The researcher behind the annual survey the Seattle Police Department says it uses to create specific public safety plans for every neighborhood in the city says the yearly process is the best way for ordinary citizens to “help convey a better understanding of public safety in Seattle.”
“The findings tell the story of how people in different neighborhoods view public safety and police, Jackie Helfgott, director of the Crime and Justice Research Center at Seattle University says about the research. “In an ideal world, a ‘healthy’ neighborhood, public safety-wise, would yield high ratings around police legitimacy, social cohesion and informal social control, and low ratings around fear of crime and social disorganization.”
So, speak up Capitol Hill, the Central District, and the surrounding neighborhoods of the East Precinct. This is your chance.
The Seattle Public Safety Survey is an opportunity for all who live and/or work in Seattle to voice your concerns about public safety and security in your micro-community (neighborhood). The survey is open and accessible at publicsafetysurvey.org through November 30th and available in Amharic, Arabic, Chinese, English, Korean, Oromo, Somali, Spanish, Tagalog, Tigrinya and Vietnamese.
Started in 2015, the SPD and Seattle U research typically only reached 300 to 500 respondents in even the city’s largest neighborhoods with the survey pushed through outlets like the Nextdoor social media system and its information sharing agreement with the department. Some years, only around 100 people responded from the city’s Central Area, and 300 on Capitol Hill.
In last year’s survey, nearly 2,000 people responded across the East Precinct. That’s a big jump but still leaves thousands of people’s thoughts out of the responses. The largest group of respondents was between the ages of 30 and 49 though the research process weights the results according to the demographic makeup of the precinct’s neighborhoods. Meanwhile, shout out to the three 2022 East Precinct respondents who reported being older than 90.
“As far as the survey is concerned, ratings for police legitimacy have been lower in the East Precinct than the others,” Helfgott told CHS about the results earlier this year. “The social control rating was low, too, which means there’s reduced willingness for people to get involved in public safety.”
“Police legitimacy is an important concept relevant to public safety as it has been consistently found that law enforcement relies on police legitimacy for individuals to cooperate/comply with and support their departments,” the 2022 survey report notes.
In recent years, new concerns have risen to the top — and stayed — in the East Precinct. The top issue here is now property crime followed by “police capacity.” Respondents here also are likely to cite “traffic safety” as a concern though SPD makes much fewer traffic stops than it used to.
The fifth most cited public safety concern? “Homelessness.”
Helfgott said that the top safety concerns identified in the East Precinct were similar to those identified citywide — though respondents from the neighborhoods around Capitol Hill and the Central District tend to be much less concerned about crime than most other parts of the city.
“There is a need to conduct these surveys because community perception of crime matters,” Helfgott said. “The survey measures people’s trust in police and their fear of crime, which relates to their quality of life.”
“My hope is that we always get more people to participate in these surveys,” Helfgott said. “It’s the data that helps us understand how the community feels.”
Respondents can take the survey at publicsafetysurvey.org through November 30th.
With reporting by Soumya Gupta