'Catch a Killer' - Seattle PD launches newsy site to fight crime

Jul 2, 2012

The latest version of the Seattle Police Department’s blog shows a department striving to build an online audience with catchy headlines and timely posts.

“We’re looking to do even more,” said department spokesman Detective Mark Jamieson. “The blotter was good. If people were interested that was a place they could go, but ... now we need to go to the next level (be) more like a news site.”

And the numbers suggest it’s paying off: From Nov. 1 to Feb. 29, the department reports traffic to the blog netted 276,000 page views. From March through June, the police blog hit 427,000 pages views. The department also has nearly 19,000 Twitter followers and uses that online site extensively, especially during breaking news events.

And, during the shootings that started at the Cafe Racer on May 30, traffic to the blog hit more than 42,000 page views the day of the shootings, and 36,000 the following day.

Catch a Killer

To help launch the new look, as well as the new bells and whistles, the department published a list of the unsolved murders from the past couple of years in a post called "Catch a Killer."

“This is the first time that we have done something like this. We knew that we were going to do a relaunch, a new look to the blotter and this was something that we could add,” Jamieson said. “We just want to keep it out there in the public eye. If people click on the blotter they might want to take a look through there and if there is something that maybe jogs a memory or or something ... You never know what tip is going to solve that case.”

From the blog post:

This site lists the current, unsolved murders in Seattle since January 2010.

Behind each crime statistic is a victim with a story. We want to keep the memories alive of each person behind the headlines.

We also need your help to find their killers. If you have any information about these cases, please call the Homicide tip line at:  (206) 233-5000.  Help SPD to catch a killer and take them off our streets.

The department also shows a lighter side in a new post about some funny business at the Woodland Park Zoo:

The zoo "became a bit of a circus Sunday morning when a group of clowns showed up for a protest. ... The protesters were at the zoo to discuss the elephant in the room: elephants. Specifically, freeing them."

The current list of homicide victims in unsolved cases:

  • Roommates Franklin Wood and Andis Peterson were both murdered in January 2010 during a home invasion robbery.
  • Arturo Dela Rosa Jr. was shot to death after attending a Quinceanera party at the Center for Wooden Boats hall in South Lake Union on August 21, 2010.
  • Around 2:45 am on September 17, 2010, Johnny Chhonn and his girlfriend awoke to the sound of someone pounding on their bedroom window. When Johnny sat up in bed, several suspects opened fire into Johnny’s room, fatally wounding him. Johnny’s killers then fled.
  • Kaari Higgins was found injured and unconscious inside her home on 44th Avenue SW and SW Concord Street on January 8, 2011. Medics rushed Kaari to Harborview, where she died from her injuries.
  • Zachary Lewis was beaten to death in a vacant lot at 11th Avenue and E. Republican Street on Capitol Hill on March 6, 2011.
  • Don Meyer’s family last saw him on June 16, 2011. Three weeks later, police found some of Don’s remains in a recycling center. Detectives believe Don’s killer gruesomely dismembered him, dumping his remains at two locations: a construction site in Ballard, one block from Don’s home, and in a greenbelt in Eastlake.
  • Demiko Chatman was gunned down on July 26, 2011 as he stepped out of his car near 19th Avenue and E. Fir Street around 4:30 am.
  • On November 15, Danny Vega was attacked, beaten unconscious, and robbed by three men near Martin Luther King Jr. Way and S. Othello Street. Danny made it home after the attack, and his roommate called 911. Medics rushed Danny to Harborview, where he died 12 days later from his injuries.
  • On December 8th, 2011, Francis “Patrick” Fleming was found dead in his apartment, which had been ransacked. He served 20 years in the Navy, and was twice awarded the Purple Heart for injuries he received while serving in Vietnam.
  • Darek Darewski was shot to death several blocks from his Capitol Hill apartment, near Harvard Avenue and E. Olive Street, around 11:20 pm on January 17, 2012.
  • Petty Officer Gregory Anderson was with several other sailors at Club Republiq in SoDo on February 5, 2012 when several of his friends got into a fight. Gregory was struck by gunfire during the incident, and later died at Harborview from his injuries.
  • Desmond Jackson and several friends drove to a nightclub and were standing next to their cars at S. Walker Street and Occidental Avenue S. when they got into a dispute with another group around 3:30 am. Someone in the second group pulled out a gun and opened fire, striking Desmond and another man. Desmond later died at the hospital from his injuries.
  • Gregette Guy’s body was found floating in the water off Beach Drive SW. in West Seattle on March 12, 2012. She had severe wounds to her neck.
  • Around 2 am on April 22, 2012, Nicole Westbrook was walking through Pioneer Square with her boyfriend when a car rolled past, and someone inside opened fire. Nicole was struck by gunfire and died three days later in the hospital, surrounded by her family.
  • Son Le was shot and killed in his home on NE 123rd Street and 11th Avenue NE after he confronted a man who had climbed through his kitchen window just after 1 am on May 27, 2012.
  • A 21-year-old woman was shot to death at a south Seattle party early July 1st, 2012. Around midnight, gunfire erupted erupted the large party, where the woman was shot in the abdomen. She later died at Harborview.

Here’s how the police department explained it’s improved site:

A New Look for the SPD Blotter

Written by Sgt. Sean Whitcomb on July 2, 2012

Spilled coffee, dropped ice cream cones and howls of…approval? These are among the possible outcomes when Seattle residents click on their beloved SPD Blotter and see that it has gone all fancy on them. Yes, there are buttons, windows, tabs and slides. More icons than you can shake a night stick at.

Right now you are probably asking, “why the change?” Well, we’re glad you asked!
We launched the SPD Blotter back in September of 2008. This was the police department’s first foray into the blogosphere and while there have been a few bumps it has generally been a fun ride. We here in the Public Affairs Office enjoy posting crime news and department information. We also know that we can do a better job by delivering more content, more frequently.

So, in the spirit of service to the community and to our friends in the news media, our office has committed to providing even more police information in a variety of different ways. Along with this new look comes a new philosophy: we will make every effort to keep the public informed to the best of our ability. We will do so in ways that are interesting and engaging.

The more public safety information we can share with the community, the greater the likelihood that Seattle residents will make good decisions concerning their safety and property. For instance, if we post about an increase in car prowls, we hope to make residents think twice about leaving a purse or a briefcase in a parked car; if we post a sketch of a dangerous criminal, we hope to generate more tips for our detectives to work from.
Our aim is nothing short of being the go to place for Seattle crime news. Admittedly, we have a long ways to go and there is much to do.  Still, this is a good first step. Drop us a note on Twitter or Facebook and let us know what you think.

As part of the SPD 20/20 – A Vision for the Future reform plan, the SPD Public Affairs Office is responsible for Initiative 17 – Provide Better Information to the Public. The first milestone in this initiative is to develop and implement an integrated news channel to distribute a variety of content in multiple formats including print, video, audio and photo.