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Wednesday, July 11, 2012 - Page updated at 08:30 p.m.
Police patrols to target 'hot spots' for crime throughout Seattle
By Sara Jean Green
Seattle Times staff reporter
Armed with crime data, commanders in each of the Seattle Police Department's five precincts are identifying "hot spots" and directing patrol officers to get out of their cars in those areas, interact with residents and business owners to gain information, and deter crime and reduce fear by increasing their visibility.
This week, precinct captains will hold news briefings alongside Mayor Mike McGinn to detail how they are implementing the department's latest summertime initiative in their swaths of the city.
Capt. Jim Dermody, the West Precinct commander, was first up on Tuesday, addressing reporters in front of the pagoda at Hing Hay Park at South King Street and Maynard Avenue South — in the middle of one of four crime hot spots in a precinct that covers roughly the area west of Interstate 5 from Discovery Park to Safeco Field. Using evidence-based policing models, each precinct identified individual hot spots by analyzing crime data.
In the West Precinct, those four areas are: in Belltown, the 2200 block of First Avenue between Bell and Blanchard streets; the 1400 and 1500 blocks of Third Avenue between Union and Pine streets; the 400 block of Second Avenue Extension South in Pioneer Square; and the 650 block of South King Street between Fifth Avenue South and Maynard Avenue South in the Chinatown International District.
McGinn explained that during summer months, from roughly Fourth of July to Labor Day, citywide 911 calls typically spike 20 percent.
The department's "directed patrols" began 2 ½ weeks ago, and in the first week during second watch — the 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. shift that traditionally sees the highest volume of 911 calls — the number of 911 calls originating from the West Precinct's four hot spots dropped 60 percent, Dermody said.
"We typically work from a random patrol standpoint," he said. "Getting out of the patrol car is a cultural change for us."
To increase manpower on the streets, the department has temporarily reassigned 25 officers — including those who currently staff the front desks in each of the department's five precincts — to bolster patrol units. While the decision to cut officers from the precinct desks has caused some concern, police said, precinct captains will have discretion to staff the desks as long as patrol staffing levels are met.
Dermody said 30 to 40 percent of a patrol officer's time is not spent responding to 911 calls, so the department is "tapping into existing resources" and using officers' "proactive time" to implement the directed patrols.
He said the directed patrols will be sent to hot spots around the clock and will continue into the foreseeable future, long after the summer. Measuring outcomes is an integral part of the plan, to ensure the new approach is working, Dermody said.
The department's "directed patrols" overlap with its violence-prevention emphasis patrols, which were created earlier this year in response to a spike in shootings in the city.
Officers and gang-unit detectives assigned to the special-emphasis patrols are dispatched to crime hot spots across the city on Fridays and Saturdays to more quickly respond to violent crime.
Sara Jean Green: 206-515-5654 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Information from Seattle Times archives is included in this report.
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