The Seattle Globalist asked the Seattle City Council candidates five questions important to immigrant and minority communities in Seattle. This question on the safety of Chinatown/International District is the fifth in our series of five.
Question: What specific actions would you endorse to improve safety issues in the Chinatown/International District?
As in many of our neighborhoods, I would like to allocate resources to provide more community policing in Chinatown/International District. Having officers available to walk and bike in the neighborhood and get to know the community is a vital step toward improving safety. I support the micro community policing priorities including improved lighting, focusing resources on crime hot spots, and ensuring that criminal activity is reported and communicated to address issues promptly.
I believe that we need to expand LEAD, the Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion program to be above to respond to hot spot public safety issues as well as persistent public safety issues. I’ve written about this topic here.
Under my leadership, Mayor Murray, and Chief O’Toole, we have transformed the Police Department’s use of technology and addressing public safety in the most critical hotspots. In my communication with Chief O’Toole, I have prioritized safety in the Chinatown/International District. We recently added 120 police officers and will add 100 more by next year to reach 1404 Police Officers, the highest ever for the police department. We have done a lot, but we need to do more.
This is what I have pushed for and accomplished:
- Implement the International District-Chinatown micro community policing plan developed by the community and SPD. Community priorities were narcotics – public sales and use, homeless camps, and street disorder and civility issues.
- Increased police patrol and bike squads at the hot spots and require measurement of what SPD sees versus what the community sees and feels. We have improved lighting under freeway and high car prowl areas, improved coordination between east and west precincts because the neighborhood crosses boundary lines and we have hired bi-lingual police officers.
- In the upcoming budgets, I want to look at re-launching Community Service Officers, redrawing new precinct lines so this neighborhood is in one precinct, and create an Interdepartmental Team that helps address the multitude of issues around public safety and improve coordination with SPD, SDOT, DPD, and Human Services.
1. Right now policing responsibility for the C/ID is split between East and West precincts so there is not a holistic sense of the situation or relationship with the community — we should look seriously at uniting responsibility for C/ID and Little Saigon under 1 SPD precinct.
2. Increase response times and dispatcher language ability — community members have stopped calling 9-1-1 since it can take so long for a response or the dispatcher cannot speak the language — both need to be improved fast.
3. Increase foot and bike patrols.
4. Add more street lighting.
5. Add an SPD outpost in the newly expanded Hing Hay Park.
6. Increase funding and support for social and mental health services in the community.
● Implement an emergency plan to immediately offer decent shelter for the more than 3,000 homeless people on Seattle’s streets.
● Fully fund social services, including full access to mental health services and services for the disabled, homeless, veterans, seniors, and families in crisis.
● Expand Metro late-night service. The lack of late-night Metro service is a public safety issue. People need safe and reliable transit after a night out or after working the night shift.
● Stop the gentrification and the destruction of our communities by for-profit developers. Tax the rich to fund affordable housing, social workers, youth, and community centers to strengthen the solidarity and social bonds in our neighborhoods.
Pamela Banks did not submit an answer.
First and foremost we need to make sure we have better relations between our police force and our local communities. Having our police force under consent decree shows that we still have a long way to go when it comes to police accountability – especially in communities of color. We need to increase the trust between our communities and officers by making the Community Police Commission a permanent body, hiring civilian investigators in the Office of Police Accountability, and having mediated forums between the community and officers. Increasing trust represents the first and most crucial step in improving safety. I think it would also be helpful to have a police precinct in Chinatown / the International District. Currently, crimes in the ID get stuck between officers in downtown, from the East Precinct in Capitol Hill, and from the South Precinct in the Beacon Hill / Rainier Valley neighborhoods. Having a dedicated police force in the neighborhood, with local hire components and a focus on increasing the number of officers of color, would help establish crucial relationships that build trust and safety for communities.
I am a fan of expansion of the Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion program across all neighborhoods in Seattle, and believe that it is being shown to improve safety in the areas where it is currently utilized. Hiring additional officers – and hiring them from within our communities so that our police force looks like our city – is also going to be a part of improved public safety; particularly with training designed to ensure officers are out of their cars, and engaging with people in our neighborhoods and commercial cores. Further, continued activation of public spaces continues to improve public safety overall, and I will support funding of those efforts.
Beyond that, I will work with the District 2 council member, as well as the community, to understand the needs, and identify additional measures we can take to improve public safety. I understand that this is not District 4, but at the end of the day, we all are community members of Seattle.
The most immediate and urgent action for Chinatown/International district is related to gun violence. After the Sandy Hook Elementary tragedy, I helped Washington Ceasefire organize its Stand Up Washington March, which brought 1,200 people to Westlake Park to call for stronger gun laws. In May of 2013, I joined with the Washington Alliance for Gun Responsibility to create Initiative 594 – expanded criminal background checks for gun purchases. I am immediate past president of the Board of the Center for Gun Responsibility, which recently completed a $1 million public education campaign on the need for expanded background checks in Washington State.
