Is it true Police cannot cite people for camping in the park?
The police used to cite illegal campers in the park, but a couple of years ago the city decided that was making a cycle of bouncing campers from place to place, not addressing the homeless issue. Since the Nav Team was formed and city rules MDAR 17-01 and FAS 17-01 were instituted in April 2017, police and parks cannot remove homeless encampments. The city has outreach workers that work with Seattle Parks Dept. staff to to litter mitigation and trash removal, and to connect homeless with social services. Also, the SPD Community Policing Team can also stop by illegal encampments and ask if help is needed and if social services are desired. ALSO, if there are criminal actions reported by residents, the police can check out the situation, and the criminal information goes into SPD’s patrol and response decisions.
I am seeing and hearing disturbing behaviors when there is a homeless camp in my neighborhood. Verbal and physical assaults, open drug use, apparent property and bicycle theft, noise disturbances. What can be done to address crime in the presence of homeless camps?
We’re asking neighbors to REPORT CRIMES. Crime is up in Ravenna, and we need to let the city and SPD know we are concerned and that it needs to be addressed. Here’s how:
- Property crime (car prowls, package theft, bicycle theft): You can use the online reporting form, https://www.seattle.gov/police/need-help/online-reporting. The crime report will alert police that of incidents in our neighborhood and may result in increased patrols. It will also document the problems we are seeing and will make it easier to arrest or cite criminals on ensuing incidents.
- Personal crime (harassment/intimidation, noise disturbances, open drug use, physical assault, attempted home intrusions): If you are feeling threatened or unsafe, if you are witnessing an assault, if you are being threatened or your home is being intruded into, CALL 911. Tell the dispatcher, “I do not feel safe (yourself),” or “Someone is in danger (another person).” Also: ask for the officer to contact you. This way you will know what the resolution to the problem is. When you call, Be sure to clearly articulate what is happening, don’t just say “suspicious person,” etc. For instance: a person is yelling violently at you, your doors are being tried for entry, one person is beating up another person, etc. The calls are transcribed and police use this to build a case against a perpetrator.
- Also: if the situation changes – escalates – CALL AGAIN. For instance, at first it was a suspicious stranger but now they are attempting to break into your home, you may think the police are on their way. But call 911 again and tell the dispatcher the situation has changed. Be clear and detailed. The new situation will change the priority of the call.
- Noise disturbance? Attempted assault? Verbal harassment? When you do not feel safe, CALL 911. As above, tell them “I do not feel safe,” and also say, “I would like contact with the officer.” This is a checkbox on the dispatcher form that will require the responding officer(s) to talk to you by phone or in person. This way you’ll know what happened, and you may be able to provide information that can go into the police report and be part of the Nav Team and police response to the camp and to criminal activity.
- Bicycle and other property thefts – consider registering your bicycle, and report the theft of property, including bicycles. Also package thefts. Amazon will often replace the missing item if you have a police report documenting it (on-line reports for this). Police do solve bicycle thefts and other property thefts, but serial numbers and other identifying information is what they need.
- Open drug use: The officer has to witness the drug offense to arrest. However, calling 911 will document the drug activity. And if the situation worsens, medical help is needed, etc., CALL AGAIN.
A lot of us don’t call police because we think, 1) “it won’t help,” 2) “we don’t want to bother them,” 3) we hope it will go away. Please call 911 for personal crimes, and make an online report for property crimes, so that we get attention on the criminal behaviors that have been increasing and have these crimes addressed. Criminals take advantage of the chaos around homeless camps for crimes, from property theft to physical assault to sexual crimes. Law enforcement is hugely dependent on the reported incidents; police are trained to look for patterns of crime, and more attention is put on areas that are experiencing crimes.
Why is all this crime happening and how can we get it reduced so my kids/family/myself can feel safe again?
The city IS starting to address repeat camping, and SPD will take action on criminal behavior IF REPORTED. – So, please, REPORT, REPORT, REPORT. In addition, there are some common-sense ways to make your property less attractive to criminals, which SPD is more than willing to share with us if desired. The biggest thing is to TELL THE POLICE when something happens, and, especially for personal crime, ask for contact by the officer.