Coalition concerned about public safety Downtown

Oct 11, 2012

Recent violence against tourists and residents in downtown Seattle is putting pressure on the city council to put more cops on the street.

The council received a letter from a large coalition of businesses and organizations concerned about public safety downtown.

The letter is signed by nearly 160 organizations and entities in Seattle, including several hotels, restaurants and the downtown Seattle Association. Its president, Kate Joncas, says they kept hearing from people about aggressive panhandling and open air drug dealing.

“So we’ve been working for a couple of months to say 'what do you think we need in downtown to keep it the great place we want?'” Joncas says.

The letter addresses 5 areas of concern

Chief among them is making police more visible, by deploying them more strategically and focusing on areas where they see drug markets and illegal behaviors. The coalition’s list also includes better protection of parks and prevention of graffiti.

But at the heart of the matter is having enough tax revenue to pay for it all. Joncas says there’s already a special tax district in place downtown.

 “And it’s a circle, if dowtne..to fund police, Joncas says. "So you have to look on both sides.”  

The city council is poised to vote on a proposal to add 10 police officer to the city’s payroll – at a cost of a million dollars. There’s also lots of analysis underway of how police interact with erratic people and discussions of the need for mental health professionals to intervene and provide housing , medicine or food, depending on what’s most needed.

The chair of Seattle’s public safety committee wants to put more cops on the streets. He’s backing a proposal by the mayor to add 10 police officers to Seattle’s payroll – and Bruce Harrell says he’d like the council to consider doubling or tripling that number. It’s in response to several recent violent encounters between police and erratic people on the streets of Seattle.

“We're spending millions and millions of dollars on these issues. So I'm still not convinced we're measuring it appropriately," he says.

Harrell is chairman of the council’s committee on Public Safety, Human Rights and Technology. He says computers can be used to help figure out how to best allocate resources.

The city council is working on its budget proposals for next year. The council received the letter from the coalition of downtown businesses and individuals, concerned about safety on the streets, on Tuesday.