White Center sees crime drop during emphasis patrols

KING COUNTY, Wash.— You’ll see more Seattle Police officers in high-crime areas during this month’s emphasis patrols.

We’re seeing a similar approach in King County that started in April. White Center is part of unincorporated King County between West Seattle and Burien.

It has a history of being crime-ridden.  Recent violent crime there has made headlines putting the spotlight back on the area.

In White Center, 16th Avenue Southwest is a whole new world with new shops and restaurants opening up.  King County Sheriff’s Office crime stats are going down, according to Precinct Major Bryan Howard.

“I have 28 years in, and the community is much safer. It's more family-friendly. It’s not as edgy or gritty as it used to be,” said Howard.

The crime stats are a bit hard to believe for longtime White Center landlord Roland Smith.

“Maybe there’s not a whole lot more crime but people are being emboldened as far as what they do,” he said.

Just like the bold burglars who came into Smith’s next-door neighbor’s house in late April, that neighbor didn’t face charges.  He told Q13 News he wants to see more cops do something about the drug addicts he says live in the neighborhood and commit crimes to feed their habits.

“Methamphetamines are pretty prevalent,” said Smith.

Maj. Howard with King County Sheriff’s Office says they’re listening.  They even started emphasis patrols in April to last through the summer.

“For our emphasis, we’re putting two officers together for officer safety and community safety.  Additional officers, we bring in on overtime to patrol and prevent detect or apprehend violent criminals,” said Howard.

There are two deputies who patrol and respond to 911 calls along with community police officers.

“We have a community crime prevention deputy, often referred to as a storefront deputy, that’s positioned right in downtown White Center.  We also have another community crime prevention deputy that’s paid for by King County Public Housing that works in the housing neighborhoods. On top of that, we have a school resource officer and a community service officer,” said Howard.

The King County Sheriff’s Office says Israel Ramos-Islas pretended to be an Uber driver and rape a woman in Seattle; not in White Center like investigators originally thought.  He then dropped her off back home in White Center.

Those bad headlines involving White Center put the area back under a negative spotlight.  It’s something Howard says they’ll continue to fight against.

“The foot traffic or bicycle cops and there’s a nice beltway with a pathway across it and that tends to be a hangout and if they cruise that would help,” said Smith.

Smith says he’s seen more patrol cars going through the neighborhood and he hopes focusing on the bad element will make the community safer.

“They’re right on it at least from what I can tell,” said Smith.