Georgetown Residents On Edge About Rise In Thefts

By Jonah Spangenthal-Lee January 24, 2012

After returning home from work earlier this month, a group of roommates found the front door of their townhouse on Corson Ave. and S. Warsaw St. splintered, and their townhouse ransacked. Inside, they found that the burglar hung out long enough after trashing their home to use their shower and towel off before fleeing with a laptop, Playstation, and hard drive.

This kind of brazen burglary is becoming all too common in Georgetown, residents say, and at a meeting Monday night, they complained to police about what they call an alarming uptick in crime in their neighborhood.

Residents of Georgetown—tucked between I-5 and the industrial area around the Duwamish River in the Seattle Police Department's South Precinct—say they have felt ignored by police over the last few years.  The South Precinct has gone through three police captains in three years, and Georgetown residents say no one from SPD has shown up to one of their monthly community meetings to check in with the neighbors about problem-plagued motelschopped-up bodies, or the recent uptick in property crimes.

Some neighbors complained about open prostitution and drug dealing—"we've seen one of the drug dealers sell to one of the sex offenders," one man said—while one Georgetown resident told police thieves have been taking "anything metal that's not bolted down" from homes in the neighborhood. That includes everything from planter boxes, to license plates, to the metal address numbers on the sides of houses, another Georgetown resident told PubliCola.

And then there are the thieves who've been stealing large wheeled-garbage bins, which they roll through the neighborhood, filling with metal scraps as they go. Neighbors claim thieves have been trading in the stolen scraps in at recycling centers in the area.

Police stats also seem to confirm what Georgetown residents have been saying: that certain kinds of crimes are more common in Georgetown than in other parts of the city. According to police, burglars and and car thieves made their mark in the South Precinct last year, offsetting an overall drop in other property crimes. While property crimes dropped five percent across Seattle last year, auto thefts in the South Precinct were up eight percent, while burglaries rose four percent.

Police couldn't provide figures on how many times burglars hit Georgetown, but when the crowd at the Tuesday night meeting were asked to raise their hands if they'd been the victim of a theft in the last 90 days, half of the 60 or 70 people in room shot an arm into the air.

Perhaps zeroing in on the disconnect between police and neighbors, however, South Precinct Captain Mike Nolan asked the crowd how many of them had called 911 to report the thefts. Only a half-dozen hands went up.

Nolan told Georgetown residents his precinct is stretched thin because of ongoing problems at nearby SoDo nightclubs, which means a handful of officers have to cover everything else from "the county line to [S.] Holgate St.]"
To make matters worse, SPD's attempts to catch car thieves—including setting up a "bait car," a car police set out to try to capture car thieves—in the South Precinct haven't exactly been a success. "Nobody ever took the bait car," Nolan told the crowd. He also copped to some problems with 911 dispatchers at SPD, when neighbors asked when they should call 911 to report crimes. "We had some dispatchers who wanted to argue," he said.

After promising to send an SPD supervisor to Georgetown's neighborhood meetings from now on, and talking up plans to assign officers to foot patrols in Georgetown, Nolan told the crowd, "the buck stops with me."

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