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A Discussion Of Safety, And Trespass Agreements

by Kirby Lindsay, posted 7 November 2012

 

On October 24, 2012, the Fremont Chamber hosted a 'Safety Roundtable' at History House Photo by K. Lindsay

On October 24th, 2012, the Fremont Chamber of Commerce hosted a community-wide Safety Roundtable, at History House, where local business owners, employees and residents (including members of the Fremont Neighborhood Council,) addressed their questions and concerns to Seattle Police Department (SPD) Community Policing Officer Loren Street and Community Outreach Detective James Manning.

Among the many issues addressed, attendees kept circling back to how they felt unsafe on their property, in their businesses and at home, from chronic troublemakers.

Trespass Agreements

People loitering, shoplifting, vandalizing, panhandling, etc. brought the roundtable discussion repeatedly back to the new Criminal Trespass Program, for businesses.  This program creates an agreement between SPD and a business owner/manager, to allow an officer to issue a Trespass Warning to anyone an employee or manager reports as criminally misbehaving on the premises – and to arrest the trespasser if they violate that warning.  Unlike the previous program, these Warnings do not expire.

SPD Officer Loren Street attempts to explain the differences between the old and new trespass programs for Seattle. Photo by K. Lindsay, Oct '12

Many roundtable attendees found the program difficult to understand.  Officer Street referred them to the SPD website, which encourages business owners/managers to have a signed Trespass Agreement & Authorization Form on-file with their precinct (for Fremont, that is the North,) and post a ‘Conditions Of Use’ sign that can either be downloaded from the website or purchased (pre-printed) from the Seattle Neighborhood Group.  The Agreement and the sign must be in place before an officer can issue a Trespass Warning.

The program has changed, and owners expressed some frustration with officers’ responses regarding removing chronic troublemakers.  Officer Street acknowledged that some officers still struggle to recall the law, and he recommended printing out the information on the SPD Criminal Trespass page to show the responding officer, to get everyone (literally) on the same page.  Officer Street also offered to visit any business experiencing problems, to see if a Trespass Agreement would be a useful tool in their specific situation.

At the FCC Safety Roundtable, Linda Clifton, far right, explains the sucess found through community reporting on cleaning up crime on Aurora Avenue Photo by K. Lindsay, Oct '12

Find out more about this program, and the e-mail addresses for registration information, on the SPD website.

When It Doesn’t Belong

“If you see something that doesn’t belong, call 9-1-1,” Officer Street repeatedly recommended.  The Roundtable started with reports about break-ins around the neighborhood.  He explained, in regards to a series of burglaries along the waterfront, that they have arrested a woman previously charged with similar crimes, who had been living in a car near the sites of the crimes.  Officer Street found her when he checked on a covered car parked at the end of the street, and saw that it was being lived in.  No one had previously reported on the car, but when asked, neighbors acknowledged that the car had been there for a week or more.

In fact, a few crimes reported at the Roundtable had never been formally reported to SPD.  Both Detective Manning and Officer Street encouraged attendees to call 9-1-1, on all possible crimes.  Officer Street acknowledged that many callers get frustrated with the non-emergency phone line, and he encouraged callers to use 9-1-1.  State ‘non-emergency’ to the operator (if it is a non-emergency) at the start, and the operator can put the call on hold if another, more urgent call, comes through.

After the FCC Safety Roundtable, at History House, SPD Detective James Manning listens to the concerns of a Fremont resident Photo by K. Lindsay, Oct '12

Calls to 9-1-1 automatically generate a report, which are compiled for statistical data on crime trends.  Unreported crimes make it more difficult for the SPD to identify chronic troublemakers, and dedicate resources to our community.  As Detective Manning explained, if he or Officer Street report a crime trend in Fremont, they get a much smaller response than if a community member reports the same problem.

A resident asked about getting patrol cars to travel through the residential neighborhoods, particularly at night when the drunks stroll back to their cars – shouting, urinating, vandalizing, etc.  Officer Street believes Fremont deserves to have a walking beat officer.  Both would require dedicated resources, which could become more likely if the SPD has accurate reports on crime and criminal behavior trends for this community.

Harassing Homeless, Or Supporting Citizens?

A business owner – whose employees also attended – voiced near desperation over discouraging certain homeless, mentally unbalanced, and/or shoplifters.  These chronic troublemakers have scared away customers with their shouts, threats, urinating, vomit, etc.  She was encouraged to call 9-1-1, every time.  She asked if she is to call for aid every time ‘Charlie’ has a ‘fake’ convulsion in front of her store.  The answer was yes.

After the FCC Safety Roundtable, FNC member (and Fremont resident) Judy Clarridge talks with SPD Officer Loren Street Photo by K. Lindsay, Oct '12

Another business owner pointed out that even if arrested (and an aid car will not arrest someone having convulsions on the sidewalk,) the offender gains access to services, shelter and sustenance.  Officer Street also mentioned that someone mentally ill won’t necessarily face criminal court.  Instead, they can choose Mental Health Court, where social workers, psychotherapists and doctors will be enlisted to help them heal.

Officer Street also reported on his own frustration when he addresses some disturbance calls.  He has gotten caught between a property owner/business manager that needs someone removed, or discouraged from returning, and an angry citizen affronted at ‘the police harassing the homeless.’  He asked that the community settle on a unified definition of tolerable, acceptable behavior.

As one bar manager reported, the homeless she originally dealt with were okay.  Yet, according to her, in the last year and a half the people loitering in front of her nightclub now deal meth and get aggressive when asked to leave.

During the FCC Safety Roundtable, on Oct 24, 2012, Jessica Vets (center) encourages a retail shop owner to share more of her concerns with SPD representatives. Photo by K. Lindsay

The best way to discourage this is to call the police, attendees heard, every time criminal behavior is spotted.  Officer Street is willing to meet with Fremont business owners and residents on any chronic criminal activity.  Detective Manning, in the Community Outreach Section, likes doing ‘living room conversations’ with groups of neighbors interested in learning about the resources of the SPD, and he can attend community events to better educate the public about SPD.

Finally, Jessica Vets, Executive Director for the Fremont Chamber, offered to hold more Roundtables, or even a monthly gathering, for airing community safety concerns.  Anyone interested in attending can contact her at 206/632-1500 or director@fremont.com

 ***

Thank you to Jenny Frankl, of the City of Seattle Department of Neighborhoods, for sharing her notes on this meeting, which provided some of the research for this column.

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©2012 Kirby Lindsay.  This column is protected by intellectual property laws, including U.S. copyright laws.  Reproduction, adaptation or distribution without permission is prohibited.

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