crime is Tuesday

August 2nd, 2015 by Doree

The annual Night Out is coming up this Tuesday and thousands of neighbors in Seattle are planning to close off their streets to traffic so they can play and get to know each other better.

Last year, more than 1,400 events registered with Seattle Police Department.

Registration to close off your street ends at 5 p.m. Monday. You can add your event to SPD’s official Night Out map, and even request that police, fire or elected officials drop by (there’s no guarantee they’ll be able to). The Night Out website also has event flyers and street closure signs that you can print off.

Send us photos from your block party and we’ll post them the next day.


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SPD busts ringleader of prolific burglary ring, has photos of hundreds of stolen items to return to owners

June 29th, 2015 by Doree

Last week Seattle Police arrested the suspected ringleader of a prolific North Seattle burglary ring and his girlfriend at a motel near University Village. SPD believes the crew broke into homes during the day and businesses at night, as well as storage units.

You can read more on the SPD Blotter.

Detectives have already arrested two other suspects in the case, but are still seeking three others.

Police found hundreds of suspected stolen items in the suspects’ truck and storage unit. They’ve posted pictures online of the stolen items. If you believe any of the items are yours, you’ll need to provide proof of ownership, such as a purchase receipt, case number related to the item, or a photo clearly showing you with the item. You can provide that information to detectives at SPD5002@seattle.gov.

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