A story in Financial Advisor about the Seattle wealthy caught my eye yesterday and spurred me to do some research. The gist of the story is that Seattle suffers the top property crime rate in the country and that certain wealthy neighborhoods have taken to hiring a force of off-duty police officers and private security guards to watch over their neighborhood.
After Seattle Times columnist Danny Westneat wrote about how the police largely disregarded his family's repeated calls about car thieves in his neighborhood, a resident of the city’s tony Laurelhurst section dropped him a note.Knowing that Seattle and King County provided the base of supported for Washington State's I-594 gun control initiative, I wondered how these areas voted. Did they jump on the gun control bandwagon along with the majority of Seattle residents? Moreover, how much money did residents of the area donate to the gun control front group Washington Alliance for Gun Responsibility?
"I bet if you had been in Laurelhurst, somebody would have come," the reader wrote. "Your mistake was being in a regular part of town."
Turns out that Laurelhurst, the neighborhood where Bill Gates was born and lived until about 1994, isn't completely satisfied with its police protection, either. In fact, it has hired its own security force.
Exasperated with a spate of car break-ins, the neighborhood adopted its strategy from Windermere, an even more exclusive neighborhood directly north, where homeowners pay an annual $575 fee that mostly goes toward having off-duty police and private security guards patrol year-round.
Seattle has the top property crime rate in the country, the Seattle Times reported recently. It’s more than double the Boston area's rate and almost one-third higher than the rate for the Denver area.
Laurelhurst's security force consists of off-duty policemen who keep the neighborhood under surveillance six nights per week in five-hour shifts, and also conduct foot patrols when residents are on vacation. One of the city's off-duty bicycle cops also rides around the neighborhood during the day—something that helps with the now ubiquitous package theft that appears to be a result of faux dog walkers following UPS trucks to their delivery destinations.
Although the off-duty cops wear their official uniforms and carry police radios and firearms, they drive their personal—that is, unmarked—cars. They monitor incoming 911 calls and work with on-duty police officers if there’s an incident.
"We don't expect them to catch people," says Brian McMullen, who sits on the neighborhood council and helps oversee the crime program. "We view it as a deterrent."
Let's take the last question first. Residents in these neighborhoods live in the 98105 zip code. Donations to the Washington Alliance for Gun Responsibility totaled $179,305. Donors included Bill Gates, Sr. who gave $500. That $500 contribution by one individual was more than all the donations to the pro-gun group Protect Our Gun Rights combined. Those donations totaled a mere $335. Put in relative terms, pro-gun contributions totaled two-tenths of one percent of the amount donated to the anti-gun forces.
Overall, the vote for I-594 in King County was 74.99% in favor and 25.01% opposed. Statewide, the numbers were 59.27% in favor with 40.73 opposed to more gun control.
So how did the two neighborhoods, Laurelhurst and Windermere, vote? It took some doing but I was able to identify the relevant voting precincts from the election district maps and pull the data from eCanvass file.
Windermere's eight precincts had a total of 2,101 people vote in I-594 contest. Of these, 1,856 voted yes on I-594. That 88.3% is significantly higher percentage than King County as a whole.
Laurelhurst's 11 precincts went even higher in their support of I-594. 2,181 or 89.1% of the 2,448 votes cast on the initiative were in favor of it.
I guess if you are sitting in your (multi) million dollar home in Laurelhurst or Windermere with security provided by off-duty police, you don't really worry how the riff-raff provides for their security. You are protected and they can pretty much go to hell for all you care. So what if it is harder for them to get the tools to protect themselves and their families. You got yours and that is all that matters.