Kent Police expect a new substation on Pacific Highway South to help reduce robberies, prostitution, drug deals and other crimes on the West Hill.
The police substation, a small office with limited services, is slated to open next week in the Woodmont Shopping Center, 26226 Pacific Highway S. City officials are planning an open house from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, May 10.
“We feel it will be beneficial to have officers at a substation right in a high crime area,” said Kent Police Lt. Ken Thomas, who oversees the Neighborhood Response Team for the West Hill, East Hill and the Valley. “Our philosophy is to get the officers in the community to be more visible and to work with neighborhoods to combat crime.”
The City Council on April 15 approved a 36-month, rent-free lease for a 1,174-square-foot office with Rainier Pacific Management, the property manager of the Woodmont Shopping Center. The management company agreed to not charge rent with the hope that the police presence at the strip mall will reduce crime.
“We’re trying to help clean up the area,” said Diane Frias, the Woodmont Shopping Center property manager for Rainier Pacific. “It would make it better for the whole community to get rid of the drug dealers and the prostitutes. It will help us out and the community to have a substation right there out in the open.”
Kent Police currently cover the West Hill out of an office at the Kent Fire Department station at 26512 Military Road S.
The new substation will open at a place where a couple of armed robberies occurred last winter and where drug deals and prostitution are regular activities.
“If patrol cars are in the parking lot, prostitutes are not going to bring their johns into the lot or a vacant lot behind the businesses where a lot of transactions occur now,” Thomas said. “It will not solve the prostitution problem, but it will give us more police presence and make their business more difficult.”
The shopping center features a Rite Aid drugstore and numerous smaller businesses from a dry cleaners to a loan mart. A former Albertson’s grocery store remains vacant at the strip mall.
“We hope it will help bring in more businesses to the shopping center and make it safer for everybody,” Frias said.
Frias contacted the Kent Police earlier this year to seek ways to combat crime at the shopping center. Thomas visited the center, and when he noticed vacant spaces, asked if Frias thought it might benefit the the retail area if the police opened a substation at the mall.
The office will be used 24 hours by as many as two to four West Hill patrol officers. Officers will file crime reports at the office.
The public will be welcome at the station if officers are present.
When the office is closed, a sign on the door will alert residents who need emergency help to call 911 at a pay phone outside the Rite Aid store.
Contact Steve Hunter at 253-872-6600, ext. 5052 or firstname.lastname@example.org.