Oct 04 2022

Security issues at Shilshole Marina

Published by at 4:34 pm under Liveaboard Topics

(Warning-long read)


Crime has been increasing in the surrounding Seattle area. Property crime increased by 9% from 2020 to 2021, while violent crime increased by 20%(1). 2022 is trending toward a greater increase overall.
So far in 2022 at Shilshole Marina, there have been 92 incidents reported to the Port of Seattle Police. Of those, there were 9 vehicle thefts, and 25 prowls and thefts that resulted in damage and loss. 26 confirmed suspicious activities and 10 mental health issues. The remaining reported incidents consisted of, 3 hit and runs, assault, vandalism, intoxicated subjects, boat incidents, and various other issues. There were many other incidents that occurred around the marina that were unfortunately not reported and weren’t included in the crime stats.
Shilshole is unique in that it is an isolated community with well-defined boundaries, which could be secured much more easily than an average Seattle neighborhood. The Port of Seattle could make this a safer area by taking a few steps to secure or monitor access, but very little effort has gone toward this goal so far.


Gating an area decreases outside traffic and draws attention to criminals browsing an area. Since the nighttime gates went up in Jan 2022, we’ve seen a decrease in reported incidents in our parking lot. When comparing the months of January through August in 2021 with 2022, we’ve seen a 22.6% decrease in reported incidents in 2022. There was also a 50% decrease in random area checks by Port of Seattle Police due to budget cuts. Crime in the surrounding Ballard neighborhoods (J1,J2,B2 combined) increased substantially in the same time frame(2). While there could be other factors of influence, it’s pretty clear the gates have helped. Anyone trying to bypass the gates is forced to draw attention to themselves. All traffic at night is routed to the entrances just north and south of the marina office, which makes it easier for security to monitor. It also shows some steps are being taken to monitor the parking area.

On September 13/22, I had a meeting with the Head of Port Security, Russ Read (read.r@portseattle.org). After reviewing some of the crime stats, I asked about the possibility of installing more substantial gates (he previously stated there was a plan in place prior to the pandemic). He said there are no current plans for it, nor does he have the funding for it. I asked if there had been any success in getting more money allocated for security since funding has been an issue in the past and it seemed no effort had been made. I asked about the possibility of installing FOB activated gates at the entrances just north and south of the marina office and he said it would cost “millions”. In general, he seemed resistant to any ideas and added that we have public parking spaces in our lot so they can’t fully gate it. Another port employee that was present stated the chains could simply be moved one row west to alleviate the concern with public parking and, instead of FOB activated gates, our nighttime security guards could check for passes. Once again, this idea was met with resistance.


When I spoke with Mr. Read last year about a possible camera system, he said the Port had purchased cameras and they were in the process of making it happen. He said it would be two years before they would be working due to rewiring issues, red tape, etc. On 9/13/22, he once again told me it was “at least two years out” but made no mention of the purchased cameras. When I asked if they planned to use the cameras they already purchased (which would be 3 or 4-year old technology by the time of installation), he said it’s more of a “port-wide” issue that they’re working on, with “lots of red tape etc.” Long story short, we won’t be seeing cameras installed anytime soon. 

A temporary solution could be mobile surveillance trailers, like the ones seen in grocery store parking lots. Funding and monitoring logistics would need to be worked out, but it could get us by until a more permanent solution is found. Funding is the main issue, but it didn’t seem like the Head of Security wanted to pursue this option either. 

Security Guards

I also inquired about better trained security. Again, it’s a funding issue. They don’t have the money to hire better security guards and are also having a hard time finding people to do the work at the current rate the port is willing to pay. Our nighttime security is basically just another set of untrained eyes that recently needed to be reminded to call 911 when there’s an emergency. Another reason and reminder to call 911 BEFORE calling nighttime security when you see something suspicious. We could use better trained and more prepared security to take some of the weight off of the POSP but we need better funding to make it happen.

