A news blog for Seattle's Phinney Ridge and Greenwood neighborhoods


UPDATE: SUSPECT ARRESTED — SPD looking for shooting suspect who crashed car near Green Lake

July 15th, 2016 by Doree

Update: SPD arrested the suspect Friday afternoon.

Earlier: If you heard the helicopters overhead this afternoon, Seattle Police are searching for a shooting suspect.

From the SPD Blotter:

Officers responded to multiple reports of shots fired near 5th Avenue NE and NE Northgate Way. Police arrived quickly and located the suspect, but when he saw the officers, he sped off in his green Volvo, with police in pursuit.

The suspect lost control of his car and crashed in the 100 block of NE 80th, so he took off running.
Multiple police resources and a police K9 are in the area looking for him now.

Officers have not located any victims or any received additional reports at this time.

Officers believe that the man pictured here (picture removed, the man is in custody) may be the shooting suspect due to fact the he left his driver’s license in the car.

Anyone with information about this man or this incident should call 911.

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SPD Chief O’Toole meets with Greenwood business owners, residents to talk about neighborhood crime

June 28th, 2016 by Doree

About three dozen Greenwood business owners and residents met with Seattle Police Chief Kathleen O’Toole on June 20 to express their concerns about rising crime in the neighborhood.

Chief O’Toole began the meeting with a statistic that has dismayed Seattle residents since she took the helm two years ago: Boston, where she previously worked, has 800-1,000 more officers for a similarly-sized city.

“Policing in Seattle is a work in progress,” Chief O’Toole said while acknowledging neighbors’ frustrations. “We are working very hard on reform. We are trying to use the resources that we have more effectively and efficiently.”

She said when she first arrived, she was surprised that Seattle didn’t have more visible police officers patrolling on foot, instead of in their cars simply racing from one 911 call to another.

One of the biggest concerns expressed by residents and business owners is the proliferation of RV camping, where derelict campers park on side streets or by parks and stay for weeks or months. Neighbors have long complained that people in some of those RVs are causing crime.

“We all agree that homelessness is not a crime, but if there are people committing crimes and terrorizing the neighborhood we need to address that,” Chief O’Toole said.

She said the North Precinct compiled a list of 207 RV and car campers and had offered services to nearly all of them, but many did not take them up on those offers of help. In the week prior to the Greenwood meeting, the North Precinct spent about 130 hours on the issue. Officers posted 86 72-hour notices to move and had impounded 26 vehicles since April. Unfortunately, with a 72-hour notice, cars can simply move down the street and start the process again.

“We’re finding a lot of people facing issues of mental health crisis,” she said of not only car campers but others committing crimes. “The property crime we see in the North Precinct, probably 95 percent of it is directly related to addiction issues.”

North Precinct Capt. Sean O’Donnell said there’s an undercover buy-bust drug operation in Greenwood every two weeks, with most of those arrested being from out of the area.

Elizabeth Chayer, owner of American Dance Institute on the corner of 80th and Greenwood, said her studio had been burglarized five times in the last few months (one of those was an employee’s car parked behind the studio). “My employees are totally wigged out,” she said.

Capt. O’Donnell said he had already directed additional patrols in that area, including officers in cars, on bike and on foot. He’s told officers on bikes to ride down alleys and those on foot to look into every doorway. Chief O’Toole said they could also ask the Major Crimes Task Force to get involved.

“It feels like we’re not safe or secure,” Naked City Brewery Co-owner Bryan Miller said, adding that his business hasn’t been hit yet but he feels like it’s just a matter of time. “It seems most of the crimes happen in the early morning hours before dawn. We just need more protection right now.”

Chief O’Toole said one offender admitted to 300 property crimes in the North Precinct. SPD is now working more closely with the King County Prosecutors Office and the City Attorney’s Office to help people get the services they need and not just go through a revolving door of arrest and then back on the street.

She said King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg recently assigned a prosecutor to work full time with the property crimes task force on prolific offenders. Two officers from the North Precinct are now assigned to work with that task force.

Marnee Chua, owner of Works Progress, a co-working space at 115 N. 85th St., Suite 202, that’s open to members 24-7, has its main entrance in the alley. She said her staff and members are increasingly worried for their safety, and a staff member recently was assaulted on their property. She said the suspects were not arrested and come by all the time and just stare at them through the window until they call the police again.

