Laurelhurst Community Club                                                     

Serving 2800 Households and Businesses in Seattle’s Laurelhurst Neighborhood

                                                                                               

CALLS AND CONCERNS FROM NEIGHBORS

Regarding Disturbances at or near the Laurelhurst Playfield

Laurelhurst Community Club January 8, 2007 Meeting

 

On 12/19, Miriam Muller sent LCC a copy of a message she sent to Sgt. Paul Pendergrass regarding parties at the Playfield.  In her message she said that problems had begun again.  She said that in the last few nights, many high school kids are showing up again for bonfire parties in the park.  As she was writing her message, she noted that six cars pulled up in front of her house and about 15 people walked across the street to the park.  Several were carrying cases of beer.  On mornings after the parties, Muller said there is trash everywhere, beer cans, open containers, fast food garbage and other trash.  She said that the kids are very loud when they return to their cars very late at night.  She said one night, a guy walked up and down her street yelling about 1 a.m., then drove off flooring the gas.  Sometimes they congregate on the school grounds after the party.  Muller and her husband have taken down license plate.  She said the smoking, drinking, smoking and littering is happening on a consistent basis, mostly on weekends, but during the holidays every night.  She said she and her husband are now routinely calling 911.  Royal Alley Barnes from the Parks Department and other neighbors were “cc”ed on Muller’s message.

 

On 12/20, William Countner emailed to also express concerns at the park after dark.  He mentioned that last August his vehicle was hit with a rock thrown from the park at 10:30 p.m.  He said he walks the park every morning at 7 a.m. with his dog.  On two mornings, the fire pit was littered with beer cans and bottles that took four to clean up the mess on one morning.  On 12/28, Countner also cleaned up the area around the fire pit.  Countner also provided a Roosevelt High School contact, per Muller’s request so information could be included in the email to parents.  He supports Muller’s idea of removing the fire pit and Ruidl’s idea of developing a proactive plan.

 

On 12/22, Sgt. Pendergrass responded thanking neighbors for the information they provided and encouraging them to continue to contact 911 to report illegal activity.  Sgt. Pendergrass forwarded his message to Officer T.J. Havenar who patrols Laurelhurst.  Pendergrass responded again on 12/23 to answer Muller’s question about what can be done to “take back the streets.”  He agreed with her assessment that it is dangerous for citizens to contact the wrongdoers.  Instead he recommended: 

·       Be a good witness.  If you and your neighbors continue to gather information such as license plates, dates and times of incidents, how many people are in the park and what they are doing, you effectively become the eyes and ears of the police.

·       Continue to communicate with him and/or 911.  He would like to know about all situations that cause concern whether 911 is called or not.

·       He would like feedback from neighbors regarding 911 calls.  What he means is, how long did it take for patrol cars to arrive?  When they arrived, was the problem solved?  How long after the patrol officers left did the problem occur again.   Information like this will help the sergeant or other supervisors to ensure that they are allocating enough staff to take care of the problem.  Otherwise, they have to go through the commanders to ask for additional staffing, a much slower process.

·       Several neighborhoods have participated in organized "citizen patrols.”  Neighbors work out a weekly schedule where as many neighbors as possible, pick a time and place to meet and walk together for an agree amount of time.  It lets you stay in touch with your neighbors and there is safety in numbers.

·       Keep each other informed.  Whether it is email, snail mail, a bulletin board etc., letting other neighbors know about the problem and what's being done about it really allows everyone to get involved.  Ensure that any new neighbors that are interested know how to contact Sgt. Pendergrass as well.

 

Pendergrass wanted everyone to know that since summer, he has lost some staffing.  One officer is on an extended injury and three other officers have been shifted to other parts of the North Precinct.  This leaves him with nine officers to patrol the areas from the Montlake Bridge to the south, Magnusen Park to 85th and Aurora to the Aurora Bridge.  Pendergrass reminded Muller and others that the precinct captain is Captain Mike Washburn and that there are monthly meetings where police staffing concerns and crime concerns are discussed.  He will advise his Captain of the concerns that have been raised, but he said it would carry more weight coming from citizens.  All supervisors ask their commanders for more officers, so it's not taken as seriously coming from him.

 

On 12/23, Muller reported that the evening of 12/22 was particularly bad with a lot of noise, extremely loud music, people congregating on the street and on the bench next to the basketball court on the south side of the school.  There were many kids on the school grounds, others hanging out in their cars, and others going to the park then coming back to the front of our house and loitering.  Muller passed along comments from her website:  On 12/22 one neighbor reported that on her early morning walk at the park, she saw evidence of drug abuse at the fire pit, along with empty beer bottles, a can of lighter fluid, an aerosol can of Pledge furniture polish, plastic bags and a big glass jar.  She said these materials are used for “dusting” or “sniffing” by concentrating vapors in a container and inhaling.  She added that computer aerosol “Dust-Off” is another popular abused household chemical.  She suggested this is something that parents talk about with their kids.  Parents may also want to consider eliminating aerosol sprays from their household.

