Highlights and follow-up from our January meeting!

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 involving many others

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 wsblockwatchnet@gmail.com.

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)


Follow-up from our meeting on privacy and transparency

WSBWCN-logoThanks to those of you who took part in our very interesting meeting about privacy and transparency! We appreciated the opportunity to hear from Mary Perry, the new Director of Transparency and Privacy at SPD.

One of the reasons we invited her was to better understand why SPD felt they had to comply with the Block Watch-related Block Watch-related Public Disclosure Request last fall.

Delving back into that issue, that answer seems to hinge on this:  they view Block Watch Captains, and people who organize Night Out parties and notify the city of those events, as “volunteers,” and in the sense that the law applies to “employees or volunteers of a public agency,” it would apply to us.

I, (personally, not on behalf of our org), would argue that we are NOT Seattle Police Department or City volunteers, even though SPD and the City of Seattle may benefit from our activities. Many Block Captains have never even met with anyone from the City or SPD; others may have interacted briefly, but have no ongoing relationship.

SPD does not supervise BW Captains in this role, have requirements for “volunteering” in this role, or monitor how we perform (or fail to perform) in this role. Many who serve in the capacity of Block Watch Captains interact with their immediate neighbors only. As an individual Block Watch Captain or someone stepping up to plan a Night Out event, our often non-relationship with SPD is a subtle, but important, distinction.

Most importantly, I think there has to be “buy-in” from all parties, before there is a volunteer/agency relationship. Even those of us who have an ongoing relationship with SPD, do not necessarily feel that we are their “volunteers.”  The “volunteers” need to be aware that they are “volunteering,” as opposed to just organizing their neighbors into a Block Watch group, and perhaps inviting one of the Crime Prevention Coordinators to come and speak to the new group when it is initially forming.

When I became an individual Block Watch Captain, there was no indication that I was “volunteering” beyond my own neighborhood. I only took on a leadership role in my neighborhood (to plan Night Out events, show up with a Potluck dish, and communicate to our neighbors about safety issues when they arose). I inherited the role from a previous Block Watch Captain.

Other neighbors have taken on similar leadership roles, that also do not necessarily make them City volunteers. For example, some neighborhood parents lead children on a “walking school bus” to the nearby elementary school each day. It doesn’t necessarily make them volunteers of Seattle Public Schools, as it may be only their own children and their immediate neighbors/friends that are involved.

I also see similarities for those of us who lead localized emergency preparedness efforts in our neighborhoods. We may be on the City’s list of those who have taken preparedness classes. We may have attended meetings or events that they’ve organized. They may have us on their notification list. Those things do not necessarily mean that we have knowingly and voluntarily “volunteered” with the Office of Emergency Management.

These are just some of my personal thoughts on the Block Watch and Night Out PDR – the discussion at the meeting didn’t touch on all of them, and also included other interesting viewpoints from meeting participants.

Also, there were MANY other interesting points of discussion at our meeting this month – among them, discussion about privacy and transparency as it relates to video/audio from body cams and dashboard cams, as well as the new AlertSeattle system which ties in to Enhanced 9-1-1.

There are so many things to consider that relate to transparency and privacy – especially as technology evolves. This meeting was a great step in learning more about this issue!

You can find coverage of our meeting from the West Seattle Blog here.

Some photos from Delridge Day and the SW Precinct Picnic!

Great to see so many of you at Delridge Day and the SW Precinct Picnic last weekend! Thought we’d share a few photos from the event.

Photo of Mark Solomon

Crime Prevention Coordinator, Mark Solomon

Photo of Officer Kevin McDaniel with Deb Greer and Karen Berge

Officer Kevin McDaniel from the SW Community Police Team with Deb Greer and Karen Berge

Photo of Captain Pierre Davis, Deb Greer and Karen Berge

SW Precinct Commander, Captain Pierre Davis with Deb Greer and Karen Berge

You can also find additional photos and coverage of the event on the West Seattle Blog.

Bike Patrol and Cypercrime presentation highlights

WSBWCN-giant-logocurrentOur meeting last Tuesday focused on two topics that we hadn’t explored in detail before. We learned about the expanded Bike Patrol from SPD Sgt. Jim Britt; he explained the advantages and effectiveness of having officers on bikes. Community Police Team (CPT) Officer, Jon Kiehn spoke about various types of Cybercrime and precautions that people can take to deter or prevent it.

The West Seattle Blog has posted meeting coverage here.

As well, we took a few photos from the meeting and are including them below.

photo of Sgt. Jim Britt during the Bike Patrol presentation at West Seattle Block Watch Captains' meeting

Sgt. Jim Britt, who oversees the SPD Bike Patrol, with one of the patrol bikes and gear


Close-up photo of the SPD bike and gear

SPD Bike Patrol bike and gear

photo of Officer Jon Kiehn

Community Police Team (CPT) Officer Jon Kiehn talks Cybercrime

As always, many thanks to the presenters and to all of you who attended!

Our next West Seattle Block Watch Captains’ Network meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, April 28th (we meet on 4th Tuesdays, most months), 6:30 – 8 PM. Will post the agenda as soon as it’s finalized.

THANK YOU for continuing the conversation!

