We had some great discussion at our meeting yesterday. Thanks to all of you who participated!
We were happy that Officer Todd Wiebke was able to attend, as well as others from the SW Precinct. We heard updates from Captain Pierre Davis about recent trends and how his officers have been successful at addressing them. Operations Lt. Ron Smith; Crime Prevention Coordinator, Mark Solomon; and outgoing Research Analyst, Jennifer Burbridge were also on hand.
Officer Wiebke spoke about his work with the homeless population in the SW Precinct which includes West Seattle and South Park. He put a human face on this issue, describing some of the homeless individuals that he has met while doing this work. We were surprised to learn that some have jobs, but return to an encampment each night.
He also spoke of some of the challenges that the homeless have. He focused on the distinction between clean and sober encampments such as Camp Second Chance (CSC), and some of the ad hoc, unregulated encampments that are elsewhere in our precinct; as well as throughout Seattle, and to the south in some of the unincorporated areas.
Officer Todd Wiebke, from the SW Precinct Community Police Team, describes how SPD’s role in addressing homeless issues is a small part of a broader effort that involves many others.
Some of the complexity in addressing homelessness has to do with the location of encampments. Some are in different jurisdictions — city, county, and state. As well, some of the homeless are in parks, are on private or commercial property, or on abandoned property in the process of foreclosure.
He noted an important distinction: “homelessness versus lawlessness.” He talked of success he has had helping some of the homeless get back on their feet, in some cases, connecting them with organizations and programs that provide support.
Officer Wiebke also talked of successfully cleaning out homeless encampments, if the inhabitants are breaking laws. He spoke in detail about those living in vehicles such as RV’s and campers. Individuals who are using drugs are usually also committing crimes to support those habits. He explained some of the challenges of getting them to leave.
He also addressed the issue of mental illness among some homeless. Many were surprised to hear him say that Washington State ranks so low in mental health care. After our meeting, I discovered this recent article in the Seattle PI that provides some additional context on that issue.
He also pointed out a distinction between homeless who live among us, and transients from outside our area who may show up here to prey upon West Seattle, then return to other places.
He reiterated that those living at Camp Second Chance (and presumably residents at other clean and sober camps) are quite different than those encampments that are unregulated. One of the requirements at CSC is that the residents keep it clean.
I was surprised to hear him say that sometimes the debris seen nearby is illegally dumped by non-homeless outsiders who don’t want to pay Transfer Station fees, and don’t care if their actions are blamed on the homeless.
We hope to have Officer Wiebke back as a guest at future meetings, as his presentation was thought-provoking and informative.
During the introductory portion of the meeting, we had a few unrelated announcements. These included information about Neighborhood Matching Fund grants and emergency preparedness classes. Barbara Pascucci spoke briefly about HALA rezoning meetings. I’ll add links to that information shortly.
As well, Deborah and I opened the meeting with some of our thoughts about what we’d like to accomplish or potentially change as we head further into this new year. We’ll follow up with a separate post about that; we want your thoughts and input! You can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
FYI, West Seattle blog has highlights from our meeting here. [Added, 1/27/17: WSB has just posted an overview of a visit to Camp Second Chance, that ties in well with our discussion.]
Karen Berge, Co-Founder
West Seattle Block Watch Captains’ Network (WSBWCN)