A group of more than 40 Pike/Pine business owners and representatives has sent a letter to City Hall with a call to increase East Precinct’s “overall budget for the beat officers on foot and bikes now” before the regular warmer-weather wave of street crime returns, yet again, to the neighborhood.
“The Pike/ Pine neighborhood on Capitol Hill is continuing to experience assaults, robberies, car prowls, open drug dealing, and more people with addiction and mental health problems on the street,” the letter begins. “As we head into the warmer months we expect to see a sharp increase in these issues and want to make sure the city has a plan in place to address them this year before they turn into the crisis levels of last summer (though we’re near that now).”
Dave Meinert said the goal is to kickstart planning for making Pike/Pine a safer place for residents and customers and to make sure East Precinct has the resources it needs to pay for more cops on the beat. “We want to be involved in those discussions and find out what we can do to help,” Meinert said.
In 2014, Mayor Ed Murray and the Seattle Police Department responded to another summer surge in street crimes reported around Pike/Pine and Cal Anderson with an increase in patrols and even the assignment of gang units to help calm the situation. But the “emphasis patrols” last year didn’t start until September after area business owner Jason Lajuenesse’s letter about a gang “terrorizing” Capitol Hill brought attention to the situation. When the patrols did ramp up, CHS found newly appointed Chief Kathleen O’Toole out on the beat in the early days of the emphasis effort to see what was going on among the large crowds of Capitol Hill nightlife along Broadway and up and down Pike/Pine. O’Toole told CHS she was occasionally dismayed by the behavior of Pike/Pine revelers on her night with the emphasis patrols. “Some of the kids who are harassing people, they’re just so bold,” she said at the time.
While many of the arrests made were for smaller issues, some of the more serious criminal operations in the area were severely dented as the Department of Justice delivered federal weapons indictments against two men allegedly connected to the East African Posse gang.
The new letter sent Friday also cites the creation of the Neighborhood Response Teams now being used by SPD downtown to deal with recurring street crime and issues. “We would like the same attention in what has become one of Seattle’s busiest and most well known neighborhoods with some of the City’s worst hot spots, but one which isn’t getting the resources it should be,” the letter reads. Meinert said he is “very surprised” SPD hasn’t already deployed the special team approach to Pike/Pine. “They showed a map of hot spots. The third hottest spot was in Pike/Pine and yet they’re not committing new resources to that. They’re all going to downtown,” Meinert said.
The call for earlier measures in 2015 comes as the mayor has just named a 30-member LGBTQ anti-hate crime task force charged with coming up with recommendations for addressing rising reports of hate crimes in the city — and especially on Capitol Hill.
The number of officers working the street in the East Precinct is an issue the mayor’s latest budget plan is hoped to address with money for 50 new officers lined up and a pledge to add at least 50 more to the 1,300 already working in the city before Murray’s term ends. The department has also transitioned to incorporate more data-driven deployment of its resources and has adjusted the borders of the East Precinct to make the area’s busy cores around Pike/Pine and the Central District easier to patrol. Chief O’Toole, meanwhile, has cleaned house and brought in a brand new command staff to help her lead the department.
One of the biggest challenges for East Precinct is the surge of people that come to Capitol Hill to enjoy the robust restaurant and bar scenes. In a sample of October dispatches, the East Precinct responded to 32.5% more 911 calls on Friday nights. The extra work appears to have an impact when measured by response time. The highest priority calls had a 6-minute average response time on Tuesdays — the average in the sample climbed to nearly 7 minutes for “Priority 1” calls on Friday nights.
Overall, the number of reported Capitol Hill crime incidents leapt 12.5% in 2014 marked by a huge surge in thefts like ripping off bicycles and car prowls. Assaults also climbed nearly 8% while street robberies and burglaries dropped vs. the previous year.
Meinert said the letter sent Friday isn’t a political gambit. “We’re not frustrated with the mayor. We were pleased by his response last year. But unfortunately it was a response to a crisis,” Meinert said.
“We really want this attention to come earlier. The reason it’s a public letter is we’re a little afraid it might not.”
The full letter and list of business owners and representatives is below.
