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‘Certain types of crime are up in certain neighborhoods’ — Mayor Durkan takes public safety tour of Capitol Hill

As she toured Capitol Hill with community and business representatives Tuesday, Mayor Jenny Durkan said she has no regrets Seattle reversed course on a head tax last summer even as the social, safety, and sanitation programs it would have helped pay for are more vital than ever with her administration working to address a wave of gun violence and concerns about what she says is a rising tide of street disorder and property crimes in certain areas of the city.

“Police response is always the last resort,” Durkan said Tuesday at the end point of the short morning tour that began at Elliott Bay Book Company and meandered through Pike/Pine and up Broadway to Capitol Hill Station. “Police have to show up when other things to prevent violence have not worked.”

“Crime is up,” the mayor conceded as the TV cameras surrounded her at Broadway and John. “Particularly certain types of crime are up in certain neighborhoods,” she said.

Durkan’s hastily arranged tour — community group representatives said they weren’t told about the planned visit until over the Memorial Day weekend — followed CHS’s report last week on a call from neighborhood business representatives and the Capitol Hill Chamber of Commerce for more attention on Pike/Pine and Broadway public safety after the mayor left the area and the Central District off her “seven neighborhood” list for increased policing and infrastructure and clean-up work from City Hall departments.

Tuesday’s most concrete message about new public safety efforts on Capitol Hill from Durkan wasn’t really news. “As it has done in recent years, the Seattle Police Department (SPD) will also have its regular summer emphasis programs in Golden Gardens, Alki Beach, and Capitol Hill (for nightlife),” the announcement from the mayor’s office following Tuesday’s tour read.

Capitol Hill’s regular nightlife emphasis efforts — basically, more officers working later hours in the East Precinct — will start in coming days after a deadly early spring with a wave of shootings across the Central District that have left a 19-year-old murdered and a shooting 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.

In addition to Capitol Hill’s nightlife patrols and the gang emphasis patrols that SPD says have been underway around the Central District and in Pike/Pine, the department says its longterm efforts including social programs to curb gun violence are working. Increased involvement with the FBI and ATF following the recent shootings has also helped remove more powerful weapons from the streets.

But away from the TV cameras, most of Tuesday’s conversations were about smaller, more hyperlocal issues. A mother with two young children in tow told the mayor it was hard to see how the city “cherished families” in the neighborhood. She said she was concerned about people going to the bathroom outside in Cal Anderson and afraid of the discarded drug needles she sees around the neighborhood at 10th and John. Mayor Durkan said she shared the mother’s concerns and said more was being done to address homelessness under her administration citing the recently released partial report from the county that shows a drop in homelessness this year. She also said that although Seattle has been “stymied” by the federal government on safe consumption sites, the city is also doing more to clean up discarded needles. A city official said a report on the city’s Find It Fix It app will dispatch a clean-up effort in under 24 hours. The new all-gender bathrooms under construction in Cal Anderson will also have needle disposal features, a parks official said.

Another complaint that came up on the tour was an issue with neighborhood gardens, flower beds at businesses, and plantings at private homes being continually harvested and the ripped-ff flowers and greenery offered up for sale outside places like Capitol Hill Station. The mayor’s assembled crew of city officials including new Department of Transportation head Sam Zimbabwe made a note of it.

There were more serious issues raised. East Precinct commander Capt. Bryan Grenon said the property owners of the Harvard Market shopping center have agreed to implement new security measures hoped to cut down on the nightlife violence that has occurred in the upper level parking lot. The property management company has agreed to pay about $15,000 for a control gate that will require people to pay the lot at night, according to Grenon. The property has also agreed to upgrade its security system to better monitor the lot. Grenon said QFC is also working with the East Precinct to make it easier for officers to bust repeat shoplifting offenders at the company’s Capitol Hill stores.

Other issues included unhelpful 911 dispatchers, slow response times, and why there aren’t more officers on foot or on bikes would need more time for answers, Capt. Grenon, Durkan, and city officials said. Grenon did add that the city’s difficulty in recruiting new officers in a tight labor market makes it more difficult to spare people for foot and bike patrols.

Capt. Bryan Grenon

Meanwhile, not everything on the tour was about crime and justice.

Joey Burgess, owner of Queer/Bar and Grim’s, told the mayor he was happy to finally have his street back open to traffic again after years of construction “that almost killed 11th Ave.”

As the tour passed 11th and Pike, Shelley Brothers of the Wildrose talked about how they typically have to take on cleaning trash off the streets on their own to get the area read for Pride. The rainbow crosswalks, meanwhile, might look shabby after being torn up by recent Seattle Public Utilities work but they will reportedly be repainted in full rainbow splendor in time for this year’s LGBTQ celebrations.

