Urban Politics #195: A Public Safety Initiative


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By City Councilmember Nick Licata.

Urban Politics (UP) blends my insights and information on current public policy developments and personal experiences with the intent of helping citizens shape Seattle’s future.

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A Public Safety Initiative

On April 26, 2005 the Council sponsored a Citywide Neighborhood Crime Summit and Public Hearing where a packed Council Chamber heard each of the Police Precinct Commanders explain how they deployed their police officers in their respective precincts in response to citizen concerns about crime. The Chair of each Precinct Advisory Council also chaired meetings for each of the Precinct caucuses during a breakout session and then reported back to the full group.

From research that I initiated, for the first time since I’ve been on the Council, the actual number of police officers on patrol per precinct and per watch was determined. The final numbers are still be reviewed by the Seattle Police Department Ê(SPD) and the Seattle Police Officers Guild (SPOG), but I believe that they are fairly accurate. I will be writing about these findings and how it relates to the deployment of police in the city in a future Urban Politics.

Besides educating citizens about crime levels and patrol staffing priorities the crime summit also provided a venue for people to talk about their public safety priorities and the ideas they have about effective strategies to address those.

Many of the specific recommendations varied from precinct to precinct but there was a shared theme across all precincts.

1) Citizens in all precincts feel that the number of beat patrols needs to be increased and they want to understand more about how patrol-staffing levels are planned for each precinct (precinct size, population, etc).

2) Citizens in all precincts feel that we are most successful addressing crime when SPD works to share information, identify problems, and create solutions in collaboration with citizens and other relevant institutions (e.g. schools, non-profit organizations, and other City/County agencies and departments).

3) Citizens in all precincts agree that to be successful we need to create a comprehensive approach that recognizes that to effectively fight crime we must augment law enforcement through addressing some of the human needs that give rise to crime.

In order to actively follow up on these themes I introduced Resolution 30773 which supported funding the Mayor’s proposed 25 new Seattle Police Department officers, while also requesting that the Mayor submit to the City Council in the 2006 budget measures that support the public safety recommendations that were identified from the public.

Lastly it also supported continued Council deliberations for a November 2005 public safety levy. This last element of the resolution will allow the Council to formally and publicly follow up on the proposal I had floated last year for a Civil Streets Initiative (CSI) that proposes to combine law enforcement with emergency services and human services.

This approach has been shown to be effective for dealing with repeat offenders. The City Departments providing these services will coordinate their efforts and focus them on altering the behavior of drug addicts, alcoholics, and the mentally ill by providing them drug treatment, counseling, and job opportunities. But these services are accompanied by tight supervision until an offender can take responsibility for their actions.

Even if the City does not pursue a specific CSI levy for funding additional police and social services to address street crimes, it can frame the public policy discussion by identifying some new strategies for achieving more effective law enforcement. With the intended result that those arrested are not soon back on the street being arrested once again for the same activity.

At this Monday’s Full Council Meeting I introduced the resolution to be referred to my Public Safety, Civil Rights and Arts Committee with co-sponsors Council Members Richard Conlin, Tom Rasmussen and David Della. CM Richard McIver opposed the resolution being referred to my Committee, but the Council proceeded to do so by an 8 to 1 (McIver) vote.

The resolution will come up for discussion and possible vote at my Committee Meeting on May 17th at 2 pm. The Council’s first Committee of the Whole to discuss a possible November public safety ballot initiative will take place in the Council Chambers on Tuesday, May 31st and 2:30 pm.

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