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April 8, 2005
Licton Springs Community Council Report for April
North Precinct Advisory Council Report for
April 6, 2005

Statements or opinions expressed in the following report are not necessarily those of the Licton Springs Community Council or the residents of the Licton Springs Neighborhood. Effort has been taken to provide an accurate report but total accuracy cannot be assured.

With minimal delay and great expectations, President Pete Rogerson opened the April North Precinct meeting at 7:05 p.m.  The first order of business was for Captain Oliver to present Crime Prevention Coordinator, Diane Horswill, with her 30-year plaque.  Recognition well deserved!

Following the presentation to Diane, the meeting was immediately turned over to the featured guests of the evening - CSI Seattle!  Absent the haunting refrains of “who are you” (CSI’s theme), Detective Mark Hanf introduced Detectives Brian Stample and Don Ledbetter, also from the Seattle CSI team.

The first order of business was to make clear that the real world of CSI forensics is a far cry from the three weekly TV presentations.  None of the crimes are solved in an hour!  Seattle’s CSI unit is only one year old but draws on many years experience from the members that make up the entire team.  (I think there are about a dozen members.)  The skills brought to the job include (but are not limited to) Engineering, Military Service, Law, Green River Task Force, Sexual Assault Unit, Photography, Medicine, Homicide, Robbery and  the Domestic Violence Unit.

Unlike the TV version, the real work of the CSI is NOT glamorous.  In fact it tends to be a little dirty.  There are lots of dumpster diving, blood evidence to be collected, and toilets to be plumbed.  All too often the crimes that the CSI Unit gets called to are in areas that are, well lets just say “seedy” (and you’ll not find any Seattle CSI in the field in a Nordstrom suit).

However, much like the popular program on the tube, the unit does have a lot of “goodies” to play with.  For starters, they have three cargo vans filled with tools to aid in their investiga­tions (very plain vans - no tricked out show cars).  The unit also has a lab with a wide variety of forensic test equipment.  The CSIs brought with them a selection of the tools most often used in the collection of evidence.  We got to look at things like the device that emits light of different frequencies (looks a little like a small vacuum cleaner and costs about $15,000.00), and another device allows the CSI to find fingerprints that are invisible to the eye without “dusting” an entire car or room.  The unit uses LOTS of film (as many as 20 rolls of 24 exposures per crime scene).  Areas of investigation are captured on celluloid film as well as digital photography - and ALL the images are kept!  (Even the ones that get screwed up.)  There are special kits for the collection of blood samples, foot­prints, and DNA (Deoxyribo-Necluic Acid. just so you’ll know).  A valid DNA sample is just 1.0ng. (REAL small).

Before the Unit was formed, the personnel that were to make up the unit engaged in 8 1/2 weeks of training from the National Forensic Academy.  The Seattle unit is autonomous.  (It stands alone.)  Today the crime scene team would include a Team Leader, Photographer, Evidence Collection Specialist, Sketch Artist and any other “Specialist” required.

Captain Oliver had a few words for us also.  The Auto theft epidemic is getting out of hand.  We are up from 450 units to 600 per month.  (That’s a lot of stolen cars.)  A big part of this problem seems to be in the court system (JUDGES!) that will not put the offenders in jail.  A car thief has to be CAUGHT at least seven times before they will ever see the inside of a cell (and even then it will not be for an extended length of time).  Part of the problem is that these crimes are being charged as a felony.   Conviction brings at most a year in prison (complete with basket ball, TV, exercise rooms, shop classes, three meals, movies and other forms of entertainment).  There is a move afoot to have these crooks charged with multiple misdemeanors, and that would mean “JAIL’ time (without any of the amenities of prison life).  There is also a movement afoot to petition the City Council to support this idea and identify those judges that keep turning crooks back on to the street or offer “alternative sentencing.  (YOU do get to VOTE for them, or against.)  A letter should be forthcoming.  We’ll be hearing much more about this at next months meeting (from Tom Carr?).

