Neighborhoods Hire Private Security – Expert Interviewed by Seattle Times

Premises security expert, Donald J. Decker was interviewed by the Seattle Times to discuss the recent trend of homeowners and business people hiring private security patrols to supplement police efforts.

As an expert at Robson Forensic, Mr. Decker is retained on behalf of plaintiffs and defendants to investigate the adequacy of security services as they relate to personal injury litigation and economic loss claims. Don approaches this work with the experience gained in more than thirty-five years as a police officer, security guard, and private investigator.

Seattle neighborhoods hire private security amid ‘blatant lawlessness’

Hundreds of homeowners and business people, frustrated over drug and property crimes, are hiring their own security patrols to curb what they see as a long-neglected problem.

By Jessica Lee

Seattle Times staff reporter

For Angie Gerrald, crime in Seattle’s Ballard neighborhood has reached a new low. From illegally parked RVs to open drug deals, the longtime resident sees piles of used needles on her routine runs, she said, and other problems she says police sometimes ignore.

“The blatant lawlessness has been a whole new era” this past year, Gerrald said. “There is so little response — so little they [police] can and will do about it.”

Hundreds of residents in Ballard, Queen Anne, Magnolia and Fremont share Gerrald’s frustration over crime and police response near their homes and businesses, and it’s sparked a citizen-led movement to improve surveillance. They cite incidents of burglaries, thefts and illegal drug use over the past year, for instance — crimes they believe are rising with the city’s growth.

Crime data support their complaints, to some extent. Since 2010, police have seen an increase in property-related incidents in Ballard, Queen Anne and Magnolia, though 2015 saw no spikes in such reports, according to the police department’s online crime dashboard. Those crimes include burglaries, larceny and motor-vehicle thefts.

According to a preliminary analysis of data for all crimes citywide, authorities estimate a 10 percent decrease in 2015, though they’re still tabulating final numbers, Seattle police spokesman Sgt. Sean Whitcomb said.

Some city officials and residents believe complaints on social media about crime also may be fueling concerns. Regardless, a handful of Seattle neighborhoods are taking crime prevention into their own hands by hiring extra security patrols in the form of off-duty police officers or private security personnel.

Magnolia launched its own patrol program in December, the latest Seattle neighborhood to organize and pay for extra security, and now some Queen Anne residents are making plans to start a program.

... [abridged, read the full version at Seattle Times]

Donald Decker, an expert in police and security with Robson Forensic, said it’s common nationwide for communities to hire additional security personnel, and they should be properly trained, licensed and adept at dealing with people.

The most important factor to consider with such personnel is their limited use of force; they have no more rights than a private citizen, he said. Washington law defines security guards’ license and training requirements, as well as penalties they face for unprofessional conduct.

“Uniformed presence of security is one of the best crime measures someone could have,” Decker said. “There are many reasons why people are hiring, including not enough personnel in the police department to do what the population they are trying to protect wants them to do.”

Seattle Times staff reporter Daniel Beekman contributed to this report. Jessica Lee: 206-464-2532 or

Police Practices & Security Practice

Many of our forensic experts in this practice are former law enforcement officers. With roots in the Federal Bureau of Investigation as well as local and state police departments, our experts have received the highest levels of training and have done the work at every level of law enforcement. Our forensic experts are often tasked with reviewing crime scenes and evidence, as well as the actions of police, forensic investigators, and security professionals.

For more information visit our Police Practices & Security practice page.

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