I attended the Belltown safety meeting Tuesday night and stayed to talk with the 250+ people assembled at the Labor Temple. You have to applaud Belltown Citizens on Patrol for arranging the meeting, especially considering the wide-range of expertise they had on-hand to better address citizen inquiries. SPD was well-represented by Chief Diaz, Assistant Chief Stanford, Captain Brown from the West Precinct, and more. Two deputies from the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office were joined by Presiding Judge Bruce Hilyer and Chief Criminal Judge Sharon Armstrong.
Captain Brown said that the shootings this past weekend did not appear to be gang-related but were nonetheless vengeance crimes. To their credit, SPD had the perpetrators arrested within ten minutes of the shootings and their bike cops had responded to the victims within minutes of the incident.
Captain Brown indicated SPD’s priorities in the Belltown neighborhood are best described in terms of shifts. The first shift is the morning, and they’re waking the city up and getting downtown ready to start the day. The second shift is handling the open air drug markets and making arrests of dealers. That third shift is nightlife management and is necessary because the tenor of the neighborhood changes when night falls. The shift in decorum is mostly due to a population of young adult males who are repeatedly over-served and pushed onto the street at 1:45am.
If our ultimate goal is a more civil society, then there needs to be a directive for change both physical and otherwise. Cleaning up the streets in a literal sense is important – Belltown neighbors have complained that garbage cans have been removed due to misuse. Removal of those cans has caused the streets and sidewalks to be covered by trash, especially on weekend mornings. That clean-up should continue in a figurative sense, too. Let’s establish a higher expectation of behavior and reinforce that expectation by using these two key elements:
- Greater police visibility on city streets
Don’t rely strictly on patrol cars. Uniformed presence, be on foot or on bike, makes a tremendous difference in affecting behavior. I can’t think of a better way to quell loitering, rowdy behavior, and the drug traffic.
- More efficient staffing
One of the things that former police chief candidate Rick Braziel mentioned during the interview phase was just how rich we are in terms of resources here in Seattle. Appropriately schedule our officers on the times and days when we most need them.
We’ve identified the problems thoroughly. Drug dealing has to stop. Dirty streets must be cleaned up. Excessive noise from multiple sources, be it bars, drunken customers, car stereos, or loud motorcycles should be reduced. After all, 55,000 of us live downtown. These residents and so many other parties are included as appropriate stakeholders in the matter. Let’s set tangible goals and get the results we want to see.
The nightlife safety plan is now in motion. The West Precinct will be adding an additional 20 officers to the beat on Friday and Saturday nights. They’ll have more uniformed officers on the streets and they will most certainly be enforcing the laws.
I’m also following up with the Prosecuting Attorney’s Office to ask for their assistance in prosecuting the serious crimes and to request the courts for more Stay Out of the Drug Area (SODA) orders. SODA orders can help us keep convicted criminals out of a particular neighborhood or part of the city which are designated as drug areas.
In the meantime, know that 206-625-5011 is the number to call when you need to report something urgent but it isn’t necessarily an emergency. Likewise, the city’s customer service bureau at 206-684-CITY is a resource that can be utilized to help improve neighborhoods, whether it’s removal of abandoned vehicles, clean-up of graffiti, or other nuisance and/or safety issues.
We’re all responsible for enacting the changes we desire, and we all have a role to play. Thanks to the BCOP for helping us clean up Belltown, to Chief Diaz, Captain Brown, and the West Precinct for their help in adding more police officers when we need them, and to everyone else who picks up a stray piece of trash, supports a local business, and expects our city to be a great place to live and work respectfully.