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To catch a predator: Safe City technology combats criminals in Federal Way

Police volunteer Dave Gantt and volunteer Lottie Kinney keep a watchful eye on Federal Way through Safe City cameras. - Courtesy photo
Police volunteer Dave Gantt and volunteer Lottie Kinney keep a watchful eye on Federal Way through Safe City cameras.
— image credit: Courtesy photo

A suspect believed to have sexually harassed two young girls is now in custody, thanks in part to Federal Way's Safe City program.

Federal Way has participated in the Safe City Program since 2007. Initially starting with 16 cameras, the program now has 36 cameras within the city, starting from the downtown core and stretching as far south as 348th Street. A live video feed from Safe City cameras is transmitted to Federal Way police headquarters, the mall substation and police squad cars, allowing law enforcement a real time view of a crime in progress. The cameras also allow police to scout a crime scene before officers are actually on scene.

Federal Way police officer Chris Norman said the suspect in the alleged molesting incidents was spotted by Sears loss prevention officers at The Commons Mall shortly after he posted the suspect’s photo on the Safe City Federal Way list service. The suspect was wearing the same clothes as in pictures taken from previous surveillance.

“It was a real success story for the Safe City program,” Norman said. “We were fortunate to catch him before he committed a more serious crime.”

At approximately 4:30 p.m. July 7, loss prevention officers with Sears saw the suspect. While under video surveillance, the suspect left the store and drove out of the parking lot, according to police. Sears loss prevention officers followed on foot while notifying Federal Way officers stationed at the mall. The suspect, a 40-year-old Federal Way man, was located in Big Lots at 1211 S. 320th St. He was taken into custody and was booked into King County Jail.

The suspect is wanted for two incidents that occurred last month. On June 17, the suspect allegedly touched the chest of a 10-year-old girl at Deseret Industries. On June 29, the man allegedly exposed himself to a 9-year-old girl at the Goodwill store on Pacific Highway.

Norman said the two loss prevention officers on duty at Sears did an exemplary job of helping in the apprehension of the 40-year-old suspect.

“They did a fantastic job. They went above and beyond the call of duty,” he said. “Most loss prevention officers, by choice or store policy, will let suspects go after they leave the store property. These guys, again, went above and beyond by keeping the suspect in sight until our officers were able to deal with him.”

Norman said a strong working relationship between loss prevention officers at The Commons and the three Federal Way police officers regularly stationed there also helped in last Thursday’s arrest of the alleged molester.

“There’s a good rapport between the loss prevention officers and our officers at the mall,” he said.

Outside of its surveillance capabilities, one of Safe City’s biggest assets is the interactive online features that the more than 200 participating members can use, such as the aforementioned list service.

“We’ve had some pretty good successes with that system,” Norman said. “Businesses can post their own alerts on it. So information is posted by Sears, and a loss prevention officer at Lowes can see it and say, ‘Hey, that’s our guy.’ We’ve been able to make good cases that way.”

Safe City was originally introduced as a method to help combat retail and commercial crime that was plaguing the city. For large retail chains such as Wal-Mart or Target, money lost from thefts in their stores can often be in the amount of thousands of dollars in a single incident. Other businesses, such as commercial developers and construction companies, were routinely being robbed because of the expensive equipment and precious metals, such as copper wiring, that they keep on-site.

Learn more

For more information on Safe City, visit www.safecityfw.com.

 

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