As we’ve said many times on this blog, when it comes to guarding against crime it pays to be vigilant. The sagacity of this advice was brought home to each of us in the past few weeks when we learned of the orange-vest-wearing home-burglary suspect and later heard about the guy with the supposedly lost ball who was probably an arsonist and burglar. Each of these men may not have been what he, on first glance, appeared to be; and most likely there were serious consequences because people were not paying close attention.
But if these local incidents were not enough to shake us out of our complacency, what happened recently in Montlake certainly should. Several blog readers suggested that we recap the story for those who may have missed it. So here’s the gist: towards the end of summer, several Montlake residents experienced break-ins where the suspects had pretended to be cleaning women in order to check to see if houses were vacant or occupied. They knocked on doors—or so it is alleged—and if someone answered, the women claimed that they were looking for the home of a new housecleaning client but were lost. If they discovered no one was home, however, they often proceeded to break in and burglarize the place. The alleged perpetrators, who it turns out were from the Montlake neighborhood, were eventually apprehended. But Montlake was put on notice, and residents there have become supersensitive to unusual activity in their neighborhood.
Madison Park has had several home break-ins, and at least one break-in attempt, since our last Police Blotter was posted on October 9. One of the incidents occurred on the 2000 block of McGilvra Boulevard on October 17. The residents had gone on an overnight trip on Saturday and returned to their house on Sunday to discover that their basement door had been pried open. Surprisingly, although the house had been entered, nothing had been taken except for a pry bar stolen from a tool box on the site and apparently used in the break in.
Another forced entry occurred on October 18 on the 500 block of Hillside Drive E. To quote from the police report: “[The victim] stated that his girlfriend had left the house at approximately 6:30 am for a business trip. He returned home at approximately 8:00 pm to find that an unknown person had broken a small pane of glass from the kitchen door to gain access to the interior deadbolt and handle lock. The suspect(s) stole a 46-inch flat TV from the living room wall valued at $2,000. Also missing from the living room was his Wii game console valued at $200 and his Sony laptop valued at $800. Missing from the master bedroom was $100 in loose change, a small pine box with a number of wristwatches valued at approximately $2000, and an HP laptop computer valued at $800.” The report notes that a search for latent prints was negative.
The 1000 block of 39th Avenue E. was the location of an attempted break-in on October 25. The victim stated that she was sitting in her living room watching television at about 9:30 pm, when she heard a noise. She decided to look around the house and found that the front door was slightly ajar. Though she thought it might be a result of the wind, she was scared enough to call 911. She discovered while talking to the police dispatcher that the door had been breached. The police later discovered that a latch on another door to the house also been forced and the breached door had actually been kicked in, though no one had apparently entered the home. After thoroughly checking out the place, the police gave the homeowner some tips on making her home more secure.
Also on October 25, the gift shop in the Arboretum was broken into and two cash donation boxes, containing as much as $120 in total, were damaged and emptied. The thief had entered by breaking a window on a door and lifting the door handle. Strangely, the security system was discovered to be on when staff arrived the following morning, though apparently no alarm had sounded.
We previously reported on the only other break-in to occur in the area during the last three weeks. That was the aborted attempt to burglarize McGilvra’s on October 11.
There were three car-prowl incidents, but each of them occurred in the Arboretum, well outside the core of the neighborhood. There were also several incidents of tagging (graffiti) in the area of the 2000 block of 42nd Avenue E. Thefts, meanwhile, were reported on the 2400 block of 42nd Avenue E. on October 14, on the 4100 block of E. Madison Street on October 18, and on the 3800 block of E. Howe Street on October 11.
...but let's not get carried away
We end our report with a final note concerning vigilance. It’s a good thing, but let’s not get too paranoid. Montlake, it appears, may be going a bit overboard as a result of the sham-cleaning-ladies episode suffered by residents there. Over the past few days there have been breathless neighbor-to-neighbor emails reporting on “suspicious” people being seen in the vicinity: a sandy-haired man carrying a sheaf of papers and a middle-aged white couple carrying a flower pot, among others. After the report went out about the man with the papers, the “perpetrator” sent his own email to everyone apologizing for doing some political canvassing with an out-of-date address list.
Every stranger is not a potential housebreaker. Just to put the whole thing into perspective, a Montlake resident finally capped the email exchange last night by reporting that an unusually large number of short people with high-pitched voices kept knocking on his door. He noted that he was able to get them to go away, however, by tossing them sweets.