“I don’t know what else we can do. We have video surveillance, we’re doing the lighting, we warn our members,” Chua said in frustration.

Another issue that residents brought up is the number of vacant houses that appear to house squatters and possibly other criminal activity. Two vacant houses recently caught on fire, including one at 79th and Dayton Avenue on June 6, and another in the 7100 block of Aurora Avenue about a week later.

Officer Joe Bender said SPD has a Vacant Trespass Program, where they work with owners of vacant properties to get blanket authority for officers to go onto the property at any time. That way they don’t have to look up the property owner or registered agent when someone complains of squatters or other issues. So, if any neighbors know of a vacant house with issues, call Officer Bender at 206-233-3984 and he’ll contact the property owner. If an owner won’t work with the Vacant Trespass Program and the home isn’t being kept secure, the city’s Department of Construction and Inspections can be called in.

In the case of the vacant house at Aurora and 71st, Officer Bender said the owner had joined the Vacant Trespass Program a few months ago and officers had been on the property a few times before the fire.

SPD also has a graffiti detective who can link graffiti to a suspect. So it’s important to report any graffiti right away. Take a picture and send it to SPD online before the graffiti is painted over.

Click here for a list of contact information for the North Precinct Community Police Team.

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SPD arrests suspected car thief in Lower Phinney/Ballard

June 15th, 2016 by Doree

From the SPD Blotter:

Police found a car thief asleep at the wheel Monday night after tracking a stolen Honda from Queen Anne to the West Woodland neighborhood.

A Queen Anne resident called SPD around 9 PM Monday from the 3200 block of Conkling Place West and reported someone had stolen his Honda Prelude in the last 24 hours. Fortunately, his car was equipped with a GPS system, which showed the vehicle was parked in the 6500 block of 5th Avenue Northwest.

Officers quickly found the car and discovered there was a 21-year-old man asleep in the driver’s seat. After arresting the man, police found he was carrying a collection of filed-down keys—a tool commonly used by prolific car thieves—along with a tool for breaking windows, a can of lubricant spray, and two passports belonging to other people. Police also recovered a backpack, a briefcase, a box of wrenches, car and stereo parts from the car, none of which belonged the the car’s owner.

Officers booked the 21-year-old–who has previous convictions for auto theft property crimes—into the King County Jail for investigation of auto theft and returned the car to its owner.

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Seattle Police Chief Kathleen O’Toole to discuss public safety concerns with Greenwood neighborhood on Monday

June 14th, 2016 by Doree

Seattle Police Chief Kathleen O’Toole will discuss public safety concerns with Greenwood neighbors and business owners from 12:30-1:30 p.m. on Monday, June 20, at Taproot Theatre, 204 N. 85th St.

Chief O’Toole will provide an update on neighborhood crime and police efforts, then open it up for a question and answer session. She will be joined by SPD Chief Operating Officer Brian Maxey and officers from the North Precinct.

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SPD responds to reports of armed and barricaded man at Greenwood & 117th

June 14th, 2016 by Doree

Update: The Seattle Times reports the man has been charged with a hate crime. Read the full story here.

Earlier: Seattle Police officers now have a suspect in custody after reports he was armed and barricaded at Greenwood Avenue and North 117th Street.

SPD tweeted just before 3 p.m. that SWAT and hostage negotiators were on scene. SPD tweeted again just before 3:30 to say the suspect was in custody.

Metro buses 5 and 355 were rerouted to Aurora Avenue between North 105th and 125th streets.

Update 4:05 p.m.: Metro buses routes 5 and 355 are back to their normal routes.

Update 4:07 p.m.: KOMO 4 is reporting the man allegedly threatened to shoot up a mosque at Northgate. KOMO has a gallery of photos from the scene, and so does KIRO 7.

Update Tuesday 6 p.m.: More info from the SPD Blotter:

SWAT officers arrested a 37 year-old man at his Greenwood apartment today after receiving information from his out-of-state friend the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) that he had made threats against a Seattle mosque.

