Special Operations

The Special Operations Division is comprised of two work groups and is staffed by a division commander, two Directed Enforcement Team (DET) sergeants, one Special Enforcement Team (SET) sergeant, 18 detectives and officers, and one part-time graffiti abatement coordinator.

These two work groups focus on the specialized law enforcement and community engagement needs of the department and community.


The Renton Police Department partners with Federal Way, Kent, Auburn, Tukwila, and the Port of Seattle police departments to provide a combined Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) team to support their respective communities.

This team responds to extraordinary law enforcement needs, such as high risk warrant service, barricaded subject, hostage, and sniper situations. Each agency staffs and equips a team. All agencies share in joint operational expenses.

Directed Enforcement Team (DET)

The Directed Enforcement Team (DET) utilizes a variety of tactics to address crime and quality of life issues in the downtown area of the City of Renton.

The primary focus is community oriented, using proactive police methods to address criminal activity and the impact it has on safety and quality of life. DET works in conjunction with citizens and business groups, as well as other department work groups to achieve the desired goal.

DET specializes in short-term investigations to address issues such as, but not limited to:

  • Public nuisances
  • Street-level crime
  • Nuisance abatement/code compliance complaints
  • Fugitive apprehension
  • Summertime bicycle patrols in the downtown core and city parks and trails

Special Enforcement Team (SET)

The Special Enforcement Team (SET) utilizes a variety of tactics to address crime and neighborhood issues. The team focuses on undercover, proactive methods of addressing criminals and their impact on safety and quality of life in and around the City of Renton.

SET specializes in long-term investigations targeting/arresting repeat criminal offenders involved in various crimes including, but not limited to:

  • Auto theft
  • Organized retail theft
  • Possession of and trafficking of stolen property,
  • Identity theft
  • Commercial sexual abuse of minors
  • Burglary and possession/delivery of controlled substances

SET also uses their knowledge, skills, and abilities in support of other divisions within the Renton Police Department and the greater local law enforcement region. SET also provides one team member to a regional Narcotics Enforcement Task Force.

Drug Activity and Reporting

Signs of drug activity

Like all U.S. cities, Renton faces a growing battle against drugs. The police cannot solve this problem alone. Success requires community involvement. It is important that you know what an investigation requires and how you can help.

It is often difficult to know if specific activity involves drugs, but some patterns may indicate drug activity:

  • An unusually large amount of traffic contacting a building - cars, taxis, or people walking - often at strange hours. Visitors may sometimes pound on doors or shout to be let in. This traffic is usually quick, with people staying only a short time. Sometimes they do not go in at all; instead, someone comes out to meet them.
  • Finding drugs or drug paraphernalia (syringes, pipes, etc.) in the area.
  • Repeated, observable exchanges of items, especially where money is visible.
  • Offers to sell you drugs, or conversations about drugs that you overhear.
  • Noxious odors from or around the buildings, such as "musty" smells.
  • Buildings where extreme security measures seem to be taken.
  • Buildings where no owner or primary renter is apparent, and no home activities such as yard work, painting/maintenance, etc., seem to go on.

Many communities have unpopular residents. Obnoxious or peculiar behavior, a different lifestyle, racial or ethnic background, or economic level does not necessarily mean the person is a drug dealer.

Reporting drug activity

  • Do not assume the police already know, or that a neighbor will call.
  • Do not assume one report is all that is needed. If the activity continues to occur, keep reporting it. If the pattern changes, report the change. All neighbors affected by the drug activity are encouraged to report.

In-progress drug activity

For drug activity which is in progress or needs an immediate police response, call 9-1-1. If a patrol car is available, an officer will respond.

On-going drug activity

On-going drug activity, which police need to be aware of but does not require immediate response, can be reported by calling 425-430-7539. This reaches the Narcotics unit of the Renton Police Department. A police officer will take an activity report over the phone.

You can also email the narcotics sergeant with concerns or tip information. The report can be made anonymously, although it is more helpful if a name and phone number are included in case more information is needed. Names will not be released to anyone if requested.

Officer response

If a patrol car is free when the report is made, an officer will respond. However, drug deals are completed quickly and are often over before an officer can arrive.

Not sufficient for an arrest

Citizen reports usually cannot be the primary cause for a drug arrest. Unless the reporting party has special training or experience with drugs or drug users, the courts will say an arrest based only on citizen testimony is not justified. Since few citizens can meet the strict legal standards, officers who do have the training and experience must make their own observations and collect evidence the courts will accept.

Provides cause for investigation

Citizen reports are still very important, even though they cannot be used as the direct cause for an arrest. They let the police know there is a problem, and they provide a reason for police to undertake an investigation of a person or location.

All narcotics activity reports are screened by the Narcotics unit. The investigation may include drug buys made by undercover officers or reliable police informants. These buys are the best evidence and must be made under carefully controlled conditions. During the period of investigation, there may not be evidence of police activity.

If sufficient cause can be confirmed, a request is made to a judge for a search warrant for the building. Residents who possess drugs will be arrested. The court may release them on bail however, and they may return to the neighborhood while they await trial. Dealers often move elsewhere, or stop dealing after an arrest.

When the warrant is served, a file is started under the abatement law which was passed in 1988. "Abatement" means the city asks the court to declare the property a public nuisance and allows the city to board it up for up to a year. If drug activity continues after the owner has been warned, abatement proceedings can be started. Abatement is not a fast process and may require written testimony from citizens on the impact of the drug operation on the neighborhood in order to succeed.

What else should neighbors do?

  • Contact Your Community Programs Coordinator
    Call the Community Programs unit at 425-430-7521 and ask for your area coordinator. They can provide additional, valuable information and help the neighborhood develop procedures and strategies to deal with the crime problem. They can also be a liaison for you with the various units of the Renton Police Department that may be involved in investigating the problem.
  • Organize a Block Watch
    If you do not have a Block Watch, your Crime Prevention Coordinator can help you set one up. A Block Watch can inform neighbors who may not be aware of criminal activity and encourage them to observe and report it as well as you. A Block Watch can help deter future drug dealing in your neighborhood, and also help prevent other types of crimes such as burglary that often accompany drug activity.
  • Keep Your Block Watch Active
    When new neighbors move in, let them know you are a Block Watch neighborhood and invite them to join. This warns anyone moving into your neighborhood that you are alert and will report criminal activity.

Email the Community Programs Coordinator

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