Photo courtesy of Paula Mueller: Queen Anne block watch captains are working to form a Queen Anne Block Watch Network.
Photo courtesy of Paula Mueller: Queen Anne block watch captains are working to form a Queen Anne Block Watch Network.

Many hands make light work, and many eyes make safer communities. Queen Anne has had block watches spread around the neighborhood for decades, but now an effort is underway to band together to create a communication and resource network greater than the sum of its parts.

Amy Carlson has lived in Queen Anne for 35 years, and back then her block watch simply covered a square block. Then neighbors to the east and south wanted to join, and the block watch grew. One day she met Patricia Drummond, a block watch captain to the north of her coverage area.

“We decided we’d sort of share information back and forth, and she was added,” Carlson said of the small communications network she’d created with her co-captain Betty Lucas.

Paula Mueller, who lives with her husband on Smith Street, would read about crime incidents on Nextdoor or local media, but felt it wasn’t timely. She wanted to share real-time information that could benefit her own block, such as if there was a spate of vehicle prowls three blocks away, so her neighbors could take precautions.

“Block watch has always been a pretty grassroots endeavor,” Mueller said. “It’s always been about know your neighbors and watch out for each other.”

When Carlson met Mueller, she added her to her small network, followed by Robert Kettle, who chaired the Queen Anne Community Council’s Public Safety Committee from 2015-17.

“I don’t force it, but I pretty much have everyone on my block,” Kettle said.

If someone moves into a home in Carlson’s territory, they can expect a visit and to be added to the block watch distribution list.

“We feel it’s really important,” she said.

While block watches are usually tapped into their respective police precincts and community police team, the Seattle Police Department doesn’t share information between them.

But West Precinct Crime Prevention coordinator Barb Biondo did share an invitation with block watch captains about the developing Queen Anne Block Watch Network. Mueller said Biondo also connected them with the West Seattle Block Captains Network, which provided a decade of experience to help in creating one of their own.

The Queen Anne Block Watch Network launched with 18 block captain last November, and will have its first outreach meeting 7-8:30 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 12, at Queen Anne Manor, 100 Crockett St.

Biondo will provide an introduction to block watches for those currently without one, and Frank Gall will provide an introduction to emergency preparedness. Gall is with the Magnolia Interbay Queen Anne Disaster Response group. Learn more at MIQABePrepared.org.

Mueller said the Queen Anne Block Watch Network will work best if it’s kept to block watch captains, who would be able to distribute shared information through their own block watch channels. The West Seattle Block Captains Network has monthly meetings where the police precinct captain shares crime stats and guest speakers address various public safety topics.

“I see that in our future,” Kettle said.

Queen Anne predominantly experiences issues surrounding property crimes, Kettle said, but Lower Queen Anne does have the occasional firearm report. Part of the problem is that people don’t always report crimes and data isn’t accurate. He said he’s frustrated that SPD’s online reporting system is not connected to the 911 system, and an understaffed police force needs the benefit of better data sets.

Carlson said “The Big One” is also coming, referring to a major earthquake in the Cascadia Subduction Zone expected to hit the region within the next 50 years, which many neighborhoods and groups are now addressing more proactively. The Office of Emergency Management has made it clear many times over that a large-scale earthquake will likely mean residents will be on their own for several weeks or months.

This falls under public safety, Mueller said, and the Queen Anne Block Watch Network can also address emergency preparedness in the face of such a catastrophic natural event.

“It doesn’t have to be a crime issue,” she said, “it can be any kind of safety issue.”

Kettle said there was a house fire across the street from him recently, and it was neighbors who sprang into action to save an elderly couple and their dog; the cat got out on its own. A doctor living in the neighborhood attended to the couple. That’s the benefit of a block watch, he said.

“It creates a community, and you get to know who’s who,” Kettle said.

Mueller said block watches have brought neighbors together for other public safety issues, such as signing petitions and writing letters requesting crosswalks, stop signs and other infrastructure and city support.