Kent Police arrested four teens as part of a crackdown on crime near Springwood Park on the East Hill and continue to work with managers of the nearby Birch Creek Apartments and Safeway strip mall to make the neighborhood safer.
“This is not to say there is not a lot of work to be done still, but we are engaged and working,” Kent Police Chief Rafael Padilla told the City Council at its July 16 meeting.
Police and city officials promised to take action after residents complained at a July 2 council meeting and through emails about carjackings, shootings and drug dealing near homes in the 12700 block of Southeast 274th Street.
Three of the teens were arrested for investigation of vehicle theft, including an 18-year-old Kent man and boys ages 14 and 16 from Tukwila, according to an email from Assistant Chief Jarod Kasner.
The fourth suspect is a 16-year-old Tukwila boy arrested for investigation of vehicular homicide after a head-on crash June 30 along Canyon Drive that killed a 13-year-old girl who was a passenger in his car.
“We are making significant process in apprehending some of the criminals responsible for this violence,” Padilla said. “A group has been on a tear of multiple vehicle thefts, armed robberies and shootings.
“We have identified seven, four are in custody and the other three are known and we are moving to apprehend them. Hopefully, by next month I can report that we have all seven.”
Police received a strong lead on the teens after the arrest of the boy for investigation of vehicular homicide. A teen who knows that boy told police about how they were part of the June 29 burglary at Manheim Seattle Auction parking lot in the 19700 block of 77th Avenue South, according to charging papers against the boy in the vehicular homicide investigation.
When officers responded to the incident at the auction car lot, 17 vehicles were severely damaged, the fence was smashed and eight vehicles were stolen. A security video recorded eight male suspects ages 13 to 18 stealing the vehicles.
In addition to the arrests, Padilla said he and Mayor Dana Ralph met with the King County Housing Authority director about steps to make Birch Creek Apartments safer. Enhanced security and possible ways to make access to the apartments tougher for nonresidents are a couple of potential answers.
Police also have met with the property owners of the Safeway shopping complex about installing more video cameras, hiring more security and cutting back landscaping (bushes to hide behind) to deter crime.
“There is no doubt the recent shooting intensified our efforts and the timelines of our efforts,” Padilla said. “But we were working on a lot of things prior.”
Police also added a couple of bicycle officers in the Springwood Park area and increased street patrols. Police also are working to establish Block Watch programs at Birch Creek and nearby neighborhoods to make the streets safer.