We should also be concerned about drug use and lack of mental health resources. Addiction should be viewed as a medical problem foremost, and those struggling to break free should be given help instead of criminal charges. I support full citywide implementation of the LEAD program to help find alternate ways to address chronic crime caused by mental health and substance abuse issues. We will all benefit as SPD is empowered to become a gateway toward solutions to the root causes of crime and disorder, rather than simply being a gateway to incarceration. Much of the violence we see today is the result of gangs fighting for territory to sell drugs; by helping people break their habits we’ll lower the demand for drugs and take away power these gangs currently hold. Let’s help people be healthy and regain control of their lives.
Much of the crime in the ID is fueled by the disease of addiction. The city (and, more importantly, state) needs to get serious about expanding our ability to treat those with substance-use disorders.
On a similar note, our mental-healthcare funding has been insufficient for many years. Although I do not know whether those with mental illness are causing many crimes in the ID, many people with substance-use disorders also are afflicted with mental illnesses. I would be a strong advocate for increased funding for mental healthcare so that our investment in addiction treatment is protected and we make the maximum possible improvements in these people’s lives.
We need to continue to increase community policing efforts in Chinatown/ID and expand the Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD) program that combines police work with social services to get people who are chronic low level offenders into the housing/services/treatment that they need to be stabilized. This program has had proven results and when fully implemented in the C/ID can make significant improvements.
Our entire city would benefit from a large move towards community policing. Not only would the International District, but all of our neighborhoods and communities in Seattle. The style of community policing needs to adapt to the specific culture and needs of the community in which the policing will occur. I would work to support a collaborative and transparent approach, and expect a diverse police force with officers recruited from the community.
1. Add more police officers at hot spots.
2. Redraw police precinct lines so all of Chinatown/ID are in the same precinct
3. Promote neighborhood block watch.
4. Expand the BIA/Chinatown-International District PDA with police and neighborhood leaders
5. Consider an economic overlay district to bring back jazz and other art along Jackson to activate the area.
6. Coordinate with Pioneer Square and the Stadium District to promote the arts/theater and draw more people to the area.
7. Use the new street car as a link to Broadway area bringing more residents into the area.
8. Develop an unreinforced masonry program to preserve buildings and improve life for the residents.
Deborah Zech Artis
This district has similar issues to the rest of the city neighborhoods. I would want to meet with neighborhood leaders and organizations and listen to their concerns and to their ideas on how to fix their problems.
1. consolidate the police service area so all of the Chinatown/ID is served by the West Police Precinct (eliminating the artificial divide that exists now between the East and West Precincts);
2. increase police foot patrols to strengthen relationships with shop owners;
3. implement problem-solving policing at a much broader scale so the community and police are working together on specific problems;
4. identify those individuals who are causing the most harm and develop specific plans for addressing each of them, from social services to arrest/prosecution for those involved in violent crime; and
5. improve lighting, graffiti removal, and alley cleanup.
Jon Grant did not submit an answer.
Chinatown/International District is a vital cultural and economic engine of our greater downtown area. Tourists and residents flock to this neighborhood daily to take advantage of its great restaurants, storefronts, museums and grocery stores. But, like the central downtown area, the Chinatown/International District has seen in uptick in perceived and real public safety concerns. I believe that the strategy to improve public safety in Chinatown/International District is threefold.
One, the city must facilitate robust community economic development that is culturally competent and accessible to immigrant and refugee entrepreneurs, particularly to those with limited English proficiency.
Second, the city must invest in neighborhood improvements to promote a built community where Chinatown/International District residents are the primary users of its parks, benches and streets. This includes ensuring that the parks and sidewalks remain clean of litter, drug paraphernalia, etc. To that end, a strategy like the 9-½ block strategy currently being used in central downtown, could be catered to address the public safety concerns of this neighborhood.
Third, our police must have an increased presence in this neighborhood and enforce our laws. It is critically important for our police officers to develop meaningful relationships with community leaders, business owners and neighborhood service providers to fully understand the public safety concerns and trends in this neighborhood. Public safety will not be accomplished if an officer chooses to sit in his or her patrol car and circle the blocks rather than walking the neighborhood and engaging meaningfully with the public.
Bill Bradburd did not submit an answer.
Read more Globalist questions for the Seattle City Council candidates and don’t forget to vote! Election day is Tuesday, Nov. 3.
Previous coverage in The Seattle Globalist
- Community policing is the safety solution the ID needs
- International District community leader shot and killed Thursday
- Crackdown on hookah lounges in wake of Donnie Chin shooting
- Donnie Chin remembered at Sunday night vigil
- ‘Good Samaritan’ sought in Donnie Chin shooting