 

Another neighbor reported on 12/23 that a few weeks ago they were awakened to loud knocking on their door at 3 a.m.  A drunk or high young person was passed out on their stoop.  Prior to that night, they have been aware of large numbers of kids congregating in the park, lighting fireworks and running around the neighborhood.

 

On 12/26, Royal Alley-Barnes from the Parks and Recreation Department responded to thank Muller for her stewardship of the park.  She suggested that the police should be involved and that the community meet with school staff to talk about school security monitoring the site.  She “cc”ed her message to the head of Parks Security asking that there be an evening review of the park as well.  She suggested a meeting with the community club to address the inappropriate use of the fire pit.

 

On 12/27, Brian McMullen responded supporting neighbors as the “eyes and the ears” of the police and writing down license plate numbers.  He suggested additional trash cans by the fire pit.  Muller reported that there was another huge and noisy party on this evening with 15 cars parked on her street.  On 12/28, McMullen inquired as to whether the recent violent crimes in the Greek system area might involve some of the same people causing problems at Laurelhurst Park.

 

R.A. Ruidi emailed on 12/28 to suggest that neighbors generate a slate of solutions prior to a meeting, along with the advantages and disadvantages, comparisons, possible costs, etc.  He is afraid that most of the meeting will be devoted to explaining the problems rather than developing productive solutions.  He also suggested a blog for neighbors to communicate about the problem.

 

On 12/28, Cary Pillo suggested it is time to remove the fire pit.  She said kids have vandalized the trees looking for wood to burn.  She added that it is a park activity that is no longer environmentally-friendly as a campfire at any time is polluting.  The pit also has no supervision.

 

On the same day, Dale Sherrow suggested posting the list of license plate numbers on the telephone pole or where the offenders park.  This would let them know someone is watching and interested in who they are.  The posting could note that the license plate numbers have been provided to the police.  Sherrow recognized that the offenders would likely tear down and burn the notices.

 

Diane Horswill, from Seattle Police Department Crime Prevention, responded on 12/29 stating that the teens that gather at Laurelhurst Park are not connected to those who have gathered in Greek Row.  She added that in every case where officers have made contact and gotten identification from those at the park, they have turned out to be local kids or are friends of local kids.  She thinks there may be more parties at the park because the construction project has made it a lot harder for officers to sneak up on the parties so the kids have a good head start in running away.  Weissman passed this information along to neighbors.

 

On 12/30, Muller responded that she does not believe the offenders are neighborhood kids.  She didn’t see how the police could know because most of the time they don’t respond to calls.  She thinks the kids are from Olympia, Renton and other parts as she has asked them.  She noted that the kids are covering our park and the surrounding area with graffiti.  She doesn’t think local kids would do that to their own park.  She thought the group could potentially be a gang.  The backboard of the tennis court is completely covered in graffiti.  The letters "PB" are all over the park and on surrounding signs around the park and on school property and around the school.  She thought the fire pit was attracting dangerous kids and resulting in collateral damage to the park resulting in thousands of dollars in costs.  She supports an immediate solution.  Muller and Weissman have exchanged emails on who the culprits might be.  Sgt. Pendergrass responded on 1/1 that all 911 calls are answered.  He added that effective this week, he is assigning an additional officer to the Laurelhurst area with specific instructions to make the park part of the normal patrol route.  Pendergrass stated that the park is being patrolled regularly.  Muller responded the following day thanking Pendergrass for added police staffing and the explanation about patrols.

 

Muller prepared a flyer about LCC’s 1/08 meeting noting that the North Precinct sergeant and a representative from the Parks Department would be at the meeting.  On 1/04, Karmann Kaplan sent out the information on the flyer to neighbors on her list.  On 1/07, Muller sent LCC the following responses to her flyer.  She also spoke with another neighbor who lives next door to the church on the street behind her.  This person mentioned that there was a very large bonfire the preceding night with speeding on her street, people shouting profanities, trash, etc.  The neighbor said that there were many cars parked along her street and that a few weeks ago high school students had trespassed onto her property, went behind her house and knocked on the back door.  The neighbor and her husband spoke with the high school people and they felt very unsafe.  Residents reported as follows in response to Muller’s flyer: 

·        A neighbor who lives on NE 41st whose house backs up to the park emailed to thank Miriam for the email about problems at the playfield.  She said they deal with a lot of speeding and “catching air” issues come down the hill.  This neighbor has a blind driveway that is unsafe.  This neighbor was critical of LCC for not solving the speeding problems on 41st.