Port of Seattle Police

Shilshole is a HIGH priority for the Port of Seattle Police Department. Shilshole has the largest number of residents out of all port properties. The quick response time of the POSP is amazing and unbelievable when compared to the SPD. They would like to increase area checks, but their visits have decreased due to budget cuts. The POSP are incredible allies to have, but they are stretched thin. I know there are some people who believe it’s heavy-handed to involve them in certain situations here, but they aren’t just hired guns- they’re trained in de-escalation techniques and are our best resource when situations arise. 

Port Security

The Head of Port Security has made it clear there isn’t enough funding to improve security at Shilshole marina and it seems no efforts are being made to procure more.  How that can be changed is worth more discussion and investigation- I’m open to suggestions. In the meantime, what are our options? The main thing we can do is pull together as a community and look out for each other.

What we can do.

Prevention & Awareness
-Don’t leave items exposed in your car. Smash and grabs take absolutely no time and are hard to protect against.
-Be aware of people trying to sneak in the gate behind you. Let them know they can wait for their hosts to get them or enquire at the office for a temporary FOB. Discourage your guests from ghosting in and putting your neighbors in an uncomfortable situation.
-Be aware of your surroundings when you’re out walking.
-Have emergency numbers pre-programmed into the home screen on your phone.
-Explore emergency apps built into your phone that have quick activation (i.e., shake to start the camera, press a key combination to activate emergency tracking or make preprogrammed calls etc).
-Install an emergency or “dead-man switch ” app (and practice using it!). If anyone has suggestions on what has worked well on their Android or IOS device, please feel free to make suggestions.
-Carry a single-button keychain alarm. These can be purchased from Amazon for as little as $2.50. They range from high decibel alarms for drawing attention to wireless app activators that can instantly make calls, give location, etc.
-Be aware of the red panic button on your car fob. You can remotely activate your car alarm to either draw attention to your location or cause a distraction.
-DO NOT get involved when you see something suspicious- call 911 and let people who are trained handle the situation- local security are currently NOT trained professionals.
-If you do see something suspicious, be sure the activity itself is suspicious and not just based on the perception of the person involved.
-If you feel threatened, make as much noise as possible to draw attention to your position and call for help.
-If you notice lights not working correctly, broken door locks, overgrown foliage or other security issues related to local port operations, report them directly to Port Operation Manager Sebastian Hicks at hicks.s@portseattle.org and follow up if necessary.

When you see something suspicious, take note of the following:
-Location: buildings, landmarks, etc. Do the people involved know you can see them? Can you observe without being seen? What’s the quickest route to a safe place?
-Activity: What exactly is the suspicious activity? Theft, prowl, is someone in danger?
-Suspects: age, height, weight, hair, clothing, any identifiable marks, sex and race
-Vehicles: make, model, color, condition, plate, and direction of travel

When calling 911 be ready to describe the activity and those involved. If you can safely remain in the area until police arrive, please do so and help out by being a good witness. 

If you made it this far, thanks for taking the time to do so. I’ve been collecting and posting the crime stats at Shilshole for some time now, and I hope it’s helping. In the past, we only knew about local crimes when they happened to us, our friends, or via dock gossip. My small group of friends alone have personally had 13 vehicles stolen from the parking lot in the time I’ve lived here. When I started researching crimes in the marina, I found more incidents I hadn’t heard about. I noticed a major disconnect in communication between tenants, Shilshole employees, and the POSP. To filter out gossip and rumors, I decided to focus only on officially reported incidents that came straight from the Port of Seattle Police. My intention was to open the eyes of our community and get the word out so we all have an idea of what’s happening in our neighborhood. And if by chance, some patterns could be recognized in the stats, maybe some solutions could be improvised to improve our situation. The shuffling of positions and employees in the marina office during COVID has led to some disconnects, but now that things have settled, I’m hoping communication will continue to get better. Senior Manager Darrell Dare (dare.d@portseattle.org) is well aware of our crime issues and is pushing for changes to help move things in a more positive direction. He agrees there needs to be some changes and is open to suggestions. 

We live in an amazing place and have incredible neighbors. Let’s do what we can to keep it that way and see what we can do to make it better.

Suggestions are appreciated.

Eric Anderson
Shilshole Liveaboard Association Security Liaison 






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