On the night of Jan. 23rd, sometime between 5 p.m. and 10:50 p.m., someone walked onto the back porch of a home in Seattle’s Mount Baker neighborhood.
Nobody was home and the doors were locked.
The intruder unscrewed a light bulb and then went to a window at the side of the house, where he or she used some type of glasscutter to make a clean, arm-sized hole. A small steel table from the home’s backyard was placed outside the window to stand on.
Reaching through the hole, the burglar unlocked the window, propped it open with a mesh file holder and climbed into the house. Once inside, he or she “ransacked” a bedroom, finding and taking a Motorola cell phone, a power cord and a pair of headphones worth about $300.
“It looked like they were quick about it,” said the homeowner, a 35-year neighborhood resident, who asked not to be identified. The thief didn’t take anything other than the “old Android smartphone,” she said, even leaving behind a $50 Amazon gift card. The crime’s details, described in a police report, were discussed at a Jan. 24 meeting between Mount Baker residents and police officers from Seattle’s South Precinct.
The burglary was just one in a spike of home break-ins in Mount Baker since the start of the New Year. According to 911 call data and police reports, officers responded to at least 36 home burglary-related calls during the month of January in the "R1 Beat,” where the neighborhood is located.
By comparison, the average number of monthly burglaries in R1 between January 2012 and November 2013 was only 13.
Residential burglaries during January 2014 in the South Precinct's R1 Beat. The map includes 36 incidents taken from 911 call data. Three cases that did not have corresponding police reports filed during January were removed from the list of 911 calls before making the map. Source: City of Seattle (data.seatte.gov) Map: Bill Lucia (Using Google Fusion Tables)
Since last May, burglary rates In the South Precinct as a whole have been higher than any of the city’s other four precincts — a trend that's been escalating since July of 2013. In November, the South Precinct saw 1.6 crimes for every 1,000 residents. That's nearly 50 percent more crime than in the East and West Precincts. It's more than double the rates in the Southwest and North Precincts.
Mount Baker residents are referring to the rash of burglaries as a “crime wave,” and lieutenant Steve Strand, speaking at the recent community meeting, said solving and stopping the crimes was currently the South Precinct’s “number one priority.”
Burglary rates per 1,000 residents in Seattle's five police precincts. Rates in the South Precinct began to climb in July 2013. Asked for precinct population numbers, SPD provided figures taken from 2010 Census data. Rates were computed using these population numbers. Source: SPD, Chart: Bill Lucia
At the same meeting, South Precinct Commander Captain John Hayes Jr. emphasized the importance of community involvement. “We’re going to work this bad boy out together,” he told the roughly 130 residents who turned out at the Mount Baker Community Club. A 32-year veteran of the Seattle Police Department, Hayes took command of the precinct in early December.
“The answer is not to have the police surround your neighborhood,” he said. “The issue is so much deeper than that.”
Total monthly burglaries in the South Precinct's R1 Beat. December 2012 through November 2013 figures are from the Seattle Police Department's monthly precinct data. December and January figures are from 911 call data. Sources: SPD, data.seattle.gov, Chart: Bill Lucia
Mount Baker is stitched into a diverse patchwork of communities that lie in and around south Seattle’s Rainier Valley. It is one of the more affluent neighborhoods in the area. According to the 2008 to 2012 American Community Survey, median income in the Census tract that contains Mount Baker is estimated at $91,373. To the south and west of Mount Baker, that figure ranges from $46,618 to $57,813.
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