The wave of shootings across the Central District that have left a 19-year-old dead and others wounded gained its terrible strength in a shooting weeks ago in March in Capitol Hill’s Cal Anderson where 21-year-old Hakeem Salahud-din was gunned down next to the park’s basketball court.
Police, Mayor Jenny Durkan, and City Council representative Kshama Sawant have focused much of their efforts in the Central District to stem the violence. But gun violence incidents on Broadway and in Pike/Pine, and fears of an increase in street disorder as summer approaches also have the neighborhood’s business community concerned.
Seattle Police Department and mayor’s office representatives spoke earlier this month with Capitol Hill business representatives to discuss crime and street disorder throughout Pike/Pine and along Broadway as summer quickly approaches.
The event, hosted by the Capitol Hill Chamber of Commerce at Elliott Bay Book Company and moderated by the chamber’s head and District 3 candidate Egan Orion, looked to give locals an opportunity to air grievances and priorities as well as allow the city to give an update on the state of crime in the neighborhood.
SPD East Precinct commander Capt. Bryan Grenon said that in the area there has been a 4-5% reduction in crime overall as of the beginning of the month but crime statistics are ripe for abuse in a community forum. You can look at the latest SPD stats for the East Precinct covering Capitol Hill here on the CHS Crime Dashboard. Beyond the statistics, there has been a spike in violent crime with eleven shootings in 30 days taking place across Capitol Hill and the Central District.
The first area of emphasis in the meeting was the reasoning for a lack of SPD emphasis patrol in Capitol Hill given high crime levels in the area as the Mayor’s office chose seven other neighborhoods instead. Sabrina Bolieu, business liaison for Mayor Jenny Durkan’s office, explained, saying that they were looking for areas with increases in person-on-person crime and Capitol Hill has simply sustained its crime level.
However, Capitol Hill already has a high police presence, noted Bolieu. “It doesn’t mean we can’t do it, doesn’t mean that we can’t expand patrols to come here,” she said. Grenon said that SPD has doubled officers in areas plagued by recent violence.
Grenon also noted that there is an SPD nightlife emphasis in Capitol Hill, consisting of seven officers and one sergeant, as the neighborhood is the de facto hub for nightlife in Seattle. The patrol goes until 3 a.m., about an hour after bars and nightclubs close. This patrol will start up “very soon” and the same patrols were done last summer, as well, according to Grenon.
The nightlife scene in Capitol Hill also causes gridlock late at night as Lyft and Uber vehicles increase on Pike/Pine, and emergency vehicles can’t get through. Orion said that the city’s Office of Economic Development is trying to work out some solutions, such as a centralized area for pick-ups off of Pike.
One challenge the East Precinct captain noted was that the crimes follow little pattern in terms of the time of day they take place. “It’s not from 9 PM or 11 PM to 3 o’clock in the morning. We’ve had some at 11 o’clock in the morning. We’ve had some at 2 PM in the afternoon. We’ve had some that are at 8, some that are at 11, and some are at 2 or 3 o’clock in the morning.”
Bolieu said the mayor will have updates in the coming weeks on an approach for dealing with homelessness and addiction.
In response to a question on staffing for the East Precinct, Grenon said “we are not where we need to be, where I would want to be at.” Compared to last year, he noted SPD is down a few officers on all watches. With a strong economy, it’s harder to recruit, he said, and there’s only so many slots in the state police academy for SPD.
Bolieu said she heard Durkan say, “I just want more officers period to have more capacity to respond to crimes.” Grenon said that in his 28 years at SPD, they’ve never had officers to spare.
Some attendees wanted to know the status of using lights in Cal Anderson Park to deter criminals from fleeing into the dark space at night, but a member of the ownership of one nearby apartment building said that would be a problem because of the brightness, but more so the noise caused by the lights signaling that the park is open. She said people would gather loudly throughout the night.
The Broadway QFC rooftop parking lot has been the site of crime recently, noted one person at the meeting. There was a shooting there earlier this year, said Grenon, so SPD has been working “diligently” to get the property manager there to rework how that space is surveilled. The property management company has agreed to pay about $15,000 to control a gate that would charge people going in and out and control entry, according to Grenon. QFC has also agreed to upgrade their security system to better monitor the lot.
The three SPD representatives at the meeting seemed unaware of a pattern in the April string of fires that took place on Broadway and had no update in their search for an arson suspect, despite security footage posted by the Corvus and Co. bar owner.
One woman expressed concerns about SPD’s lack of effectiveness, specifically in quickly responding to 911 calls.
“I don’t call very often because I don’t get results when I need them,” she said, adding that she believes crime isn’t getting reported as much for this reason.
She also asked the mayor to do a walkthrough in the community before the summer and Bolieu, of Durkan’s office, responded “absolutely.”
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