Another great example might be the recent shooting incident over on Lake City Way at about 87th?  After a stand-off with the swat team and several tense moments, the suspect in this incident was taken into custody and all firearms confiscated.  The judge hearing the case SET BAIL and the guy went home!  He hasn’t been charged with a crime even though he shot up his neighborhood!  (He can still buy a gun!)  Several days later, he was scaring hell out of the neighbors again.  Same result - turned loose.  Only on the third callout was he taken to Harborview for mental evaluation....................Feel Safe?

I think there might be trouble brewing between the Cops and the Courts.  Stay tuned, eh?

The following report was presented by Diane Horswill, Crime Prevention Coordinator (a 30-year veteran of the Seattle Police Department).  Again, this pertains to the ongoing problem of auto thefts.


Auto theft rates in Seattle, surrounding areas and many places across the country have been rising steadily for the past few years.  There are myths about how and why most auto theft occurs.  By learning more about the crime you can signifi­cantly reduce your odds of becoming a victim.  TV and movies usually depict auto theft as a crime involving high-end cars, chop shops, and organized crime, but only a percentage fits this category.  In reality the majority of cars stolen in our area are common models of average value.  They are chosen because they are readily available and often easy to steal.  This is especially true of popular models manufactured from about the mid 1980s to the mid 1990s.  Many cars of this vintage have inherently weak door locks and ignition systems or other features that car thieves have learned to exploit.

They have learned to take a car key, modify or shave the key cuts so that, in effect, it becomes a universal key for that particular model and age range.  As a result, they are able to open the door and start the engine as quickly and easily as the owner, thus avoiding the hassle of breaking in, hot-wiring the ignition and possibly arousing suspicion in the process.

Owners tend to be a little more casual about the security of older, lesser value or second cars.  Do not leave a spare or valet key in the glove box or anywhere else in the car, as it is likely to be used to steal the car.  If you are lucky enough to have a garage, be sure to use it.  As with car break-ins, most auto thefts happen overnight and often they are the same thieves who commit both crimes.  They often steal a car and drive it to another area in order to break into other cars.  They then continue the cycle by dumping or trading the first car and stealing another to get to the next neighborhood and so on.  It is not unusual for an active thief to steal several cars a night.  They know that the longer they keep a hot car, the greater the chance of getting caught, and since its so easy to steal another, why not?  Stolen cars are also involved in other crimes but the bottom line remains the same; they are being used as a means of temporary transportation.

License plate thefts are also common, especially the theft of the front plate only. The thief will steal a plate from a car that matches, in color and model, a car he has stolen and install the new plate on the stolen car.  Since many car owners do not report the theft or loss of one plate, this gives the thief extra time to drive the stolen car.  Keep an eye on your plates and be sure to report the theft or loss of one as well as both plates.

While most stolen cars are eventually recovered, they can sit at the place they were left by the thief for weeks, or until a neighbor notices the car does not belong on the block and calls it in to Parking Enforcement as an abandoned car.  In addition to the inconvenience, stolen cars are often damaged or vandalized.  Police often catch auto thieves but, unfortunately, they do not spend much time in jail.  Gone are the days when Grand Theft Auto meant years behind bars.  With jail overcrowding, and a high standard of proof required to prosecute, those who commit property crimes serve much less time than those convicted for offenses that include violence.

There are some fairly simple things you can do to help protect your car from theft.  One is buying (and using!) a steering wheel blocking device. The Club is one example but there are several brands.  Its not that they are so inherently strong that they cant be cut off, but few thieves wish to take the time or carry tools.  It is much easier to go to the next Honda Civic or Toyota Camry that isnt protected.  The other advantage of this type of device is that it is visible from a distance.  Another choice is an ignition cut-off switch that can be installed in a hidden but accessible location near the drivers seat.

 The driver must flip the switch before the engine can be started. These devices are moderate in price. Finally, there are alarm systems, which work quite well.  Newer systems take advantage of better technology and fewer annoying false alarms.  If you have a high risk, older car with an alarm system you may wish to augment with a steering wheel device, cut-off switch, or update the alarm.

Lastly, it is common for owners of lower value cars to reduce their insurance to minimum coverage.  But if your car is damaged as part of being stolen, which happens frequently, you may suffer a considerable loss.  Consider retaining your comprehensive coverage, perhaps with, a higher deductible.

 Ken Thompson

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