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Police investigating connection between legal pot and crime

Police investigating connection between legal pot and crime »Play Video
This Feb. 13, 2013 file photo shows different strains of marijuana displayed during the grand opening of the Seattle location of the Northwest Cannabis Market, for sales of medical marijuana products. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, File)
SEATTLE -- The connection between pot and public safety is being measured in a new database by the Seattle Police Department.

The department is tracking all crimes involving marijuana and analyzing whether dispensaries invite more problems into neighborhoods.

Some neighbors in West Seattle worry that medical pot clubs are luring in criminals, and now Seattle police are crunching the numbers to see if those fears are founded.

It's not Fort Knox, but one medical marijuana dispensary in West Seattle is built to withstand a small siege. Owner John Davis and his partners have taken extensive steps to safeguard their product.

"If you get robbed, not only is it bad from a business perspective, but you can lose the support of your neighborhood," Davis said.

Seattle police are now building a database of crimes involving marijuana with quarterly reports that stretch back to 2011.

While marijuana accounts for just a fraction of all crimes investigated in the first three months of the year, it still adds up to 247 incidents. Sixteen of those crimes involved marijuana dispensaries.

Seattle detectives have investigated 10 robberies and 14 burglaries tied to pot from January to the end of March, including one incident where robbers threatened to kill a man during a violent takeover robbery in May.

"They came in with their guns and told me to get on the ground and duct taped my face and arms behind by back and sat on top of me with a gun at my back," said Jason Semer.

Davis installed thick acrylic windows and demolition-resistant walls cored with kevlar so his dispensary doesn't lure criminals to the neighborhood.

"Even if you got behind this wall, you still would have a very hard time touching either money or cannabis," he said.

Davis welcomes the police database, saying it's a way to gauge how marijuana legalization affects public safety.

"We should have a baseline that we can measure against," he said.

Davis has never been robbed or burglarized, but a local detective said some dispensaries are broken into five or six times before police are called, which may skew the results in the database.