Home burglaries spiked in December, SeaTac police chief reports

Daytime, forced-entry house burglaries suddenly spiked in December around the region, SeaTac Police Chief James Graddon reported to City Council members on Jan. 22.

Graddon is King County Sheriff's Office commander for Precinct 4, which includes SeaTac, Burien and North Highline. SeaTac and Burien contract with the county for police services.

Burglary rates have come down a little bit in January, he noted.

Graddon said the burglars are using items found outside residences to smash windows or pry open doors to get inside.

Once inside, burglars snatch small items such as laptop computers or jewelry, according to Graddon. Since the stolen items are so portable, the thieves can get away on foot without needing a vehicle.

Graddon suspects many of the burglars are transients.

He advised victims to check places like Craig’s List to see if their stolen items turn up for sale.

Councilmember Pam Fernald said she had been told burglars often come back to a residence after the stolen items have been replaced. Graddon said that some times happens but is not a common occurrence.

The police chief also said the city is seeing an increase in commercial burglaries, namely from coin-operated machines in apartment laundry rooms.

“One arrest could make a lot of difference,” Graddon noted. “If we catch the coin-operation burglar, that could make a 70 percent difference (in commercial burglary rates.)”

“Just because we are having more burglaries doesn’t mean SeaTac has more burglars,” Mayor Tony Anderson emphasized.

Graddon said officers are doing more targeted patrols. The department’s special emphasis team could also be shifted to work on the burglaries, he said.

The department is also working closely with block watch groups. There are, at least, 20 block watch organizations in SeaTac.

He will also be asking public works employees to be watchful while in the field, Graddon said.

The police chief encouraged residents to call the police department if they see suspicious activity.

At a crime prevention meeting last fall, SeaTac Police Officer Rich Rowe had several tips for residents.

He said the biggest deterrent to neighborhood crime is getting to know neighbors and when they are at work or on vacation.

Rowe said just being waved at might make a potential burglar nervous enough to leave the neighborhood.

To be effective, home alarm systems must be loud enough for neighbors to hear and hidden where burglars cannot quickly disable them, according to Rowe.

On Jan. 22, Chief Graddon warned that home surveillance cameras must be sophisticated enough to provide clear photos as evidence.

Rowe estimated an effective video camera system costs at least $5,000.

The officer urged residents “to look at your house like a burglar would.”

Look at probable entry points such as the front door, windows or sliding glass doors. Determine if bushes are hiding the entrances from being seen by neighbors, Rowe said. Also check lighting.

Rowe said burglars normally head immediately for the bedroom or office where they know electronics and other valuables are kept.

“(Burglars) won’t back up a U-Haul to your house and take everything,” Rowe declared. “They will just grab and go,”

He said burglars will often knock on the door to see if anyone is home before breaking in. He warned residents to indicate they are home even if they don’t go to the door.

Residents should also put identifying numbers on their valuables and keep photos and serial numbers, Rowe advised.

Rowe said residents should not leave GPS systems or other valuables in their vehicles. Rowe also suggested installation of a steering wheel locking device, especially for car models that are often stolen.

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