Let Seattle’s Magnolia neighborhood police itself

The typically quiet Magnolia neighborhood Seattle neighbors fight uphill battle to maintain public Lake Washington access. (MyNorthwest Photo/File)

When you’re not feeling safe in your neighborhood, is it a smart move to hire security? What if the security is just a bunch of off-duty police officers?

That’s the scenario unfolding in Seattle’s Magnolia neighborhood. The residents are seeing an increase in theft and burglaries. They’re not happy with the response from the Seattle Police Department, so they’re turning to the idea of hiring off duty officers for some extra patrols.

Burglary victim Lauren Nichols told KING 5 she wants to see extra patrols in Magnolia, and wants officers to take burglaries more seriously. “They broke the window and were able to reach in and unlock our door,” said Nichols. “That felt really scary that the police didn’t prioritize coming to our house.”

According to the KING 5 report:

Seattle Police said in December 2014 that it was ramping up its efforts to address property crime and reduce response wait times, but residents in Magnolia say they aren’t seeing any improvement.

“Property crimes in Magnolia seem to be abundant from packages stolen off porches to cars being stolen,” said reporter Steven Smalley of the blog MagnoliaVoice.com.

More than 100 people gathered over the weekend to consider hiring off-duty officers patrolling Magnolia. Concerned citizens want more than a handful of officers to tackle what they estimate to be a nine percent increase in property crime compared to this time last year.

So is hiring off-duty officers the right move? Is it a move that should even be considered? After all, it’s the job of the SPD to protect and serve all the communities and be responsive.

I think it’s a good idea but I understand why it would rub people the wrong way. Specifically, I know a lot of you would say you pay taxes for SPD to protect you and your neighbors, and you damn well expect they’ll show up when you call them after a burglary.

Well, it’s not so black and white.

Of course, in a perfect world, the Seattle Police Department or your city’s police department, have endless amounts of officers to strategically place across the community.

That way, would-be criminals would think twice about committing crimes. The petty car thefts and home burglaries would likely be lessened considerably.

But we don’t have an endless supply of cops. Each department has budgets they adhere to, along with the retention and recruitment issues.

So, what you have to do instead is use the resources you have to put together a plan that best addresses the city as a whole.

SPD, for example, is using the system SEASTAT to figure out where the high crimes areas are and determine the best way to tackle crime. Sometimes that means more patrols, other times it means installing deterrent technology.

That’s where Magnolia comes in.

Perhaps they’re having higher than usual crime. Maybe they perceive it to be worse than it actually is. Maybe it is bad, but not as bad as Capitol Hill, SoDo or Pioneer Square.

The SPD can’t always assign more officers in your neighborhood. You’re still working with a finite number of officers so when you take a few from Pioneer Square, suddenly Pioneer Square sees increased crime.

Is it fair to the business and residents of Pioneer Square anymore than it’s fair to Magnolia when they don’t get the protection they feel they need?

There is always going to be a loser when it comes to communities getting attention from the police department. That’s a reality. That’s also the reason why you’re not getting an immediate response from the SPD.

The upset that it took four hours for a police response to a burglary, is similar to Danny Westneat complaining that no one is dropping everything to chase down his stolen phone.

It’s a selfish feeling. It’s one I understand. Someone stole something, they broke into a home or car and we feel vulnerable. We need someone to make us feel safe again.

That’s all about your own feelings, which is why I say it’s selfish. You’re no more important than anyone else in the city – rich or poor. You should realize unless it’s a burglary in progress, it’s not all that important to send an officer out immediately when a competing issue is presented.

For example, let’s say you were robbed while at a movie, you get home, realize your house was broken into. The burglar isn’t there anymore, it happened hours ago. You call the police. Of course, you want their immediate attention. But what if their immediate a couple officers in a high-crime neighborhood of their beat?

Again, I understand wanting to feel better instantly. I’d experience the same thing. I have experienced the same thing but it’s selfish.

What’s the best way to feel safer and get all the attention you need? Pay for it yourself – pay for the off-duty, extra protection. The cops can’t be in your neighborhood 24/7 under the current budget – and that’s the case for every big city – it’s the case for a lot of small ones too.

If you’re not willing to deal with that reality, then hire the job out to supplement what the cops are already doing. It’s a good idea. What do you think?



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