The meeting was opened at 7:00 pm by the President, Dorothy Beard. She welcomed everyone and had each person give their name and home location.
Karen White, guest speaker of the evening, was introduced. Ms White is a code enforcement manager for the Seattle Department of Planning and Development. The Code Enforcement department responds to complaints. They do not search neighborhoods for code violations. They depend on residents to report problems. There are many levels of dealing with violations. The most severe end up in the courts. They attempt to work with property owners to solve problems before they reach the point of legal steps.
Everything that the code enforcement department can do is defined in city codes. For example, the city requires that all vacant buildings be secured. In fact the owner must make the building secure enough to keep people out. The owner can hire someone to do this job or the city will do it and bill the owner. These can become liens against the property.
The process begins with investigation of the complaint. A code enforcement worker will contact the property owner/tenant to let them know that a violation has occurred. If the issue is new, they will receive a warning. If they have had prior problems the code enforcement office will get more aggressive including fines. If the problem remains unsolved, more legal action will be taken.
Fixing a problem is not always permanent. It may come back. She advised that people keep reporting problems even if it seems hopeless for a longterm correction of violations. Ms White also explained that owner occupied properties are harder to work with than rentals. It is not considered good form to actually cause a person to lose their home.
Typical complaints include junk stored in yards; vacant buildings not secured; blocked sidewalks and driveways.
Some complaints are not under the code enforcement office; ie; the solid waste dept deals with overflowing dumpsters. Seattle Police Dept and Parks and Recreation Dept deals with complaints about violations on public property. Code Enforcement does work with other agencies to help them solve problems on public properties.
Questions were asked by several people about telephone calls. Someone in the department will answer the phone if you call during regular business hours. Most of the inspectors may be out in the field, but will call back as soon as possible. They are in the office for some hours each week to do reports.
The department web site is very good. Ms. White recommended making reports via the web. You can also look up addresses to see if a violation has already been reported. Other information available is the name of the inspector on the case. A summary of the situation is also available. The web site is www.seattle.gov/dpd.
A complaint can be filed via e-mail. However, please telephone if you want to make an anonymous complaint.
A final question about the worst problems brought the answer “BEDBUGS”. They seem to be very hard to kill, but will die if they are exposed to the heat of a dryer. Perhaps a hairdryer would work on large items that can not be put in the dryer.
A number of cities have a problem due to a large number of foreclosed properties. Once a bank takes over, it seems to skip yard maintenance, etc. A great deal of trash floats into the property. Sometimes the solution to this problem can take a long time. Fortunately, Seattle has not had many of these problems.
Two people reported that they have been filing complaints for six years regarding a owner occupied property. The property has no utilities, the water has been shut off. According to Ms. White, home owners can live this way. Renters have protections. Even family members have not been able to convince this woman to clean up her home. Several examples of cases were given the the department have investigated. Sometimes Adult Protective Services are called regarding these cases. The economic circumstance of an individual is often the problem. The only punishment the code enforcement dept has is to apply high fines. Once again Ms White emphasized that causing someone to lose their home made it very difficult to solve code violations on owner occupied properties.
One person asked what a resident can do himself to improve someone else's property. For example clip vegetation growing over the sidewalk. Probably okay to clip plants growing on sidewalks and in alleys; public right-or-ways.
Lt. James gave the statistics for crimes in the SW Precinct. He compared February figures with January of 2010. However, the statistics are also available comparing previous years, month by month or year by year.
ARMED ROBBERIES were up from Jan (2) to Feb (7). There were a series of “patterned” robberies in which mini marts were targeted. All involved three suspects, one with a gun. No arrests have been made. The police are doing surveillance on the mini marts in this precinct. There have been no patterned robberies for the last two weeks.
STRONG ARM ROBBERIES are up slightly from January. This is true all over the SW precinct.
RESIDENTIAL ROBBERIES were down from January (64) to February (58). Eight burglary arrests were made (4 adults and 4 juveniles) during the past month. One block of 37th SW near Admiral had 7 break-ins. No arrests in connection with those have been made.
As usual the things taken are small to medium electronics (flat screen tvs, laptops, stereos, cd players, and computers) and of course, cash and guns.
NON RESIDENTIAL BURGLARIES are down in February (13) from January (17). It would seem that the culprits have been arrested or moved to a different area.
AUTO THEFTS were down in February (35) from January (42). One car with a tracking device stolen in Renton led to a home in South Park where the police found two cars plus a large amount of other stolen items including guns. Now the police are busy trying to locate the owners of the items retrieved from this house.
CAR PROWLS up in February (77) from January (71). Three junveniles were arrested in South Park for an attempted car prowl. Many car prowls go unreported if nothing was taken. However, it is important to the police to have all such incidences reported. Often a pattern is found and it is easier to find the culprits.
The 8300 block of 7th South is a particular busy area. Once again Honda's are the favorite. Many are abandoned and found.
Officer Vanskike reported that mail was being stolen in some areas. Arbor Heights was mentioned. Officer Vanskike advised that if you must put outgoing mail in your box it would be wise to NOT put the flag up. If possible give out going mail to the postman/woman or take it to the post office.
All crimes should be reported. Mail theft is a federal offense. When patterns develop they can often be connected to known criminals.
LIQUOR LICENSE VIOLATIONS. One establishment was reported, but the complaint had mostly to do with loud music rather than selling beverages.
Crime is up city wide. Engraving or marking your property is a very good way to assure that your property may be returned when it is found. Lots of stolen property ends up on Craig's List.
West Seattle Crime Prevention Council has a new web site where the minutes of the meetings and other news of interest to the group will be posted. It also gives an opportunity for the individual to make comments and suggestions. The site is www.wscpc.org.
The president announced that the Police Precinct Picnic would be August 14. It is a great event and a good chance to meet the officers. Also the president expressed the appreciation of the officers felt by the group.
WEST SEATTLE BLOCKWATCH CAPTAINS NETWORK. One of the Blockwatch Captains in the SW Precinct announced that she has met with a number of other captains and they are going to start FACEBOOK site where all Blockwatch Captains may network with each other. If you wish to be part of this, check the West Seattle Blog for the link.
There is also a web site for WS Prepared Group. The group generally agreed that more communication is important.
The next meeting will be Tuesday, March 16, 2010.
The meeting was ajourned at 8:30 pm. Submitted by Betty Wiberg, Secretary