The Seattle Police Department will direct special attention to seven neighborhoods for at least a month, starting Thursday, in an attempt to reduce crime and “fear of crime” ahead of the summer, officials say.
At the same time, other Seattle departments will address maintenance needs in the seven neighborhoods, and the city will continue to provide outreach and human services, they say.
Mayor Jenny Durkan and Police Chief Carmen Best announced the “pre-summer emphasis program” Tuesday, choosing downtown (near Third Avenue and Pine Street), Pioneer Square, Sodo, Georgetown, South Park, Fremont and Ballard as the neighborhoods for extra patrols.
Residents should see more officers out and about in the selected areas, and in some cases, more criminal investigations, Durkan and Best said. They picked the spots based on “community input and data analysis,” they said, without citing specific data points.
“We are taking additional immediate steps to not just make communities safer, but to partner with communities on ways we can make neighborhoods cleaner and more vibrant,” Durkan said in a statement.
The summer months can be accompanied by more crime, and the police department has at times in the past concentrated on particular areas ahead of warmer weather. City Council members have questions about how exactly this year’s program was put together and how much it may cost, said Councilmember Mike O’Brien, whose District 6 includes Fremont and Ballard.
Councilmember M. Lorena González, the council’s public-safety chair, has sent a list of questions to the Durkan administration, a spokeswoman said.
“I was informed by the police department about this program. The details were pretty thin,” O’Brien said.
The Community Police Commission had no one available to comment on the plan Wednesday, spokesman Jesse Franz said.
The department will ask officers on regular duty to spend time in the seven target neighborhoods when not responding to 911 calls and also will use overtime pay, said Eric Greening, assistant chief for patrol operations.
In an interview, he said the department had projected how much the overtime might cost but declined to share that information.
Before choosing the emphasis areas, officials heard from groups including neighborhood associations, Business Improvement Area groups and the Downtown Seattle Association, Greening said.
The program will run through June 1, he said. The department may then move some of the extra resources elsewhere.
Durkan has gone on walking tours in Pioneer Square, South Park and Ballard and has also recently visited Sodo and Fremont, she said Wednesday in an interview with The Seattle Times editorial board. The mayor said the emphasis program has been in the works for some time.
She cited upticks in property crime and concerns raised by small-business owners as reasons to concentrate on some areas, mentioning thefts from food trucks and gang graffiti in South Park. “The data tells you one thing but then you go and walk the neighborhood and talk to people,” she said.
Fremont is an example of an area that’s witnessed “a sudden increase in some low-level crimes,” Greening said. In some of the seven neighborhoods,”crime is actually down,” he said. “However, if you go to those neighborhoods and talk to citizens … that’s not the perception they have,” Greening added, attributing the disconnect to “maybe unreported crimes or general discomfort based on things they see or hear.”
“A decision was made … to see what we can do to drive some of the crime numbers down, but also to reduce fear of crime,” the assistant chief said.
The other city departments will address community needs such as tree maintenance on city properties, streetlight replacement, graffiti removal and illegally dumped debris cleanup.
The emphasis program is “separate” from how the city is handling unauthorized homeless encampments, Greening said.
Police patrolling the neighborhoods may refer people to services but won’t circumvent Seattle’s protocols for clearing away encampments, he said. “There might be some overlap … but we’re not going to rewire those processes,” he said.