“How did it get so late so soon? It's night before it's afternoon.” - Dr. Seuss
But Landerdahl, who works for the Internal Revenue Service, is worried that might change because of budget cuts in the Seattle Police Department. Speaking at a Nov. 12 Magnolia Community Club meeting, West Precinct Captain Mike Sanford assured the audience the neighborhood won’t be shortchanged.
“First and foremost, Magnolia gets better service than any place in the West Precinct, because even police are afraid of the tax man,” Sanford joked.
Civilian Community Service Officers (CSOs) have been eliminated from the police department because of budget cuts, he said, but there is still one police officer assigned for each of three daily shifts in Magnolia.
The amount of police coverage is augmented by Community Police Team (CPT) officer Camilo DePena, who also works in Queen Anne, Sanford said.
Additionally, if police are responding to a crime in the neighborhood, a patrol officer assigned to Queen Anne is also likely to show up in Magnolia, he said. “We never leave [Magnolia] unprotected.”
However, Sanford said police have seen a spike during the last three months in burglaries, car thefts and car prowls in the West Precinct. “That causes me great concern.”
The new statistics are a reversal of a five-year trend that has seen a drop in the numbers of crimes, and the West Precinct has seen a much steeper drop in crime than any other precinct in Seattle, he said.
Still, no one is immune.
“In Magnolia, car prowls are occurring in front of people’s homes,” Sanford said of one example.
And he doesn’t think the neighborhood problem is necessarily caused by outsiders.
It’s not exactly a gang, but Stanford said he believes there is a group of Magnolians who are making a living prowling cars. He added that car-prowling is typically a “gateway crime” used to finance a drug habit.
Car prowls and car thefts are preventable crimes, noted Sanford, who suggested motorists not leave valuables stuffed under the front seat as one step. He also urged Magnolians to use “The Club” anti-theft device on their vehicles. “Things like that … go a long way to hardening the target.”
Magnolia Community Club member José Montano pointed to the parking lot next to the Discovery Park Visitor Center as one location that has a car-prowl problem, and he suggested police could help by installing video cameras.
Sanford said the police department only has four surveillance video cameras, which are used for “deep cover” operations.
The Seattle Department of Parks and Recreation might be able to do something along those lines, but that department is facing the same budget crunch as the rest of city government, he said.
One person could be responsible for 100 car prowls in a night, but the hypothetical crime spree would still be seen as a low priority for police, according to Sanford.
There has been another change that affects the way police respond to crime. The community policing concept, which began around a decade ago, was designed to manage long-term projects, but the focus has shifted during the last couple of years to tackling short-term projects, he said.
“We want projects that we can solve,” Sanford said. He mentioned speeders on the Magnolia Bridge and transient encampments as two examples.
Complaints about a crime problem would first go to CPT officer DePena, who would report back to advisory council liaison Landerdahl, and he would report back to the community about what was or will be done, Sanford said.
“We won’t tell you we’ll do something unless we actually plan to do it,” he added.
Magnolia residents can also help police, but sometimes they are afraid. A woman in the audience said there appears to be a drug house operating in one part of the neighborhood.
But she said the person who knows about it would prefer to remain anonymous, and she wondered how that person would go about reporting the problem to police.
Sanford responded that the person can tell police he or she would prefer to remain anonymous, but just making anonymous calls can make investigations difficult.
“We can do all sorts of things independent of them having to appear [in court],” he added.
Another tool available to someone concerned about a potential drug house in Magnolia is the Precinct Liaison Program through the City Attorney’s Office.
Begun in 1995 and partially funded with federal grants, the program assigns city prosecutors to each precinct.
Shelley Hickey is the prosecutor assigned to the West Precinct, and one of the areas she works on is drug abatement, Hickey said. “I work with the CPT officers,” she added.
Seattle City Attorney Tom Carr described the Precinct Liaison Program as an outreach effort generated by community concerns. Police may already be aware of the potential drug house in Magnolia, “but [Hickey] may be able to bring more tools to bear,” he said.
The liaison program provides a contact point for neighborhood residents, and it is based on what Carr described as “the broken window theory.”
If broken windows aren’t repaired, crime tends to increase in a neighborhood, according to the theory.
“The whole thing is, it only works in partnership with the community,” Carr said.
Sometimes the results are more far-reaching than expected. Carr said Hickey worked on a problem about fake IDs showing up at downtown bars, and he said her investigations led to the recent arrest and conviction of a man on a federal felony charge of possession of identification-making equipment.