·        Another neighbor who lives on 41st at the “T” of 45th Avenue, responded that they hear a lot of late night activities on the tennis courts during nice weather and get a lot of foot traffic on the path next to their house.  This neighbor reported that many kids congregate in front of their home.  She thought the problems lately might be due to construction at the playfield.  She said that parking on 41st if really bad with the street closed starting at 6:30 a.m. and jackhammers starting at 7 a.m. 

·        The administrator from the Seattle Community Church report the following vandalism:  graffiti etched into glass doors (reported to police), shattered glass on doors. graffiti spray painted around the church (anything from initials, PB to a male reproductive part on a boulder in the back lot), missing wooden church sign that was on NE 45th Street and 45th Avenue NE. (reported to police), missing stop sign at NE 45th Street and 46th Avenue NE (reported to police), beer cans and trash strewn on front lawn, and skateboarding on church courtyard and steps.

·        A resident of 46th Avenue NE noticed the increased action around the community church when arriving home from work around 7:30 p.m.  This resident suggested that the City provide more street lighting in this area of the park to reduce the activity. 

·        Another resident of 46th Ave NE reported that for the last two or three summers and lately, even in the bad weather, the resident has routinely picked up fast food litter across the street from the Community Church near the basketball hoops.  Included in the litter has been boxes of malt liquor bottles, beer cans and other alcohol-related trash.  This past weekend, the neighbor picked up a smashed gin bottle (very good quality!).  A week or so prior to this time, the neighbor cleaned up the fire pit area and picked up beer cans and bottles and an empty bottle of Vanilla vodka.  This neighbor has found boards from the baseball bleachers half burned in the fire pit and large branches from blow down trees dragged over to the fire pit area.  Once during the summer, these neighbors found kids unloading bundles of firewood that can be purchased at local grocery stores.  The following day, while on litter patrol the neighbors found the wood thrown all over the fire pit area, with the usual complement of beer bottles and cans, as well as a $5 bill.  This resident thought that the community center remodeling has created a lack of access and the regular patrolling by police.  When the building is finished, they hope that there will be more lighting to discourage the illegal activities and regular police patrolling, especially on weekends and in the summer and along the corners of the building.  They think that removing the fire pit might take away the meeting place as no place to sit makes the location less inviting.  The neighbor also suggested that the police take photographs of license plate numbers that park at the school and the Community Church on rowdy Friday nights so the police could later talk to car owners.  This information could also be sent to LCC trustee who might recognize some of the cars.  Finally, this neighbor stated that he/she has called the non-emergency police phone line in the past, now believes that it is known that the Playfield is a great place to party without getting caught, and hopes the problem can be solved as summer is coming.

 

On 1/08, R.A. Ruidi provided the following listing of illegal activities at the Playfield to Muller:

·        Illegal entry into a city park after its official closure time

·        Underage drinking

·        Drug usage

·        Disturbing the peace

·        Loitering

·        Littering

·        Trespassing

·        Parking, speeding and other vehicular issues

·        Vandalizing

·        And, more

 

As for solutions, this neighbor suggested that the first line of defense is to promptly call 911.  He said that patrolling may be a deterrent, but backup is necessary for those fleeing the scene.  Youth need to get a strong message that their actions will not be tolerated.  He also thought that there is no compelling reason to have the basketball court on the playground.  This neighbor provided the following list of possible solutions that he said should apply also to Laurelhurst School, its playground and the gym:

 

·        Boost the priority for 911 calls, which should be an automatic response by all residents whenever illegal activities seem begin before they escalate into an emergency.

·        Immediately raze the fire pit.

·        Evaluate other places in and around the park that might be used for congregating and make them "unavailable" for inappropriate uses.

·        Schedule unscheduled patrols of police in squad cars and on-foot in and around the park with a heavier emphasis on Friday and Saturday nights and after 911 calls.

·        Make arrests and widely publicize these actions through the community club, community center, the gym, schools in the vicinity, churches and local businesses.  Those arrested should pay a memorable penalty which should, among other things, require public service. 

·        Impound cars that are known to carry perpetrators and publicize license plates of cars involved.  There are tire locking devices. 

·        Place on ALL adjacent streets "No Parking except by permit after 10 p.m.  There are examples of this near other area parks (i.e., Cowen/Ravenna).

·        Establish block patrols and block captains to coordinate all efforts and to facilitate communication.

·        Accept zero tolerance or we will forever be fighting this.