For more than a decade, Renton Police officers have found themselves – often daily – at a house on Earlington Avenue Southwest, investigating stolen cars, assaults and recently a drive-by shooting.
The well-organized Earlington Hill neighborhood listens and watches, too, reporting suspicious activity to police.
All that time spent on just one house means that those officers aren’t patrolling other neighborhoods that deserve their attention, according to Renton Police Commander David Leibman.
“It’s just a pervasive source of continual quality-of-life problems,” Leibman said of the three-bedroom house at 370 Earlington Ave. S.W.
People have to be wondering why the police aren’t just shutting this down, he said, and expressed his own frustration that the “place has existed as a pain in the ass for so long.”
“It’s got to be easy: Just go arrest everybody and just get it done,” he said the argument might go. “In reality, it just doesn’t work that way, because of the transitory nature of the people we are dealing with.”
Police arrest someone at the house but the cycle of arrest just continues because other transients show up, he said.
“The core issue really is the occupants of the house who we haven’t actually tied to any criminal activity themselves,” he said, but those who come to the house have those criminal ties.
“So we can keep cutting the head off the dragon,” he said. “But it just grows right back.”
An option the city of Renton could consider its nuisance ordinance, which has been used to resolve issues at other problem properties in Renton. The reports that officers write about the Earlington house, along with citizen complaints about noise, parking and garbage, eventually could become part of the argument to use the ordinance.
They’re already collecting their evidence.
The house is a nuisance, Leibman said, because “it draws transient people all day and all night. That all by itself is a nuisance. It’s a noise nuisance. It’s a parking nuisance. It’s a blight.”
A Renton Reporter public-records request revealed that in the three years preceding Feb. 29, 2016, Renton Police officers have written 27 incident reports on everything from public nuisance, to warrants to assault and recovery of a stolen vehicle.
But those reports don’t include the times every day that officers drive by the house or investigate something suspicious that didn’t generate a police report, according to Leibman.
“We would love to solve this problem,” said Leibman. “It’s taking up way, way too much of our resources and our time already.”
Multiple Renton Police officers converged on the house at about 6 a.m. March 22 after neighbors reported the “pop” of five or six gunshots.
“I am very familiar with the house and have been responding to calls there for the last 12 years,” the officer wrote in his report on the drive-by shooting.
The morning of the drive-by shooting there were at least seven people staying at the house – in the basement, in the garage, in the attic above the garage and on the living-room couch.
Two vehicles were hit by gunfire, including one on a nearby property, but no one was hurt. The gunfire apparently didn’t wake up those in the house.
“Developing a hypothesis of a shooting suspect is difficult, given the sheer number of individuals with criminal backgrounds who regularly go in and out of the victim home,” the officer wrote in the report.
The rap sheet
Here are the police reports for 370 Earlington Ave. S.W. for the past three years:
Source: Renton Police Department
• April 11, 2013, warrants
• April 11, 2013, warrants
• May 23, 2013, theft
• Nov. 4, 2013, warrants
• Dec. 17, 2013, assault
• May 1, 2014, public nuisance
• May 23, 2014, disorderly conduct
• July 27, 2014, sale/possession of stolen property
• Sept. 30, 2014, theft
• Jan. 15, 2015, recovery of stolen vehicle
• Jan. 24, 2015, recovery of stolen vehicle
• Jan. 28, 2015, sale/possession of stolen property
• Feb. 25, 2015, assault, dangerous weapon
• March 7, 2015, warrants
• May 15, 2015, warrants
• July 20, 2015, public nuisance
• Sept. 2, 2015, public nuisance
• Sept. 2, 2015, warrants
• Oct. 7, 2015, suspicious person/situation
• Jan. 4, 2016, suspicious person/situation
• Jan. 8, 2016, recovery of stolen vehicle
• Jan. 24, 2016, warrants
• Jan. 29, 2016, recovery of stolen vehicle
• Feb. 11, 2016, warrants
• Feb. 23, 2016, barking, noise
• Feb. 27, 2016, sale/possession of stolen property
• Feb. 27, 2016, possession of synthetic narcotics