And a few new ideas got kicked around. Monica Dimas who operates Sunset Fried Chicken inside Queer/Bar suggested that the mayor and the business community consider solutions that added instead of subtracting to the neighborhood. Her idea? Busking spots like you find in Pike Place Market dotted across Pike/Pine and Broadway to keep corners alive and busy with activity.

That idea like many of the complaints and issues became another entry in the mayoral staff’s notebooks. Paying for it and the other solutions talked about Tuesday isn’t yet an issue. The mayor told CHS that the policing end of things is “on budget.” Adding new ideas and new programs in Seattle as it begins the process of $5.9 billion belt tightening under a predicted revenue slowdown will be another matter. The scuttled head tax plan included housing and homelessness services spending with enough money to build an estimated 591 affordable units in five years, and around $15 million per year for services including rental subsidies, shelters, “innovative temporary housing,” and more than a million a year for “city-wide sanitation and garbage services such as but not limited to Seattle Public Utilities’ Clean Cities program.” That is off the table, of course, with no replacement plan for new revenue in sight.

While she has no regrets about the lost tax, Mayor Durkan on Tuesday said she knows Capitol Hill will need more than emphasis patrols.

“The influx of a lot of people, change in the housing stock, a lot more density, lack of affordability. All those challenges come to roost right here,” she said as the tour group assembled inside the Elliott Bay bookstore.

“There’s just a lot of anxiety everywhere in the city. And I think Capitol Hill, while one of our most vibrants neighborhoods, if not given attention, can change most quickly.”

For now, Durkan can cite the preliminary data showing a possible drop in King County homelessness and the early returns of her seven neighborhood emphasis push where she says SPD’s statistics show good signs. The mayor said early stats show a drop in calls to police in the emphasis areas and an increase in officer initiated actions and investigations. She said Tuesday the emphasis efforts will continue.

“It’s not like we picked a stop date,” she said. “We will continue to have and work with those communities on an ongoing basis and looking at that data.”

“You never advertise in law enforcement, ‘Hey, we’re done now,'” she said.

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18 thoughts on “‘Certain types of crime are up in certain neighborhoods’ — Mayor Durkan takes public safety tour of Capitol Hill

  1. She needs to come up to the Hill on a Friday or Saturday night. Or a Sunday morning. Or basically any morning. Or any night. Spend some time at the Broadway Market QFC, or in Cal Anderson, or Harvard Market. Without a giant gaggle of people around her. She can even just sit in a car at the parking lot across from the Baltic Room or Q on a weekend night. Then she can see what goes on in the neighborhood. She can see all the things that neighborhood residents and businesses and community organizations have been pointing out to City Hall for years.

    • I’m shocked she even admitted crime was up. Must be upcoming numbers don’t look good and she’s getting ahead of it.

      • I’m shocked she even admitted crime was up. Must be upcoming numbers don’t look good and she’s getting ahead of it.

        On SPD’s website, 2019 crime is down by month (total) compared to both 2017 and 2018 through April. 2017 crime (total) to 2018 crime (total) was slightly up, about 2%.

        Note that Seattle has a growth rate of 3% per year, so even the total increase from 2017 to 2018 would be a decrease per capita.

        So the bigger question is: where did she get her ““crime is up” numbers, which seem to conflict with Seattle’s official crime counts?

        Most likely, two years in, her attempts to be a “do nothing” mayor isn’t helping her approval numbers like predicted. So she needs to wring her hands about crime, which always turns people’s heads.

        Of course, anyone with half a brain cell knows that wringing ones hands about crime and blindly throwing more police at “crime” will accomplish nothing but spending taxpayer money.

      • That is a fairly common myth, Fairly Obvious: it was actually the civil libertarian left which advocated for de-institutionalization back in the 70’s and 80’s. The right was just happy not to have to pay for proper care. Look it up.

        And in this case, the homeless stabber guy is a long-time drug addict. Mental health issues are secondary for him. Indeed, his fb page includes messages from family members imploring him to avoid getting high and drunk, and staying out of trouble. Advice he obviously hasn’t been heading over the course of three decades, in a city that does way too much enabling and way too little helping.

      • Ah yes, the “ACLU shut down the mental hospitals and not Reagan” argument popped up on my Facebook feed recently. It was posted by the same friend who posted a video arguing that Nazis were actually leftists. Both of course being pure revisionist trash, the former by Reagan worshipers trying to prop up him up as a god by attempting to justify or deflect all the terrible things he did in office.

        The ACLU case you refer to O’Connor v. Donaldson (1975) ruled “that a state cannot constitutionally confine a non-dangerous individual who is capable of surviving safely in freedom by themselves or with the help of willing and responsible family members or friends.”

        At the time, mental health still consisted of basically tranquilizing committed mental patients. No legitimate treatment was being administered in horrific conditions in state run facilities and there was little to no hope for patients to ever be released.

