Doing business on Capitol Hill in the middle of the big city comes with some unique challenges in dealing with people of every stripe and type. With an updated trespassing program and the city’s new crisis center available as new resources, Hill business owners will gather Tuesday night to learn more from the Seattle Police Department about the programs, services and tools that have been developed to help businesses serve customers in the safest environment possible.
“I think it’s really important that the businesses understand what they can do and can’t do, since the whole trespass rules have changed,” says Paul Dwoskin of Broadway Video and chair of the local merchants’ “Clean & Safe Committee” about Tuesday night’s meeting. “It’s also a great way to put a face to the new precinct commander as well as the other cops.”
Capt. Ron Wilson joined the East Precinct this summer after heading SPD’s community outreach section.
One of the biggest goals for East Precinct representatives Tuesday night is registering more Capitol Hill businesses for the city’s updated trespass program. The sometimes controversial programs place police officers in a proxy position so participating business owners don’t have to be on hand for the resulting legal process around a trespass situation.
Seattle’s previous program was overhauled after significant legal challenges required a shift toward targeting illegal behavior — not individuals. In the old program, officers would show up at the participating business and kick somebody out. If that person stepped back on the property, they would be arrested. In the new, softer, gentler approach, offenders are given a written warning describing the specific behavior that got them into trouble with the business. The person is free to return — provided the bad behavior doesn’t.
SPD’s Casey Sundin, part of East Precinct’s “community police team,” says the old program was “much scarier” but that the “quality of warnings is up.” UPDATE: SPD has asked to clarify that the the old program was much scarier in comparison to the new program and that the issuing of a written warning is a quality improvement over the old program and better than just verbally advising the trespasser not to return.
“Sometimes our brains are foggy,” Sundin said of some of the people SPD deals with in trespassing callouts. “This makes it easier to understand.”
Controversial or not, a similar program for apartment and condo buildings is also being worked out by the City Attorney, we’re told. The current program applies to only “public” businesses — restaurants, banks, etc. that customers can walk into to conduct business. Private offices and public institutions are excluded.
Meanwhile, some merchants complain that the new trespass program requires the logistical pain of having an officer present when the paperwork to join the program is filled out and others have put up the program’s required signs without actually registering. SPD hopes to help get Capitol Hill on a better track in the program Tuesday night.
East Precinct will also have a representative on hand to talk about dealing with people with mental illness.
Tuesday’s meeting is organized by the Capitol Hill Chamber of Commerce, a CHS community partner.
Tuesday, January 15th 2013
Seattle Central Community College
room 1110 (near South Plaza entrance)
Join the Capitol Hill Chamber of Commerce and the Seattle Police Department for a panel discussion and Q & A of the concerns that come with running your business in an urban environment, including panhandlers outside your door, trespassers, 86’ing troublemakers, shoplifters and employee safety concerns. We’ll also explain the new Trespass Warning and Enforcement Program and have forms for you to sign up on the spot. Bring your questions and enjoy coffee and donuts on us.
5:00 pm Meet and greet the new East Precinct Commander, Captain Ron Wilson and his second in Command, Lieutenant Matthew Allen.
5:30 pm Officer Christopher Brownlee, East Precinct Community Police Team, will discuss shoplifters, panhandlers, and employee safety concerns.
6:00 pm Officer Dan Nelson, East Precinct Crisis Intervention Team, will discuss how you and your employees can deal with the mentally ill in a way that prevents escalation.
6:30 pm Officer Casey Sundin, East Precinct Community Police Team, will explain Seattle’s new Trespass Warning and Enforcement Program—who qualifies, who doesn’t—and he will have authorization forms at the event for you to officially complete (note these have to be signed in the presence of an officer).