Earlier today, the suspect posted threats online and, in a separate posting, claimed to have purchased an assault rifle and extra ammunition.

Acting on that information, SWAT and Hostage Negotiators went to the man’s home in the 11700 block of Greenwood Avenue North and arrested him shortly before 3:30 PM.

Investigators have learned the man has previously been contacted by area law enforcement who are investigating harassment and threats to another mosque.

Seattle police are working closely with the FBI to investigate the rapidly developing case.

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SPD arrests alleged prolific thief on Aurora near Greenwood for stealing two RVs

June 8th, 2016 by Doree

From the SPD Blotter:

Complaints about needles and noise from a generator around an RV in North Seattle led SPD’s Major Crimes Taskforce and patrol officers to seize two motor homes and arrest a former car salesman and suspected prolific thief, after police found him passed out behind the wheel of a Winnebago.

Police were called to the 10000 block of Aurora Avenue North just before 8 AM on June 2nd after receiving complaints from neighbors about needles and generator noise associated with a motorhome in a parking lot.

Officers arrived, found a 34-foot 2014 motorhome and discovered it had been reported stolen from a dealership lot in Enumclaw. Police interviewed several witnesses and neighbors about the RVs purported owner, but no one seemed to know his name. However, witnesses said the 33-year-old had a distinctive upside-down flag tattoo on his arm, described him as a “smooth talker” and told officers he had recently driven through the neighborhood in a second black and grey RV.

Officers towed the stolen motorhome and began searching the neighborhood for the black and grey Winnebago. They soon found it idling in a parking lot a few blocks away and immediately took notice of the RV’s license plates—or the lack thereof and discovered the 33-year-old man sleeping in the driver’s seat. After being awoken by police, the man told detectives he had stolen the motorhome from a dealership in Everett.

Major Crimes Taskforce detectives booked the man into the King County Jail for stealing the RVs—valued at over $200,000—and are now investigating him for a number of other crimes in the Seattle area.

Since launching an emphasis effort in February focused on property crimes in Seattle, MCTF detectives have identified and arrested numerous prolific suspects , sometimes tied to as many as dozens of burglaries, car prowls and other thefts.

In keeping with that trend, detectives believe the “smooth talking” suspect in this case is involved in numerous crimes, aided with knowledge he gained when he previously worked as a car salesman. Detectives believe the man is tied to multiple auto thefts at dealerships in Lake City and he was also briefly detained by police near a car dealership in SODO shortly after someone tried to break-into it last month. Officers found the 33-year-old was carrying a screwdriver and walkie-talkie at the time of the incident, but weren’t immediately able to tie him to the attempted break-in.

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Greenwood business owners, residents, ask SPD about recent surge in burglaries

February 5th, 2016 by Doree

About 40 Greenwood business owners and residents filled the back of Couth Buzzard Books Thursday night to hear Seattle Police representatives talk about the recent surge in burglaries. Couth Buzzard owner Theo Dzielak organized the meeting after his store was broken into for the second time in two months.

“Besides the expense, it’s emotional,” he said. “Some of us here tonight are business owners, some of us are residents, so we can share stories and ask questions.”

SPD Crime Prevention Coordinator Terrie Johnston listens as Greenwood residents talk about being burglarized.

SPD Crime Prevention Coordinator Terrie Johnston listens as Greenwood residents talk about being burglarized.

Seattle Police Crime Prevention Coordinator Terrie Johnston acknowledged the spike in Greenwood burglaries this year and especially in December, which had 10 of the year’s 59 non-residential burglaries. Johnston used to be the Crime Prevention Coordinator for the North Precinct, but was transferred downtown. The North Precinct finally has a new CPC, Mary Amberg, who was just hired and is still in training. (She attended the meeting but didn’t speak.)

In trying to describe the numerous burglaries and reasons for them, Johnston said there isn’t any one root cause, but many, including drugs and construction in the area. She said there’s enough variety in the modus operandi of the burglars – time of day, items taken, how brazen — that police don’t believe it’s just one or two people. And very little evidence has been left behind.