        Because of the ACLU case, Jimmy Carter ordered the 1978 President’s Commission on Mental Health, which was considered landmark at the time. Its recommendations led to the Mental Health Systems Act of 1980, which supported and financed community mental health support systems, which coordinated general health care, mental health care, and social support services.

        Basically, Carter shifted mental health funding from ineffective state run facilities to local run facilities that actually attempted to rehabilitate people. The state run facilities shifted patients to these local facilities and begin reducing operations with the goal of eventually shutting down.

        That’s where Reagan stepped in. The Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1981 slashed corporate taxes from 48% to 34% and top personal tax bracket from 70% to 28% (!!!!!!!). The deficit skyrocketed as anyone with half a brain would expect.

        The OBRA repealed the MHSA, cutting funding from the local mental health clinics. The state run facilities were no longer able to absorb the patients that had been shifted to local run facilities, so mentally ill patients were turned out to the street with nowhere to go.

        So don’t claim the ACLU turned the mentally ill onto the streets. It was 100% Reagan and no revisionist crap from Reagan lovers can change that.

        So he’s a drug addict you say? Well, also thank Reagan for vastly expanding the “War on Drugs”, which basically threw drug addicts in jail instead of treating their addictions. Something that has mostly lasted through this decade and Seattle’s crisis has everything to do with that.

        Sure Nixon started the “War on Drugs”, but he mainly used it to “criminalize and disrupt black and hippie communities and their leaders”, per his aide John Ehrlichman. It was during Reagan’s administration where incarcerations skyrocketed, leading to drug addicts who now are still addicted, plus they have a criminal record. Coincidentally, this is also when Reagan started privatizing the prison industry to be run by for profit prison corporations, something that still corrupts our justice system to this day.

        Sorry bub, Reagan was one of the worst things to happen to our country. Possibly even more so than our current Commander in Chief.

    • Yup. In fact, an innocent person walking in front of the QFC 10 days earlier was stabbed by a homeless person with 77 previous arrests. At 1:00am.

      He was just charged yesterday:

      Prosecutors: Repeat criminal with violent history stabs man with stolen scissors

      • Sounds like he needs mental help that he’ll never get in the criminal/prison system. Too bad we decided in the 80s that we wanted tax cuts for the wealthy instead of mental institutions.

        Trickle down baby!

  2. I appreciate that the mayor came in person to see and speak with Capitol Hill residents and business owners. But why did she not come in person to the CD last week on a similar tour visiting the site of much recent gun violence, to speak with CD residents and business owners?

  3. The tolerance of loitering and petty crime on the Hill over the past several years has kept building and accumulating into a place I can barely recognize sometimes, and one that’s gotten quite dangerous.

    Don’t worry though, I’m sure things will only improve once the city finally forces their supervised heroin injection site onto Capitol Hill.

  4. I am sure the millenials and dried up hippies on the hill are eager, if not drooling to support a more “progressive” socialist slate of candidates to help tip over the capitalist swine in Seattle and create the utter havoc and lawlessness that a true “revolutionary” seeks. Heroin for all! Down with the police! Said no one. Ever. Except morons.

    • Can we please clean up this city? Piles of garbage everywhere by every unramp, in the streets. Tent camps with a lot more garbage, visible mentally ill people roaming the streets who need professional help, people peeing and shitting in broad day light, needles in parks… We are failing the homeless and mentally ill, we are failing ALL citizens of Seattle. The mayor and city council have failed us…time for re-elections, referendums whatever it takes… The situation in Seattle is completely out of control!!!

    • They did?! What did they clean?
      I’m still hoping to see the specific data and criteria used to decide which 7 neighborhoods to provide extra resources to. I’d also be curious to know the breakdown of the SPD budget. Anyone know if that info is available via public disclosure?

  5. Unfortunately this is all lip service. There will be more patrols and presence for a while, then it will eventually fade back to the same old same old. Its really frustrating. I mean, who do our public servants think they are here to serve? I’m kind of done with all this. I’m ready for a complete overhaul of City Council and the Mayor. Its too bad because I used to really liked the thought of Jenny as Mayor. Thought she’d be tougher than she is.

    • “I’m kind of done with all this. I’m ready for a complete overhaul of City Council and the Mayor.”

      Seattle says this about every Mayor. They get elected then everyone hates them when life in Seattle doesn’t magically change to Skittle showers and unicorns. When was the last time a Mayor got re-elected here in Seattle? I’m not sure, but I can’t remember ANY in my 22+ years of living here. Certainly not the last several, at least.

      • From the 1940s until the end of Norm Rice’s second thru 1998 re-election was the norm. Since then only one mayor has been re-elected, Greg Nickles (2002-2010). Since Nickles we have had 5 different mayors (two acting mayors thanks to Mayor Creep). My memory is not really this good, but Wikipedia’s is –