Sunday, June 5, 2011

Crime watch

It’s that time of year again

One morning last week we awoke to discover something strange about the bags of used clothes we’d deposited on our street corner the previous night for pick up by the Northwest Center truck. Though we had put out three bags for the charity, only two remained. One of them, perhaps the one containing the Cole-Haan shoes, had been stolen during the night.

Later in the week a neighbor reported that two suspicious characters had recently been observed standing in the yard of her neighbor’s house. When accosted, the men had taken off, one of them jumping a fence to make his getaway.

Then there was that photo sent by another neighbor recently, showing a car up the street that had been broken into the previous night.

As we’re noted many times before, good weather seems to prompt an increase in criminal activity in the neighborhood. We’re now at that time of year where we remind everyone that leaving windows open, ladders leaning against the house, and doors unlocked while you work in the yard is simply inviting trouble.

The best way to keep crime down is to be vigilant. Later this week we’ll recycle an anti-crime posting we did last year, one that contains some timely words to the wise.  In the meantime, here’s some scuttlebutt that we’ve picked up that may have some salutary value.

First of all, it appears that the Seattle Police have stepped up their routine patrolling in the neighborhood in the wake of the armed robbery incident last month.  We learned of this from another neighbor, have seen evidence of it with our own eyes, and have followed up with the police to confirm the story.

Officer Raymond Taylor, one of two officers who regularly cover our police beat (known as Charlie 3), reports, “My personal patrol focus has shifted more towards proactively enforcing public drinking and marijuana use by juveniles after the reported robbery behind the Tennis Club on April 29th. Street level drug use attracts small-time drug dealers who commit crimes such as armed robbery.”

With regard to crime prevention, Officer Taylor says “I give to the residents of Madison Park the same tips I would give someone living on Broadway: get to know your neighbors and REPORT SUSPICIOUS ACTIVITY!!! When the police capture criminals, it is often because of alert citizens who see suspicious activity and call 911.

The hot crime in Madison Park seems to be nighttime car prowls as of late. Car break-ins are generally not random. Your basic car prowler will only target cars that obviously have loot to take. It is super easy to avoid getting your car broken into. DON’T LEAVE VALUABLES IN YOUR CAR!!! Sounds simple, I know, but I am always amazed at how many GPS screens I see visible on the dashboards of parked cars.” 

Officer Taylor also encourages everyone to check out the safety and crime-prevention tips available on the Seattle Police website.

Criminals are known to case the neighborhood, looking for vulnerabilities.  An MPB reader emailed us late last month about a suspicious evening visit to her house by someone claiming to be from ADT, the electronic security vendor.  She did not let the person into her house; and when she called ADT to ask about the solicitation, she was told it was unlikely that anyone representing ADT would be calling that late in the day.

Finally, just to make the point about vigilance being key, here’s a useful story from a resident of Montlake, who posted it to that neighborhood’s listserv:

“The police asked us to pass on information about a burglary at our home so that neighbors step up their awareness. On Saturday morning, 5/14 at about 12:15 am, our house sitters walked in on a burglary in progress in our home. 

The burglar(s) had entered our garage by a side door and used our ladder and emergency flashlight to checkout the house. They did this even though there were two cars parked in our driveway. 

All but one of our windows has stops on them so they only open a few inches. The one window without is hung in such a way that the stops cannot be installed. They used a screwdriver to open the window and entered the house-taking two TV's and a laptop before they were surprised by our friends.

In addition it appears they searched through our grill to see if we had a key hiding in there.

No one was hurt and they ran away as soon as they heard the house sitters come into the house.

This same type of burglary happened to our neighbors down the block about four weeks ago. They arrived home late at night and surprised the thieves as they were still in the house.

 We have neighbors in back of us and on either side of our home who can see into our back yard, but of course they were all asleep. Unfortunately, our dog was with the house sitters and not at home either. We have a “beware of dog” sign as well as an alarm company sign in the yard (but no alarm) and obviously they were not scared off by them.

The detective says [housebreakers] have been pretty brazen but run as soon as they are discovered. He suggested 1) locking garage doors and cars even if the cars are in your driveway, 2) make sure all windows have stops on them so they cannot be opened 3) not leaving electronics (i.e. laptops and IPhones) out where they can be seen.”

Live and learn.

[Morning-after car break-in photo by Graham Fernald, showing the scene at McGIlvra and Galer in late May.]


  1. Let's not fool ourselves. The police have stepped up patrols in the neighborhood due to the increase in scantily-clad women.

    We must be vigilant. Unfortunately, yes, you must think like a criminal in order to outsmart these animals. It is too bad, but it is a reality.

    Ask yourself how you would steal your stuff and then prevent against that. Remember, the goal is not to make your home/car iron-clad, the goal is to create enough of a hassle for them that they rob your neighbor instead.

    There are some really simple steps: dowels in windows, simple locks on gates to the do not have to spend a fortune. Just use some common sense.

  2. The best way to keep crime down is to be armed, and if someone trespasses defend your property.

  3. There's nothing in my house that's worth taking a life over.

  4. Our children are in our home, and they are worth taking the life of any person that forcibly enters our home and poses a threat.

    How easily it is forgotten that people who break into a home do not do so with good intentions or goodwill.

    Be prepared. Always better to be proactive than reactive.

  5. taking a life has nothing to do with stuff. i would kill someone breaking into my house without thinking twice, armed or not. there are some chances you just don't take, and whether or not they are willing to hurt my family is one of those chances.


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