In the wake of last week’s shootout at 21st and Union that left a 19-year-old dead and two more people wounded, Mayor Jenny Durkan has been publicly silent about the reignition of gun violence in the Central District even as she and her office’s representatives appeared at two previously scheduled events this week to talk about crime in Seattle.
But behind the scenes, the mayor’s office says it is taking steps as part of a longterm strategy to make the city safer and to do more to address the factors Durkan says are behind the shooting incidents in the Central District.
First, Durkan is adding a respected senior public safety advisor to her staff.
Second, the mayor is convening a “multiple City department” meeting with community groups and “stakeholders” to identify immediate actions and next steps in the neighborhood as well as provide updates on the investigations.
“We must approach public safety in a holistic manner to most effectively address the root causes of gun violence in our communities,” a letter sent this week by Durkan to “community members and organizations concerned with the recent spate of gun violence” and shared with CHS by a representative from her office reads.
“SPD continues to work collaboratively across departments, assisting with Parks and Recreation’s Late Night programming and hosting Seattle Police Activity Leagues with camps throughout the summer as well,” Durkan writes. “We know this work goes beyond SPD and must include a multitude of strategies to expand opportunity for our residents.”
Most useful for neighbors could be a stakeholder meeting that is being planned but is not yet scheduled.
Last September after another flare up in shootings, Durkan and SPD Chief Carmen Best held “a roundtable to hear from community on how we can best coordinate the City’s efforts around youth opportunity and violence prevention in the Central District.” One outcome, Durkan says, was some $7 million in youth safety programming budgeted in 2019 across the city. Another was additional SPD emphasis patrols.
A SPD spokesperson told CHS after the deadly shooting Friday that gang emphasis patrols were already underway in the Central District prior to the latest wave of gun violence.”Seattle Police Department is very concerned about gun violence and has been and will continue to do gun violence emphasis with our gang unit in this neighborhood and other neighborhoods affected by gun violence,” the spokesperson said, adding that the emphasis effort “ebbs and flows as the data shows that we need to do more.”
Neighbors in the area, Tuesday, appeared in front of District 3 representative Kshama Sawant’s Human Services, Equitable Development, and Renter Rights Committee to call for faster, smaller investments beyond policing to try to make the area safer.
The group is calling on the Seattle Department of Transportation to begin studying the addition of environmental design elements like speed bumps and traffic calming barriers near where gun violence has occurred in an effort to transform 21st Ave and make shootouts and drivebys less likely. Sawant said she is planning a community meeting including neighbors and representatives from the Black community like Africatown to discuss more ideas and she said her office would be pushing for better engagement from City Hall and departments like SDOT.
Tuesday night, Mayor Durkan appeared at a previously scheduled event in Ballard to discuss her “Pre-Summer Emphasis Program” in seven neighborhoods to try to get ahead of summer street crime and violence. Capitol Hill and the Central District did not make the cut. A representative from her office, meanwhile, appeared Tuesday afternoon at a meeting of the Capitol Hill Chamber of Commerce with East Precinct officials to discuss safety around Broadway and Pike/Pine. The Central District shootings came up — but only in passing.
For neighbors feeling frustrated by the situation, Durkan’s most important move might be the hiring of Julie Kline, a longtime senior deputy prosecutor for the King County Prosecutors Office. The newest member of Durkan’s office will be tasked with helping to coordinate the mayor’s public safety efforts and provide “a consistent point of contact” for the issues. She begins her role May 29th, Durkan says.
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