With property crimes on the rise, Magnolia residents willing to pay for private patrols

SEATTLE -- Residents in one Seattle neighborhood are fed up with the rise in home burglaries and car break-ins. They say the police don’t have enough officers to patrol their streets, so they’re considering hiring private security officers.

John Johnson has only lived in Magnolia a few months. But he’s already been the victim of crime twice.

“Last week, I left my car unlocked and it was ransacked and gone through and they emptied everything out,” he says. “They didn’t get anything of value.”

But Thursday night, he wasn’t so lucky.

“The back window was completely busted out, and in the back was a computer bag which contained a computer.”

He found out later, a neighbor’s car was also broken into.

“It seems like we have a little crime wave going on here, and it seems to be escalating more and more.”

Joe Villarino has also noticed the problem.

“My sister got her car stolen, twice in one year.”

That’s why this weekend, he organized a meeting with some of his neighbors to see if they’d be interested in paying off-duty officers to patrol their streets.

“A lot of communities and companies are hiring off-duty police officers to supplement their security needs,” says Andrew Finley, a retired officer who now runs Cops for Hire. “Because they can’t expect a lot of officers to show up on a moment’s notice, because you have a property crime. There are a lot of felonies going on out there that are priority calls.”

Steven Smalley, a reporter for Magnolia Voice, thinks private security patrols could make a difference.

“They have them in three Seattle neighborhoods now, and those neighborhoods are saying their crime is way down.”

Villarino says it wouldn’t cost that much.

“$20 a month, that’s maybe five cups of coffee,” he says. “I think everybody here can afford it. I don’t think it’s that much.”

Johnson says if his neighbors decide to hire officers, he’ll go along. Because he says $250 a year would be cheaper than paying to replace more broken windows.

The homeowners will be meeting again this week to form a board and figure out how to collect dues. They’re hoping to start patrols by at least May 1.