Last Friday morning I stopped at First Avenue and Battery Street (Belltown neighborhood) to drop off my laundry. It was just after 7 a.m. A group of eight people - six men and two women - were standing near the door of the laundry.
One man had wads of cash in both hands. He was dickering with one of the women over price. She protested, "too much," and "more than last time." Here was an open-air drug market, unfortunately a less than desired yet frequent example of commerce in our city.
Safer Streets Initiative
My own experience last Friday morning is typical of the complaints I receive at my Council office on a daily basis. Residents from nearly every neighborhood call or email about low-level street crime and social disorder that is destroying their sense of community.
Today, I released a Council-generated Safer Street Initiative which is designed to curb street crime and improve our quality of life at the sidewalk level. You can read a summary of the Initiative here. Read today's Seattle PI coverage of the Initiative.
Later today, my Council committee will begin discussion of the Initiative and review a preliminary schedule for consideration of new legislation required by the Initiative.
The latest literature on policing strategies and social disorder shows that an integrated approach involving prevention and treatment, assertive policing, and community outreach/engagement provides the best results for neighborhoods. You can read about the experience of Providence, Rhode Island with quality-of-life or problem-solving policing here. It's a great story about how a community took back their streets and restored civil order. Academic research has also established that more assertive policing can be effective at restoring a community's confidence and reduce fear of crime. This article from May 2008 is an excellent summary of current thought among criminologists and practitioners about "broken windows policing" and why it's necessary.
The Safer Streets Initiative is a 12-part program to address the many complaints we receive about social disorder from nearly every neighborhood in the city. It's not a magic bullet or quick fix. It's a beginning designed to address a complicated set of problems. The Initiative would pair police officers with mental health professionals to respond jointly to incidents, create alternatives to jail or hospitalization, continue the city's plan to increase the number of patrol officers in our neighborhoods, increase financial penalties for patronizing a prostitute and use the funds to restore peer-counseling and support groups for women involved in prostitution, create safe housing and transition services for children involved in prostitution, impose civil and criminal penalties on business owners and property owners who "knowingly allow criminal behavior to occur and fail to take steps to stop it,"
call for more assertive policing targeted a gangs, illegal weapons, graffiti, and open-air drug markets, re-establish the city prosecutor's High Impact Offender Targeting Program, and return School Resource Officers to some Seattle Public Schools.
I would appreciate hearing your comments or questions about the Initiative.
It would also be helpful if you would share your opinion about the Initiative with my Council colleagues. I've provided a list with their contact information below. Thank you.
Councilmember Sally J. Clark, email@example.com, (206) 684-8802
Councilmember Richard Conlin, firstname.lastname@example.org, (206) 684-8805
Councilmember Jan Drago, email@example.com, (206) 684-8801
Councilmember Jean Godden, firstname.lastname@example.org, (206) 684-8807
Councilmember Bruce Harrell, email@example.com, (206) 684-8804
Councilmember Nick Licata, firstname.lastname@example.org, (206) 684-8803
Councilmember Richard J. McIver, email@example.com, (206) 684-8800
Councilmember Tom Rasmussen, firstname.lastname@example.org, (206) 684-8808
We'll talk again soon.