Unincorporated communities around Covington use technology to deter crime

As budgets for law enforcement agencies tighten, many unincorporated neighborhoods have turned to creative methods to deter crime.

As budgets for law enforcement agencies tighten, many unincorporated neighborhoods have turned to creative methods to deter crime.

In the Remington neighborhood, located south of Covington, when suspicious looking vehicles are seen idly sitting outside a home or off the street, residents can send a text which goes out to neighbors on the list to determine if anyone knows who it is.

Having been previously trained, they know what to observe and notice, such as the vehicle’s license plate, color, make and model, as well as any other distinct attributes.

Or, they simply walk up to the person in the vehicle and ask, “Can I help you?”

Remington, along with Lake Morton, Winterwood, Sawyer’s Grove and Lake Morton Estate, is a section of unincorporated King County south of 272nd Street Southeast residents such as Kathy Gendreau say have had problems with petty crimes, such as burglary theft, which started around two years ago.

According to Gendreau, the Sheriff’s Office formed a special emphasis team to crack down on the thefts that met with initial success.

“That made a huge impact,” she said. “They arrested a few, scared the rest away.”

According to Randy Sorge, head of the Remington Home Owner’s Association crime prevention committee, much has changed since then.

Before, residents would dismiss suspicious activity, such as grown men wearing hoodies while carrying leaf blowers on BMX bicycles.

Now, however, through a combination of education and strong communication with King County deputies, they are able to pick up on potentially illegal activity, such as a teenager carrying a backpack with a hoodie over his head on a sunny day.

“It might be harmless, but what kid carries a backpack on Saturday or at 2 p.m. during a weekday, when they should be at school?” Gendreau said.

Before, when a crime occurred, many residents simply did not report it, as it usually involved petty theft of less than $1,000.

This, Gendreau said, created two problems. One, it did not give the Sheriff’s Office an accurate reflection of the true crime statistics. Additionally, if the items were later recovered during an arrest when issuing a search warrant, the culprit couldn’t be charged because no theft had been reported.

Now, Gendreau said more and more residents report the incidents immediately. Remington Crime Watch Group, an exclusive online group forum moderated by Gendreau, allows residents to inform the neighborhood whenever something occurs.

They can report incidents to crimereports.com, which the King County Sheriff’s Office has linked to their website. They have also improved communication with each other,

“Before, it wasn’t unusual to see a vehicle in someone’s yard and not think anything of it,” Sorge said. “Now, we have a community that looks after their neighbors, that report suspicious activity and deters crime.”

Gendreau said they have also built up a good relationship with the deputies who patrol the area.

“They have been attentive, really committed with residents,” she said. “They’ve done very positive things when they’re there. We’ve all been pleased.”

One of the problems they’ve encountered, Gendreau said, is not only is the area big for the deputies to patrol, but because the crimes are non-violent and involve lower value items, they are not a high priority.

Additionally, residents like Sorge and Gendreau feel that crimes committed in unincorporated areas are given less attention than similar crimes committed in cities.

King County Sheriff Sue Rahr seemed to affirm this in 2011 when she explained at a meeting why the County Council decided to cut funding out of the Sheriff’s Office budget that led to the closure of the precinct station in Maple Valley.

“There is a strong belief on the council that those who live in rural areas have chosen a rural area quality of service,” Rahr said at the meeting. “It’s not something that can be defended, but it’s the reality.”

In addition to a crime prevention committee and a newsletter, the neighborhood also held its first National Night Out event at Remington Park in August.

Despite the measures taken, the community continues to deal with short bursts of crime.

According to statistics provided by Gendreau, within a two week period in October there were nine burglaries in a two square mile area alone.

“We’re shedding our own light on it,” Gendreau said.

As the holiday season approaches, Sorge said residents are afraid their packages will get stolen, something that has happened in the years prior. Recently, stolen packages have been reported to the Remington Crime Watch group.

“People are getting scared,” he said. “They should be.”

Even though the crimes are not serious in nature, Gendreau said such intrusions rob the neighborhood of its tranquility, which is more important than whatever is actually stolen.

“It’s not huge to King County, but to the people — they’ve stolen their peace of mind and sense of security,” she said. “You can’t get it from your insurance plan.”