After nearly 20 years of drug dealing, prostitution, stolen cars, fights and shootings at a West Hill home, the crimes may finally be over.
“We put a ton of resources into it,” said Kent Police Chief Rafael Padilla during his Feb. 18 public safety report to the City Council. “We think we finally got to a point where we are going to be able to remove this problem, hopefully permanently.”
West Hill residents complained during the council’s public comment period on Jan. 7 about the ongoing crime at the house in the 3000 block of South 259th Court, just west of Interstate 5. Residents had met with then-Mayor Suzette Cooke in June 2017 in efforts to solve the problem.
Residents also contacted the Kent Reporter in November 2016 for a story after a drive-by shooting that injured two people inside the home. Police found nearly 70 gun shell casings outside the home after the shooting.
“It’s been a problem for years,” Padilla said. “We put a ton of resources into it.”
Over the last several weeks, the police department’s Special Investigations Unit, Neighborhood Resource Team and others went to work, Padilla said.
“We have had a history of drugs, property crimes and gun violence at that specific residence,” Padilla said. “We made it a priority department-wide and stepped up uniform patrols and looked at what we could do with code enforcement and narcotics investigations. After several weeks of hard work, we were able to make a dent.”
Officers executed a search warrant Feb. 13 at the house for felony theft. Detectives developed a lead that two stolen ecoATM machines (kiosks that disperse cash for old cellphones to recycle) were in the home.
“They are about $25,000 apiece and carry hundreds of dollars in them,” Padilla said. “They weigh about 900 pounds. They are not easy to steal, but people associated with this house did steal them.”
When officers raided the house, however, one man tried to flee in a vehicle. Police managed to stop the vehicle, but not before it hit a tree, fence and carport, Padilla said.
“That person had multiple felony warrants and a long career in violence,” the police chief said. “He is a known pimp to us. He engaged in human trafficking. He is just a bad dude.”
Officers arrested the man on King County Sheriff’s Office warrants for second-degree assault, second-degree unlawful imprisonment domestic violence and unlawful possession of a firearm, according to an email from Padilla. The man also had a prior conviction in 2015 for second-degree promoting prostitution.
Police have raided and made arrests at the home before, even using the Valley SWAT team. But this time, officers found circumstances inside the home that they hadn’t seen in the past.
“It was pretty deplorable conditions,” Padilla said. “Rats, human waste, it was uninhabitable. Now we are looking at code enforcement and working at red tagging the building because it’s not safe to live. We will look to board it up to keep people from going in and then work with the property owner about what to do.”
The owner has had renters in the home for years, including his daughter for several years.
West Hill residents, meanwhile, hope the latest steps finally ends the problem.
“We will see,” one resident said in a phone interview. “Time will tell. I hope they go after the owner.”
That resident said the problems have gone on for 15 to 20 years. They have called 911 and met with police and the mayor to try to stop the crime. They have seen the drug sales. There were 62 calls to 911 about the house in 2016.
“We are thankful they are working on it,” the resident said. “We hope they stay consistent. We can’t wait until it’s all done.”
Padilla said it could be.
“We think we put a stop to it,” he said.