Seattle Police tackling neighborhood hotspots with ‘directed patrols’

Jul 19, 2012

With 20 fatal shootings so far, just over half way into the year, Seattle’s murder toll has already topped the number of homicides for all of last year.

The city is stepping up police patrols in crime hot spots they’ve identified and getting officers out of their cars more to increase visibility. 

Seattle’s east precinct was been the location of one of the city’s higher profile shootings this year. It covers the Central District and the Madrona neighborhood, where Justin Ferarri – a dad in his van – was killed in a random shooting, the accidental victim of street-side violence.

While they haven’t caught the shooter yet, Captain Ron Wilson says that area is one of five hotspots in his precinct where Seattle police are engaging in what they're calling 'directed patrols.'

“They come in at a random time, spend 15 minutes in that area, get out of the car, meet with people, meet the businesses, talk with homeowners and make their presence known,” Captain Wilson says.

Wilson says it’s a cultural shift for officers. But about a month into the program, he says the patrols seem to be working.

“One of our directed hotspots that we had been working on long time had a 30% reduction in calls for service, because of our presence. And another one, amazingly had a 60% reduction in calls for service.”

The Department has re-assigned 25 officers to street-side duty to bolster the patrols, but says mostly they’re using police time more efficiently by having officers get out of their cars and engage with the public when they’re not responding to 911 calls.

The city of Seattle is facing a $30-million deficit, as well as an ongoing investigation into civil rights abuses by the federal Department of Justice, which will likely re-direct funds from officers salaries into re-training.