Dear Mayor Murray and City Council,
The Pike/ Pine neighborhood on Capitol Hill is continuing to experience assaults, robberies, car prowls, open drug dealing, and more people with addiction and mental health problems on the street. As we head into the warmer months we expect to see a sharp increase in these issues and want to make sure the city has a plan in place to address them this year before they turn into the crisis levels of last summer (though we’re near that now).
Capitol Hill has a quickly increasing number of residents and people visiting it. This increase needs to be met with an increased budget for policing and social services. We have been asking for an increase in the number of officers in the East Precinct, along with officers on foot and bike patrol in the busy business district of Pike/ Pine, for several years, and feel we’re being ignored.
Last summer you heard our concerns and reacted quickly with short term emphasis patrols. We sincerely appreciate this response, but at the time we feared that as soon as summer was over we would see a decrease in policing, and that seems to be exactly what happened.
This year, instead of the East Precinct having to ask for an increase in their overtime budget (which has been cut down to 2008 levels) in response to a crime wave crisis, it would make sense to increase their overall budget for the beat officers on foot and bikes now.
We see Downtown is getting some great resources, including the new Neighborhood Response Teams. We would like the same attention in what has become one of Seattle’s busiest and most well known neighborhoods with some of the City’s worst hot spots, but one which isn’t getting the resources it should be. We also fear that the focus on downtown, while neighborhoods bordering downtown are ignored, will result in crime being pushed into those neighborhoods, especially Pike/Pine.
Pike/ Pine desperately needs continued help from the Narcotics and Gang units, cops on a regular beat throughout the week and not just Friday and Saturday nights, and social service outreach to the various street people living on the sidewalks, in doorways and in Cal Anderson Park.
As business owners and residents in Pike/Pine, we want to be an active and engaged part of the improvement in public safety in the neighborhood. We not only want to hear what the City’s solutions are but also how we can best be utilized moving forward.
We request another community meeting with the Mayor’s public safety staff, the Chief of Police, the East Precinct command staff, the East African outreach staff, the Council’s Public Safety Committee members, and the stakeholders in and around Pike/ Pine, to discuss our concerns and discuss solutions. We would like this to happen in the next month.
David Meinert (Guild Seattle)
Liz Dunn (Dunn and Hobbes)
Barbie Roberts (Purr)
Karyn Schwartz (Sugarpill)
Cal Anderson Park Alliance (CAPA)
Laura Olson (Auto Battery, Po Dog)
Mike Meckling (Neumos, The Canterbury)
Hallie Kuperman (The Century Ballroom, Tin Table)
Muriel Foucher (Paris Eastside)
Freddy Rivas (Rancho Bravo, Freddie’s)
Matt Basta (Matt J Basta LLC)
Michael Lee (St. John’s)
Diana Adams (Vermillion)
Mike Malone (Hunter’s Capital)
Peter Aaron (Elliott Bay Books)
James Keblas (Creature)
Steven Severin (Neumos)
Val Kiossovski (St Johns)
Joey Burgess (Guild Seattle)
Julie Tall (Capitol Hill Cider)
Shelley Brothers (Wildrose)
Martha Manning (Wildrose)
Quentin Ertel (Havana)
Jody Hall (Cupcake Royale)
Rachel Marshall (Rachel’s Ginger Beer)
Rich Fox (Poquito’s, Rhein Haus)
Ben London (NW Polite Society)
Chuck Zimmerman (NW Polite Society)
Jason Lajuenesse (Guild Seattle, Neumos, Capitol Hill Block Party)
Eddie Romero (The Crypt)
Tony Fulgham (World Famous)
Wshma Samizay (Retail Therapy)
Linda Young Hutchinson (No Parking On Pike)
Deming Maclise (Poquito’s)
Travis Hawkins (Via Tribunali)
Dzung Nguyen (Ballet)
Jim Heagen (Creature)
Cameron Black (MacGregor Event Staffing)
Jason Brotman (Baltic Room)
Molly Moon Neitzel, (Molly Moon’s)
Scott Staples, (Quinn’s)
Josh Hansen (Everyday Music)
Tony Croghan (35th North Skate Shop)
Paul Blake (The Unicorn)
We’ve updated this post with additional signees provided by David Meinert.