Chinatown-International District Block Watch walks streets for safety

Seattle's Chinatown-International District Block Watch patrols the neighborhood every Tuesday. (Photo courtesy )
Seattle’s Chinatown-International District Block Watch patrols the neighborhood every Tuesday. (Photo by Sidney Sullivan.)

The shooting death of community leader Donnie Chin brought high-profile city-wide attention to the issue of public safety in Chinatown-International District. But to the volunteers of the C-ID Neighborhood Block Watch, safety there has been a long on-going concern.

The program, which has been revitalized since last November,  is encouraging people to join its weekly safety walk against crime.

“This program is an important opportunity to give residents a chance to gain public safety knowledge and impact the community,” said Jamie Lee, manager of IDEA Space. IDEA Space is a program of the Seattle Chinatown International Development Preservation and Development Authority (SCIDpda).

The block watch promotes awareness against public misconduct and to help ensure a safe community. Volunteers walk together in a group to patrol the C-ID and report any suspicious activities to the police.

The Neighborhood Block Watch launched in August 2009 in the same evening as Seattle’s crime Night Out, said Bill Lee, a senior volunteer with the C-ID Neighborhood Block Watch. The program went on hiatus about two years ago, but was revamped in 2014. Every Tuesday, about 15 volunteers a week patrol the streets. The volunteers range from 26- to 80- years-old.

Though operating separate organizations, the block watch and Chin had similar broad goals involving public safety: protect each other and protect the community.

Chin was the director of International District Emergency Center (IDEC), and he served as an avid community leader for Chinatown-International District. Chin was a community hero to many. For decades, Chin not only advocated for better public safety, he would take it upon himself to respond to reports of crimes and medical emergencies.

He was killed in the wee hours of July 23, and Seattle Police say Chin was not the intended target of the shooting. The police are still investigating Chin’s slaying.

“What he did nearly single-handedly – we need a bunch of people to make up for it,” said Bill Lee. “When we lost him, we lost someone really important.”

While Chin was not an official member of the Neighborhood Watch Block program, program leaders reached out to him as an advisor, according to Sokha Danh, economic development specialist of SCIDpda. Chin advised the program organizers to make sure it would be something people want to join.  

Organizers were careful to ask volunteers for their thoughts throughout the process, Bill Lee said.

“We get good feedback from the people,” said Susan Woo, a senior volunteer.

Neighborhood leaders are reaching out to the city for help as well.

Since Chin’s death, IDEC and 34 other local supporting organizations, including SCIDpda, asked to Mayor Ed Murray and Seattle City Council members to provide more funding and resources fixed towards community-based safety programs like the Block Watch and an increased police presence within the residential area.

But in the meantime, the Neighborhood Block Watch team will continue to patrol the C-ID weekly,  and promote crime awareness and safety.

“This block watch is important, because people are committed to this community,” Danh said. “It is home.”

The Neighborhood Block Watch meets every Tuesday from 6-7 p.m. Volunteers meet at the IDEA Space office, 409 Maynard Ave S. E-mail Sokha Danh at or call (206) 624-8929 for more information.

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