“There’s a lot of construction going on. It’s not unusual for crime to go up when there’s a lot of construction in the neighborhood,” she said, explaining that burglars may have easy access to tools left out and can use them to pry open a door, window or skylight; or ladders or scaffolding to climb onto a roof; or even chunks of concrete that can be thrown through a window, which is what happened at Couth Buzzard in November. She also said construction workers may accidentally leave a door unlocked at the end of the day, giving thieves an easy way in. And sometimes the mere presence of a lot of construction workers around a certain building means neighbors don’t pay as much attention to other people they don’t recognize at different hours.

Rachael Coyle, owner of Coyle’s Bakeshop just a few doors south of Couth Buzzard, said someone used a pickaxe to break through her back door in December. Now she’s boarded up the back door to be unusable and doesn’t anticipate ever opening it back up.

Johnston said one of the problems is that many of the mom-and-pop businesses in the neighborhood don’t have good enough locks or lighting or alarm systems. She called many businesses’ locks “vintage” and said one business that was hit even kept money in a shoe box. (Although keeping cash in a safe is not a sure deterrent, as Chaco Canyon Organic Cafe owner Chris Maykut discovered when surveillance video from a neighboring business showed thieves spending two hours struggling to get his 300-pound safe out of the business and into a car.) She also said many neighborhood businesses hit by thieves either didn’t have alarms or cameras or they weren’t working at the time of the burglaries.

Mary Harris, owner of The Fiber Gallery, talks about the recent burglary of her store.

Mary Harris, owner of The Fiber Gallery, talks about the recent burglary of her store.

Any business or resident can call SPD for a safety check of their building or home. “We’d rather work with you on the front end to prevent it than come in on the back end after,” she said.

One man said the alley behind his home near 85th and Greenwood is like an open-air drug market. “I walk in on it. There’s a line of guys selling heroin,” he said. “There’s no shame there.” Johnston said to call 911 report narcotic activity, even if it will be over by the time an officer arrives, because they could prevent future drug deals. “We need evidence and we need good witnesses and 911 calls when it’s happening,” she said. And take a hard look at the alley and see why it’s attractive to criminals – could lighting be installed or cameras or something done to open up the view to passersby.

Johnston said SPD is severely understaffed, although they are in the process of hiring 100 new officers. She said Police Chief Kathleen O’Toole was shocked when she first arrived from Boston because the cities are a similar size but Seattle had 1,000 fewer officers than Boston.

One man said his car has been prowled several times and packages stolen off his porch, but every time he calls the police “I’ve been met with apathy. It doesn’t seem like the city is doing anything, it doesn’t seem like the city is responding to this problem.”

Johnston said, “If you get bad service, there’s so many ways to follow up on a bad call taker, on officers, we have so many ways you can bring that to somebody’s attention and get that called out. We don’t want an apathetic call taker.”

Johnston said residents and businesses need to let SPD know exactly what the neighborhood needs, whether that’s increased patrols at certain hours, bike patrols, foot patrols, etc. She said Capt. Sean O’Donnell of the North Precinct is responsible for that kind of staffing. She also said she’d rather people call 911 than the non-emergency line or using online reports if there is any question that a crime is currently being committed or was recently committed.

As far as what businesses can do to try to prevent break-ins:

  • Heavy-duty locks, preferably double cylinder deadbolts.
  • Better door hardware, especially very long screws.
  • Stronger windows.
  • Better lighting, especially in dark alleys.
  • Have your address prominently displayed on the alley side as well as the front, which makes it easier for police to get to the right building.
  • Have an audible alarm; thieves are more likely to run if a loud alarm goes off.
  • Clear out any debris in alley that could be used to break a window or door, or used as a ladder to the roof, such as pallets.
  • Re-key all doors after an employee leaves your employ, even on good terms.
  • Don’t leave any business keys out where someone can grab them easily, and don’t label them so thieves know exactly which door they go to.
  • Keep a minimum amount of cash on hand; keep the cash register open with no cash in it at night, and be sure to prominently place a sign that says limited cash kept on premises.
  • Don’t have too many signs and other clutter in your windows; keep a clean line of sight for passersby to see in and notice something amiss.
  • Install a chime or bell on your doors to alert you when someone comes in.
  • Keep the number for 911 by the phone, especially if you have to dial 9 to get an outside line. “You’d be surprised how many people forget the number for 911 when there’s an emergency,” Johnston said.
  • Get to know neighboring businesses and their hours of operation so you’ll notice someone who isn’t supposed to be there.