We want to extend our thanks to Seattle Police Chief, Kathleen O’Toole; as well as to SW Precinct Commander Captain, rather: newly appointed Assistant Chief, Steve Wilske; and everyone else who helped made last night’s “Continue the Conversation” meeting an engaging, interesting and informative dialog.

This is what we had envisioned for the first Community Conversation — which was unfortunately cut short — an opportunity to pose questions and discuss issues with our Police Chief that are top-of-mind in our local community.

WSBWCN-giant-logocurrentA sincere thanks to all of you who brought your questions and concerns, and perhaps even banished fears of microphones and public speaking, last night!

As well, kudos to Pete Spalding (SW Precinct Advisory Council) for moderating and co-sponsoring this event with us, and a huge thanks to the West Seattle Senior Center for providing the venue!

Here’s the related media coverage:

Again, many thanks to all of you for being and staying involved!

Updated, 3/14/15:  Adding a few photos that Holly McNeill from the West Seattle Senior Center sent us (thanks, Holly!); these were taken just prior to the start of the meeting.

photo of Chief O'Toole, Pete Spalding, Karen Berge, Deborah Greer, Captain Wilske at front of room

Chief O’Toole, Pete Spalding, Karen Berge, Deborah Greer, Captain Wilske

Photo of room prior to the start of the meeting - a big crowd!

View of room prior to the start of the meeting – a big crowd!

Photo of the attendees

Another view of the crowd in the room – no empty seats!

Community Conversation with Police Chief O’Toole – disrupted…

Many thanks to those of you who came to our meeting with Seattle Police Chief O’Toole this evening with the intention of having a civil conversation and dialog with her. We know that many of you have significant concerns and important issues that you wanted to bring to her attention. Many of us were looking forward to this opportunity to hear what she had to say about issues that are significant to West Seattle and relevant to our lives and community.

Moderator Pete Spalding, Seattle Police Chief Kathleen O'Toole, SW Precinct Commander Steve Wilske, West Seattle Block Watch Captains' Network Deborah Greer and Karen Berge

Moderator Pete Spalding, Seattle Police Chief Kathleen O’Toole, SW Precinct Commander Steve Wilske, West Seattle Block Watch Captains’ Network  leaders Deborah Greer and Karen Berge

As you may know by now, our community conversation with Police Chief O’Toole was disrupted by people who have a different agenda and who used this West Seattle meeting as a means to gain publicity for their own concerns or efforts.

We were happy to see so many West Seattle folks push back when the disruptions first began, as it seemed to be an organized (or maybe anarchists use some other term since presumably organization is bad?) effort to bring up issues of police brutality and racial inequality, rather than anything to do with West Seattle.

We cut the meeting short since we were in a public forum in which we couldn’t eject the disruptors, the disruptors knew that, SPD knew that, we learned that shortly before the meeting began. The rest of you didn’t necessarily know that, so in many eyes this meeting seemed to end very awkwardly and abruptly.

We’ve sorry that it played out this way, but it appeared that they were going to continue to use this opportunity to air their own frustrations. They obviously had no respect for us (meeting co-organizers, SPD, or members of our community) who were telling them to take their turn or follow the process.

We don’t generally assume “ill-intentions”, but as we left the meeting we did notice local TV stations were interviewing the individuals who had disrupted the meeting – who had coincidentally thought to bring signs.

So, if you were at all impacted by what happened tonight – either in person or in reading about what happened –  please weigh in on the discussions that are playing out in the media. Those who disrupted the meeting were also video taping it and photographing it, presumably to leverage it in the future.

Do their concerns outweigh yours? Do they outweigh ours? If you don’t think so, don’t let the disruptors and randomizers from outside of our community be the only ones to tell their side of it! Just because they chose to shout, and we did not, does not make them right!

Added 2/4/15: Linking in news coverage of the meeting from the West Seattle Blog and the West Seattle Herald.

Note that we do plan to invite the Chief back to West Seattle – soon – and will make sure that the meeting takes place at a venue in which we can keep order. We don’t want a closed meeting, but rather a meeting in which people behave civilly or can be ejected.

We were told that we couldn’t force the protesters to leave, because the meeting was held inside the precinct; we won’t have that constraint at another venue.


Learn about personal safety for kids, vehicle security and more!

Join us on Saturday, November 15th, 10 to 11 AM at the Youngstown Cultural Arts Center (4408 Delridge Way SW, Seattle, WA 98106)!

Officer Jon Kiehn from SPD’s Community Police Team will host a conversation about Personal Safety for Kids. Everyone is welcome — parents, kids, and the community! Officer Kiehn will focus on personal safety from a kid’s perspective; he notes that this session will be especially relevant for kids who are ages 6 to 10.

Personal safety for kids is the featured topic at the “Public Safety” breakout session at this year’s Gathering of Neighbors; but, this training session will also touch on other public safety issues including vehicle security – an ongoing issue in our neighborhoods; Kay Godefroy, Director of Seattle Neighborhood Group (and a fellow West Seattleite) will offer insights and solutions to this problem.

We’re co-hosting this Public Safety session with Seattle Neighborhood Group. We hope to see you there!  We’ve included informational flyers with additional details below.




Please help spread the word about our Public Safety training session! As well, please pass along information about the overall Gathering of Neighbors event — it is a grassroots effort that can use some additional help with publicity.

Here’s the 2-page flyer in .pdf format: GON-Public-Safety-session (.pdf format).