While Friday’s murder of 19-year-old Royale Lexing can be clearly tied to an ongoing string of gun violence across the Central District, Capitol Hill, and Seattle, neighbors around the scene of the shootout at 21st and Union are looking at a much more local problem — and maybe solutions.
At Tuesday afternoon’s meeting of District 3 representative Kshama Sawant’s Human Services, Equitable Development, and Renter Rights Committee, Central Neighbors said SPD’s emphasis efforts are welcomed but called on the city to look beyond policing in its efforts to curb gun violence.
They point to a series of shootings around 21st and Union — five different incidents across about 18 months — that indicate that while the violence is tied to citywide and regional issues of crime and inequity, 21st Ave and its place in the heart of the Central District might also be a major factor in the ongoing violence.
Sawant also said Tuesday that the fact that emphasis patrols were already underway around the area of the fatal shooting shows that increasing policing won’t solve the problem on its own.
She said, instead, community members have been asking 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 the street and make shootouts and drivebys less likely.
One neighbor who spoke during the session said that SDOT had been happy to come out and tour the neighborhood as a greenway was planned in the area but the department has not been responsive to the call for Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design efforts.
CPTED standards have been utilized regularly in Seattle for shaping things like city parks and are the driver behind efforts like improving the lighting in Cal Anderson Park.
In the meantime, neighbors says they have been trying to do little things to improve the environment around the street while they push for help from the city. A fence was moved to give a nearby camera a better view of the corner and a hedge was removed. Neighbors are planning a community mural this summer, and have attended countless meetings with local businesses, and SPD’s community representatives. Seattle City Light helped out, they say, by adding a streetlight to a dark stretch of 21st.
For now, Sawant says the effort to address possible environmental solutions to help make the area safer is just getting started.
She called for 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.
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