Small-business owners in the Wallingford neighborhood have decided they are no longer going to take the recent rash of break-ins lying down. Rather than wait for the city to make a move, they tackled the problem at a Wallingford Chamber of Commerce-sponsored forum last Wednesday, Nov. 15.
At the University House in Wallingford, local business owners discussed how best to protect themselves from robbery and tagging and how to protect their properties from intruders.
The biggest issue for all of them was public safety.
In September, six small businesses were the target of robberies, in which $2,544 and a laptop computer were stolen.
In the four districts of the North Precinct that make up the Wallingford area, 57 commercial burglaries have been reported this year through September, according to the Seattle Police Department. With three months yet to be reported, this year's total is predicted to top last year's total of 67.
The areas near Wallingford Avenue and North 45th Street - the same location as the six businesses victimized last September - have accounted for 30 reports, more than half the total number.
"We need to watch out for each other better," said Kara Ceriello, Wallingford Chamber of Commerce co-president and co-owner of one of the burglarized businesses . "We need to get to know each other better."
A 'psychological game'
For Dan Newman, owner of Bella Cosa Foods, the only way to do that is by getting more police in the area.
"No police cruisers come down the Wallingford area," he said. "It's an insulting pacifier for adults to say that [the City Council] is increasing the police force, when they are not."
Beefing up the precinct may not be a possibility. There is a need, however, with the department nearly 260 officers short of full strength, according to a Seattle City Council press release. But after lobbying for months to increase the number of officers in the city, the council found room in the budget for just 31 new officers in 2007.
Diane Horswill, head of crime prevention for the North Precinct, had some other suggestions for owners to protect their businesses.
Because most of the robberies that occur are nonviolent, these crimes do not find their way atop the list of priorities of a police force that is grossly understaffed, she said.
Instead, owners can go a long way toward protecting their businesses by improving the physical structure of their buildings.
Many of the recent break-ins were the result of broken locks. Horswill explained that regular locks are easy to remove, but there are ways to reinforce the mechanisms.
She also recommended commercial-quality deadbolts and reinforcing the doorframe of the main entrance, as well as the back one. For the most part, criminals will be deterred only by owners making an effort to stop them, she said.
"We are playing a psychological game," Horswill said. "I know criminals. They are not the smartest people, and if they get something, they are coming back."
Also present was Carol Meyer, an alarm specialist from ADT. As an employee in that field for several years, she said the best way business owners could protect their livelihoods was to invest in an alarm. For about $30 a month, they would have around-the-clock surveillance and protection.
She also said it was very important to get an audible alarm to deter the thieves, adding that alarms are meant to scare away criminals, not catch them.
A sign-up sheet for a neighborhood watch through e-mail was passed around at the forum.
Ceriello also said a second forum, focusing on security for women, is planned for February or March.
For more information, contact the Wallingford Chamber of Commerce at chamber.iactive site.com/page.aspx. Or pick up a Safety and Security Tips information sheet at Not A Number Cards & Gifts, 1905 N. 45th St.