After tabling the issue for years, the Seattle Police Department is reconfiguring the way officers patrol Capitol Hill and other central Seattle neighborhoods. Plans expected to go into effect this month would redraw police precinct boundaries to keep officers from having to routinely cross I-5 to respond to calls, CHS has learned. In the Capitol Hill-headquarted East Precinct, it means a swapping out coverage of Eastlake for First Hill.
The new East Precinct lines will also mean more officers patrolling in closer proximity to Capitol Hill’s nightlife corridors. Last year, a spike in Capitol Hill street robberies and assaults prompted Chief Kathleen O’Toole to emphasis patrols to crackdown on nightlife violence. O’Toole announced that SPD gang unit personnel would increase patrols in Pike/Pine and around Cal Anderson Park to help root out reported issues with gangs of young males. In the weeks following, SPD brass claimed a dramatic reduction in crime in the area.
The new boundaries call for most of Eastlake to move out of East’s purview in order to keep officers on the Portage Bay side of I-5. Several blocks of First Hill would also move from the downtown-centered West Precinct into East. Currently, officers in West have to cross I-5 to respond to calls on First Hill.
“Getting across I-5 from downtown is a nightmare,” said SPD spokesperson Det. Patrick Michaud. “We’re always trying to hit the 6-7 minute mark for the (most serious) calls.”
Sgt. Jay Shin of the East Community Police Team told CHS the change would be implemented in the coming weeks. The addition of First Hill into East will also mean some shifting boundaries for the precinct’s three sectors — Charlie, Edward, and George. A person familiar with the plan told CHS that SPD may eventually add a fourth sector.
Capitol Hill is part of an East Precinct patrol and staffing area that covers most everything between I-5 and Lake Washington and from Montlake to I-90.
SPD redrew the precinct lines several years ago to include First Hill in West Precinct; prior to that, the neighborhood was part of East Precinct. A representative from the East Precinct Advisory Council said SPD has yet to notify the community group about any boundary changes.
UPDATE 1/28/2015: SPD has announced the East Precinct changes in conjunction with shifts across the city and a change in the ratio of patrol officers assigned to supervisors designed, SPD says, to “enable supervisors to work more closely with officers” —
For the first time since 2008, the Seattle Police Department is shifting the boundaries of its 51 police beats. The change will improve officer supervision and public safety service, better align police patrols with Seattle’s neighborhoods, and achieve a major milestone in the department’s work toward reform with the Department of Justice.
Beginning January 28th, the department will increase the number of patrols squads and sergeants at each of SPD’s five precincts, improving each precinct’s officer-to-supervisor ratio. This will enable supervisors to work more closely with officers, providing guidance in investigations, reviewing use of force, and ensuring quality of public service.
SPD’s five precincts beats will also more closely reflect Seattle’s census tracts, to match officer allocation to the recent growth and shifts in Seattle’s many neighborhoods. Beat realignments are a common practice for law enforcement agencies throughout the country, allowing police departments to account for city growth and population density changes. The last time SPD redrew its boundaries was in 2008. Now, six years later, the department has again taken the opportunity to reevaluate and meet the needs of each of Seattle’s neighborhoods.
The department has made numerous changes to the boundaries of beats across the city, but the most significant changes come for residents of Eastlake and First Hill. The Eastlake neighborhood—previously split between the East and West precincts—will now be a part of the West Precinct. The East Precinct will now serve First Hill.
As part of the patrol map realignment, the department will also revise neighborhood-based crime data available on My Neighborhood Maps, Tweets By Beat and Data.Seattle.Gov to reflect the new beat boundaries. The new data is expected to be available by mid-February.
SPD’s Tweets By Beat and My Neighborhood Maps will be offline and unavailable until February 2nd as part of the beat update. After the 2nd, we recommend using our Beat-finder tool to ensure you’re still receiving the latest information on police responses in your neighborhood.