“We still believe in block watch. Watchful neighbors are still your best protection,” Johnston said. “I want Greenwood to be tight and educated and empowered.”

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Reminder: Community meeting on burglaries with SPD Crime Prevention Team at Couth Buzzard Thursday night

February 3rd, 2016 by Doree

This is a reminder that Couth Buzzard Books, which has been burglarized twice in the last two months, has organized a community meeting with Seattle Police Department representatives at 7 p.m. Thursday at the bookstore at 8310 Greenwood Ave. N.

SPD’s Crime Prevention Team will talk about a recent surge of burglaries of both homes and businesses and how everyone can try to reduce crime.

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Greenwood burglaries on the rise, community meeting with SPD Feb. 4 at Couth Buzzard

January 29th, 2016 by Doree

Couth Buzzard Books, which has been burglarized twice in the last two months, has organized a community meeting with Seattle Police Department representatives at 7 p.m. next Thursday, Feb. 4, at the bookstore at 8310 Greenwood Ave. N. SPD will talk about a recent surge in burglaries and how residents and businesses can try to reduce crime.

Couth Buzzard owner Theo Dzielak said he had not been burglarized in the five years he’s been in Greenwood until mid-November, when burglars broke the glass in his front door and stole $950. Then on Jan. 18, thieves pried open the back door with a car jack and stole about $25 in coins and some beer and wine.

“They go in very quickly and get what they can and leave very quickly,” he said. “I don’t think they’re professionals. They’re not going after places that have high levels of cash. They’re going after tiny mom and pop stores.”

Dzielak said he’s talked to numerous other businesses owners and discovered seven of them within a three- or four-block radius have been burglarized a total of 11 times in recent months.

One block away from Couth Buzzard, Chaco Canyon Organic Café owner Chris Maykut said his restaurant was burglarized last week. The thieves broke in through the back window and stole a 300-pound safe and a hand truck. Maykut said surveillance video from a nearby business showed one person standing in the alley for two hours acting as lookout.

His total loss is about $6,000, including the safe, cash, the tablet they use for a menu at the front counter, and a broken window.

“It’s kind of a blessing in disguise in some ways,” Maykut said. “Nobody got hurt. There’s no great tragedy except property loss and that’s not the end of the world. But we’ve installed some bars in the back window, we’re putting in new lighting, we’ll be putting in unbreakable windows in the back and a new alarm system.”

Chaco Canyon’s front door was heavily damaged about four months ago when someone took a screwdriver and hammer to it, but they didn’t get inside.

“They must have made a hell of a lot of noise and there’s a light right there so I don’t know how nobody saw them,” Maykut said.

According to SPD’s online Crime Dashboard, there were 59 non-residential burglaries in Greenwood in 2015. Ten of those were in December – the highest month total for the year. August had nine.

That’s up from 40 non-residential burglaries in 2014, and 39 in 2013. Those numbers do not include residential burglaries, or burglaries from secured parking areas, whether residential or non-residential.


Non-residential burglaries in Greenwood by month for 2015. From SPD’s Crime Dashboard.

Phinney Ridge had 15 non-residential burglaries from April through December 2015 (there’s no data for the first three months of the year). Six of those burglaries were in December.

Modern Japanese Cuisine at 6108 Phinney Ave. N. in Phinney Ridge told me they were robbed of money and an iPad on Dec. 20. Violet Sweet Shoppe at 65th and Phinney Avenue was burglarized on Dec. 13 by someone smashing the glass and stealing computers. (The store has since closed, not due to the burglary.)

Burglars also recently hit St. John School at 120 N. 79th St., just a few blocks from Couth Buzzard and Chaco Canyon. On Jan. 15, school officials sent a campus alert email to families and staff that someone broke into a boy’s restroom in one of the school’s portables and removed plumbing and fixtures from the sink. According to the email, the thieves also stole a brass dedication plaque off the portables, along with equipment and fixtures from outdoor faucets.

“It’s kind of amazing in our little tiny block radius that all this has happened,” Maykut said. “It’s surprising to me because it’s such a public area.”

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