Thursday, December 1, 2011

Neighbors meet with police, city officials to discuss crime

Lake City neighbors listen to Terrie Johnston of the Seattle Police Department
Wednesday night concerned Lake City neighbors and block watch groups met with Terrie Johnston, crime prevention liaison with the Seattle Police Department.

Johnston presented some of the latest crime data and discussed ways we can work to prevent crime in our community. She also listened to concerns from area residents, some who have been victims of recent crimes.

Johnston said that residential burglaries have made a substantial leap in northeast Seattle this quarter, although not as significant as some other neighborhoods. So far for this quarter there have been 37 reported residential burglaries. Of those 14 were non-forced-entry burglaries, meaning a burglar entered through and unlocked door or window.

She also said that during the month of December residential burglaries tend to increase as thieves know that homes hold more loot —in the form of holiday gifts— and that often residents are out of town.

Johnston said that Seattle Police have made some significant arrests of burglary teams in recent weeks. In both instances the team consisted of two male burgulars and a female lookout. Often the female would pace the street, talking or texting on her cellphone, acting as a lookout. In one case an alert neighbor noticed the nervous-looking woman pacing near a home and then saw two unfamiliar men come out of the home. The female lookout likely texted the men in the home when she realized the neighbor was watching her. They were later arrested because of the alert neighbor.

Johnston said that 90% of residentail burgularies occur between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. Our own neighborhood includes a number of residents that work out of a home office and she said that their watchful eyes during the daytime are one of our best defenses against home burglaries.

Some other tips she offered to help prevent home burglary are
  • Always make your house look occupied.
  • Have a trustworthy neighbor gather your newspapers and mail while you are gone. She said that alerting the newspaper carriers that you are away just lets more people know that your home is unoccupied.
  • Have those same neighbors move trash cans and recycle bins from the curb. Unmoved trash and recycle bins are one of the clues that thieves use when looking for a victim.
  • Install motion-sensitive lighting. Criminals like darkness and do not want to be identified.
  • If someone unfamiliar knocks on your door answer it but do not open it. Burglars are often checking to see if someone is home. Also teach children to answer the door but not open it.
  • Keep inventory lists and serial numbers of possessions to help recover stolen property 
  • Call 911 if you suspect suspicious activity. She said that calling police gives officers a reason to speak to suspicious people
  • Do not rely on burglar alarms. Johnston said that 97% of burglar alarm calls in Seattle are false and that most systems are usually not a good investment. She said if you want an alarm that you should have one that makes lots of noise instead of a silent alarm.
  • Probably most importantly she said, get to know your neighbors. She said that statistically people are much more likely to call 911 and report suspicious activity if they know their neighbors' names. And often people living in our neighborhood do not know one another.

She said that she is available to come out and to a do a security assessment of your home. Her email is

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