By Jack Mayne
Mail box thefts continue to be a problem in Burien, and Police Chief Ted Boe told the City Council that the issue continues and the city partnered with postal inspectors last week by putting out “bate packages” last week.
The Council also heard of plans to systematically open closed businesses, also telling of ways to slow the return to normal business if the pandemic or its effects increase.
Tracker to catch violators
In a report to the council, the police chief said they found packages that appeared normal but have an electronic GPS tracker inside that can be used to locate, and Boe said the city had “success with that” in the past week.
Boe added that undercover detectives located stolen cars that led to a search warrant where there were 1,500 pieces of mail containing issues of fraud, identification information, checks, Social Security cards, passports and drugs amongst other items. In one incident police seized four guns with serial numbers removed which people do when they commit crimes with them.
The chief said that an officer found a suspicious vehicle in a city park and found the occupants with a firearm. “They were convicted felons that were arrested.” Then officers found the car with stolen items from a Burien location the evening before “and we were able to return that property to a business owner.” He told Councilmembers police are focusing on crime involving small businesses that are closed to make sure people know the police are in the area.
Boe said that police have had “amazing success finding supportive temporary housing for some of our most vulnerable residents over the course of the last couple of weeks.”
Many have come together to help alleviate homelessness, he said, and increasing efforts on gang activities in the city.
There has been a trending up of domestic violence cases in the city since the pandemic, Boe said, adding there also was a spike in commercial burglaries after the pandemic but the burglary incidents have gone back down. Residential burglaries actually were trending down in March but during first part of April there were spikes upward.
He said there was an increase in aggravated assaults during March and April.
In general, the trend is up at points, but not at the great level some have implied in recent weeks.
City Attorney Garmon Newsom said the governor’s new orders as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic will allow existing construction to resume, but not new construction. All of the social distancing rules and other such rules have to be followed, he said, and the state Department of Labor and Industries is responsible for enforcing distancing rules and for safety rules normally in place. The city has no role in enforcing the pandemic rules.
Newsom said if cleaning regulations are not followed or surfaces disinfected property, the site can be shut down by the state.
Public complaints should be made the the Washington Department of Labor and Industries (L&I in the vernacular).
Community and civic activities and social gatherings “beyond the household unit” in general are still prohibited, Newsom said, noting that social activities could be curtailed if not kept under the social distancing standards.
“It is possible to have a drive-in spiritual service for one household per vehicle,” Newsom said. “Before last week, you couldn’t do that at all; evidently you can do a drive-in spiritual service.”
Only essential travel is permitted, he told the Council.
Car washes and vehicle sales are permitted but only if there is curbside delivery of the services. Newsom also said the city can keep closed parks, land and trails if needed for health locally. He added that the governor said he may reinstate restrictions if COVID-19 sufferers increase.
’Safe Start Washington’
On Monday afternoon, Newsom said, the city received the “Safe Start Washington” notice which is a “phased start to recovery.” There may be more instructions later as situations develop. What was permitted as of Tuesday, May 5 is existing construction that meets criteria, such as landscaping, sale of automobiles, RVs, and boats, car washes and dog walkers.
Each phase will be three weeks long — perhaps longer in some cases, said Newsom. At the end of a phase, the state makes a determination to either remain longer in that phase or, go back to a previous phase or advance to a new one.
“There is no guarantee that in three weeks we will be moving forward to the next phase,” he told Council.
Businesses are not allowed to open until they meet the state criteria on specific types of businesses.
“We are better served, or best served, by directing people to go to state Labor and Industries or the state attorney general’s office if there are needs to be addressed,” said Newsom, because the city enforcement authority of it is limited.
Chris Craig, the city’s economic development manager, said the city is now in phase one of the governor’s opening in phases plan. There are a total four phases to complete reopening.