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Seattle businesses band together to combat spike in crime

SEATTLE - Crime spikes this time of year all across Puget Sound, especially with criminals stealing from homes and businesses.

Crime victims pay the price not only financially but the criminals also take their sense of security.

Now a local group of businesses are taking steps to keep crime away from their stores, shops and keep their neighborhoods safe too.

Hundreds of businesses call the west Seattle junction home, from retail and restaurants to small coffee shops.

“We don’t just own the businesses, often times we live in those same neighborhoods that we own businesses in,” said Angela Cough, owner of Hotwire Coffee in West Seattle.

Today, she’s putting up signs letting the community know she’s joined the junction Business Block Watch in West Seattle.

“We’ve had issues here at our location with milk theft,” said Cough and added that she’s noticed the swelling population of the junction has brought with it more aggressive criminal behavior.

“We’ve actually had people jump the fence to get into the back and they’ve actually used bolt cutters to get into our fridges to take our  milk,” said Cough.

She says in the last couple of months, she’s invested $3,000 in upgraded security.

“I think one of the hardest things is when a crime happens to you, you don’t feel like there is a pathway other than SPD,” said Lora Radford, executive director with the Junction Business Association.

About 300 businesses call the West Seattle Junction home. The business association and the Seattle Police Department collaborated to create the city’s first Business Block Watch. It allows business owners to immediately alert each other by text and electronic messaging of crime that just happened and to stay on the lookout.

“And what we can do if we’re connecting the dots enough, maybe, just maybe, we catch the criminal,” said Radford.

Crime prevention coordinator for the Seattle Police Department, Jennifer Danner, says there’s only so much her small unit can do.

“The crime prevention unit used to be much larger, now there is only five of us in our unit for the whole city,” said Danner.

She says crime here has gone up, and since SPD prioritizes response based on threat level, the block watch is a way for the community to take crime prevention into their own hands.

For Cough, she says it makes her feel safer as a business owner and as a resident.

“The more we can watch each other’s backs, and make sure we’re monitoring about what’s going on the better we will feel about the changes as the city grows and evolves,” said Cough.

Danner says every day more businesses are joining the business block watch. She says she does a security assessment with each business owner who joins the block watch and says if the program is successful in West Seattle, SPD plans to expand it to other parts of the city.