According to a confidential Seattle Police Department memo leaked to KOMO 4 News, the north precinct is too short-staffed to actually investigate most burglaries. According to KOMO:
A police source said that unless burglary detectives have a suspect’s name, evidence photos or surveillance footage, and complete witness interviews, it’s unlikely a case will even get worked let alone solved. […]
The memo says at one point, 14 detectives worked burglary, theft and juvenile cases for the north precinct. Today it’s down to two detectives and an on-loan patrol officer, even though the memo says cases have climbed to 1,500 a month. The memo concludes, “misdemeanor and even many felony crimes can no longer be investigated except on a very rare, case by case basis.”
While KOMO goes on to quote Pete Rogerson, a citizen advisor on the North Precinct Advisory Council as saying it’s “very surprising”, to anyone who’s ever reported a burglary up these parts, it’s old news.
Kenn writes that he had to “convince the police to visit my car that got broken into even after I mentioned that there was a bloody finger print on the window.” Our friend Zoey tells us the police told her they wouldn’t be investigating the hit-and-run on her car because no human being was hurt, despite the fact that the car was totaled. I’ve called in stolen bikes and strollers, and never had them do anything more than ask a couple perfunctory questions about whether the object was locked. I called in a drunk and disorderly next to the Wallingford Park children’s playground last month, and as far as I know, police never responded.
As far back 2009, we’ve had reports like this:
I was one of the recent prowl victims. I’m pretty sure I found my stolen GPS receiver on craigslist; it was obvious that the same person was selling several of them, and each one had a different story about why he was selling it. I e-mailed Officer Jackson and called him twice but he never returned my call.
I did get a call from some other detective after I filled out a contact form online. When I asked if he could help me get it back, he recommended that I set up a meeting with the seller in a public place, tell him my unit was stolen and that I wanted to check the serial number, and then dial 911 — “90% of the time, they just run away.” Um, what about the other 10%? When I mentioned that this didn’t sound safe, he said: “Bring a guy with you.” Perfect! If I’m gonna get knifed by a crackhead thief, why not let a friend in on the action?
The cops had a chance to question someone who may have been responsible for several break-ins/thefts, and they did nothing.
What isn’t so clear to me is why the reduction. According to Public Safety and Education Committee meeting minutes from 2010, the 2009 “year-end update projected 49 recruits entering Academy training in 2010. The new update shows that 15 recruits entered the Academy in the first quarter and none entered in the second quarter. It projects zero new recruits for the rest of the year.”
But this isn’t simply due to reduced overall budget. Looking at the City of Seattle General Fund Revenue & Budget Update from 2013, sales tax and B&O tax, two major sources of funds for the general fund (also see the have been growing nicely. But not only isn’t the money being spent on new police officers, the number of detectives is significantly shrinking (as the population grows).
The Seattle Police Department budget appears to be be steady, and offers a few clues (one big ticket item: $12M to “Fund Seattle Police Officers Guild Contract”), but I won’t pretend to understand which of these are appropriate or not. It’s too easy to dismiss any cost as “frivolous” without being educated.
What I do know is that when it comes to burglaries, we’re on our own.
(Thanks to the many folks who sent this in!)