The Seattle Police Department is pushing the city’s neighborhood watches — keeping eyes on everything from suspicious magazine sales teams to car prowls and most everything in between — online. In a partnership with privately held social media network Nextdoor, SPD is dividing its precincts into 55 “micro communities” and promising specific public safety plans and updates for neighbors:
Micro Community Policing Plans (MCPP) take a unique three-pronged approach to fighting crime in Seattle’s neighborhoods.
- Maintaining accurate and timely data that is relentlessly followed-up on.
- Working directly with the community to ensure that we are meeting their priorities.
- Partnering with Seattle University to conduct independent review to refine our approach.
The MCPP’s are living documents and use crime data as performance measures. As trends and patterns are identified, the relationships established to design the policing plans are reengaged to continually refine the approach. In this way, collaboration between the community and their police department fosters trust and an ongoing partnership to manage crime and quality of life issues, together.
“The Micro Community Policing Plans were created from the bottom up, with input from cops on the beat and people living and working in Seattle neighborhoods,” Police Chief Kathleen O’Toole is quoted as saying in the press release about the new plans. “We’re always going to focus on serious crimes citywide. These plans address low level crime and quality of life issues unique to each neighborhood, giving the community a voice in the development of our policing strategy.”
The money for implementing and training in the new program comes out of each precinct’s general budget, a spokesperson tells CHS.
Here’s the roster of East Precinct communities and links to documents (PDF) outlining the policing plans:
- Capitol Hill
- Central Area/Squire Park
- First Hill
- ID/Little Saigon
- Judkins Park
- Madison Park
- Miller Park
- Montlake Portage Bay
- Mount Baker/North Rainier
- North Beacon Hill/North Rainier
- North Capitol Hill
You can find reports for the rest of the city at seattle.gov/police/MCPP/
If you’re expecting deep insights about crime in your part of the East Precinct, you’ll be disappointed. We’ve embedded the reports for “Capitol Hill” and “First Hill” below as examples:
Some of the elements are illuminating, however. We particularly approve of this proactive approach to fighting assaults on Capitol Hill: “Use various media conduits to inform the community on recent or lingering crime trends and best practices for self and property.” Anybody regularly calling 911 about disturbances, in the meantime, might want to arm themselves with the 7-minute response time metric.
While it is making the plans available via its public website, SPD says it will distribute local bulletins via the Nextdoor service. The social network venture has generated increasing buzz after Sacramento, California touted its contribution in lowering crime there in 2014. We’re hoping SPD’s contract with Nextdoor allows it to also put “micro community” information out to the open web. The initiative is one of many new efforts as SPD attempts to modernize its approach to policing. Its SeaStat predictive policing analysis is modeled on the program utilized in New York City. SPD has also created a variety of crime maps to illustrate trends and give citizens — and the media — online access to reports. Even with the upgraded technology, some processes are difficult to scale. SPD’s release of crime report narratives, for example, requires a labor intensive redaction process. Currently, only around 25% of assault, burglary, and robbery reports makes it onto the web.
Meanwhile in the East Precinct, command staff has its hands full with increased weekend patrols in Pike/Pine in an attempt to head off another summer spike in street crime in the nightlife district. Eyes will also be on the new initiatives being rolled out downtown to address drug dealing and related crimes in the city’s core — the “9 1/2 Block Strategy“:
Bus stops will be moved, alleys restricted and newspaper boxes used by drug dealers removed as part of the new “9½ Block Strategy,” which refers to the small section of downtown between First and Fourth avenues and Union and Stewart streets where much of the city’s crime is concentrated.
The strategy will also include coordinated outreach to help people living on the street and buying drugs downtown, along with a crackdown focused on gun-toting dealers who return to the same blocks day after day.
Earlier this month, SPD and city officials told a gathering of Pike/Pine business representatives that initiatives based on what works in the 9 1/2 Block plan will eventually be deployed in Pike/Pine. We hope they call it the “2 Block Radius Strategy.”
UPDATE: Another component of the downtown clean-up that is expected to flow up Capitol Hill was announced Thursday by SPD. Here are the details on Operation Crosstown Traffic:
A four-month operation by the Seattle Police Department’s Major Crimes Taskforce (MCTF) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation has led authorities to 186 suspected drug dealers and thieves, who turned Seattle’s downtown core into an open-air drug market and street corner swap meet. As of Thursday morning, police have arrested 95 suspects, and local officials are now working to get some of those dealers off the streets by connecting them with a pioneering and promising diversion program, instead of sending them to prison.
Since January, MCTF detectives and West Precinct officers have been working undercover as part of Operation Crosstown Traffic, a partnership with the FBI, US Attorney’s Office, King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office and City Attorney’s Office, aimed at identifying criminals involved in a thriving underground economy around 3rd Avenue and Pine Street. Over the last year, police have received 10,000 calls of service in the area surrounding the 1500 block of Pine Street, including frequent reports of drug dealing and property crimes, as well as violent brawls, shootings, and stabbings.
While we’re likely to hear less about it, a representative from the mayor’s office said last week similar investigative efforts will be used to address other “open air drug markets” around Seattle. One area on the target list is Pike/Pine and the area around Cal Anderson Park.
SPD says the sweeps use more than arrest and jail time to deter the criminal activity:
Because so many of the 186 suspects identified in Crosstown Traffic have had previous brushes with the law, Police and prosecutors are working to refer an unprecedented number of them to the Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion Program (LEAD), providing them with opportunities for housing, treatment or other needed services, instead of slapping them with felony charges. A recent University of Washington study of the LEAD program showed participants who entered into diversion were nearly 60-percent less likely to commit new crimes.
Police are hoping to offer diversion services to a portion of the 186 individuals identified during Crosstown Traffic, who have not previously been involved in violent crimes. 37 suspects are facing federal charges, and are not eligible for LEAD.
Meanwhile, the downtown arrests will also likely have a material impact on some types of crime around Capitol Hill as police say many of the suspects netted by the operation are active up and down Pike and Pine.