More than 100 people gathered Monday to hear what Seattle's mayor, other officials, clergy and youth had to say about an increase in violent crime in the city.
Calling the city’s rising violent-crime rate a “public-safety emergency,” Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn on Monday said that residents and business owners in high-crime areas will see an increase of police patrols, but added that community members need to do their part, too.
McGinn was speaking at a news conference at the Rainier Vista Boys & Girls Club, where City Councilmember Bruce Harrell said that people need to pay attention to things going on in their neighborhoods. He suggested block-watch-type groups walking around their neighborhoods.
“This is our community. This is where we jog, this is where we exercise, this is where we barbecue. This is home to many of us,” Harrell said.
“I’m not afraid of a lot, but I’m afraid of a bullet.”
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Harrell said that he will start holding meetings for the city’s Public Safety, Civil Rights and Technology Committee in the community, so council members can hear ideas on how to address the growing street violence.
More than 100 people gathered at the Boys & Girls Club news conference Monday to hear from McGinn, Harrell, police Deputy Chief Nick Metz, clergy and youth. No clear plan of action came out of the media event, other than Metz reiterating what he promised after a double homicide in Rainier Valley last week — that the department has beefed up patrols in crime hot spots.
Metz said Monday that officers are going to “be aggressive” when it comes to street violence.
“We are going to be constitutional in our policing, but we are going to be aggressive,” Metz said.
There have been nine homicides in Seattle this year; at the same point last year there were three, according to police.
J’Quai Holiday, an outreach worker at the Metrocenter YMCA in downtown Seattle, said that everyone can be part of the solution.
“Let your first stop be love,” said 29-year-old Holiday, who works in the Alive & Free program, which works with youth who have claimed gang affiliations or have a high risk to commit violence on the streets. “We all have a part here. We need to show the kids out there that we love them.”
Pastor Lawrence Willis, of the United Black Christian Clergy of Washington, said that nearly 100 people, many of them young, gathered for a prayer vigil Friday at the site of the Rainier Valley double slaying. Willis said members of the crowd outside Maya’s Mexican Restaurant are scared.
“We have a community that feels unsafe. We have young people who feel unsafe,” Willis said.
At least one person attending Monday’s event pressed the mayor for a defined strategy and for a promise that the city will fund additional mental-health services for at-risk youth.
McGinn, in response, touted two longstanding programs — the Seattle Youth Violence Prevention Initiative and the Families and Education Levy.
According to the Seattle Department of Neighborhoods website, the youth-violence initiative focuses on youth who are repeat offenders.
The levy, which first passed in 1990, offers academic, mental-health and extracurricular support to children and other support for their families.
Jennifer Sullivan: 206-464-8294 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @SeattleSullivan.