The City’s role in addressing public safety is written into the City Charter.
“…For the purpose of protecting and enhancing the health, safety, environment, and general welfare of the people; to enable municipal government to provide services and meet the needs of people efficiently…”
We must get back to the basics: increase the number of sworn officers, expand community policing, emphasize areas of treatment, and provide housing and wraparound services for those experiencing homelessness. We must establish an authentic engagement process with our neighborhoods. I will work with all communities and local organizations to provide more City support where needed and move Seattle forward.
Compared to cities of comparable population, Seattle ranks exactly in the middle for sworn police offers per capita, sworn police officers per square mile, and general crime levels. The other eight cities are; Boston (Massachusetts), Charlotte (North Carolina), Columbus (Ohio), Denver (Colorado), El Paso (Texas), Indianapolis (Indiana), San Francisco (California), and Washington (District of Columbia). Despite ranking 5 of 9, Seattle measures below average for sworn police offers per capita and per square mile. Of these nine cities, Boston ranks highest overall with 32 sworn police officers per 10,000 residents, 44 sworn police per square mile, and a general crime level right around the national average. If Seattle operated at these levels, we would have greater than 2,300 sworn police officers – a force 67% larger than our current force. This very likely explains why our general crime rate is nearly 50% higher.
Addressing property crime must be a priority. District One residents and business owners often raise concerns but are told not to complain because – while it might be bad – it has been worse. District One has experienced an increase in overall crime. Where property crime has not risen, violent crime has. Neighborhoods South of the Morgan Junction and West of 16th Avenue Southwest experienced an increase in both property crime and violent crime. South Delridge and South Park have the 6th and 12th highest overall crime rates in the city respectively. I will work with the Seattle Police Department and support their efforts to increase responsiveness in our District and the City at large.
Supporting police does not mean forsaking accountability – in fact, demanding accountability shows support. We don’t just want the job done; we want it done right. There is still much work to be done to improve the relationship between our police and our communities. Through expansions to community policing programs, working toward force diversity, implementing community-based diversion programs, and partnering with King County to establish a supportive release center to assist with reintegration, we can begin to improve.
I will implement transitional programs for those of our community caught in the criminal justice system experiencing mental health disorders, substance abuse issues, a lack of permanent housing, and those with recurring criminal behavior. We can’t continue the cycle of jailing and releasing them without assistance, then expecting our city to become safer and cleaner. These transitional programs will aim to assist folks with treating mental health disorders, overcoming chemical dependencies, accessing housing and services, and making community connections. This will ensure community safety, empower participants to rebuild their lives by combining resources from a variety of systems, and expand rehabilitative efforts as a tool of public safety.
By improving relationships between our police and our communities we can expand the assistive functions of the police department. Rather than ignoring smaller crimes, we can use reports of property crime and trespassing as a gateway to deliver services. Law enforcement doesn’t have to mean punishment. We need real, substantial progress. We need it now.