On Monday night I joined a nighttime walk-about with the Southeast Seattle Crime Prevention Council (SSCPC), a nonprofit community group committed to addressing crime and public safety issues.
Roughly 25 neighbors from the Rainier Beach, Beacon Hill, Mt. Baker, and Othello neighborhoods joined security officers from Sound Transit and Seattle Police officers from the South Precinct, including Lt. John Hayes and Officer Denise “Cookie” Bouldin.
Our purpose was to consider pedestrian safety issues between the Sound Transit Rainier Beach Station and adjoining neighborhoods along the Light Rail corridor, which have been plagued by attacks on pedestrians in recent months. These are neighborhoods where people rely heavily on public transit.
The Seattle Police Department (SPD) is working to respond to residents’ concerns. Capt. Nolan of the South Precinct has launched emphasis patrols that target the areas where the thefts, robberies, and burglaries have occurred. Also, the South Precinct now deploys a two-officer special emphasis car that cruises the corridor on the lookout for transit predators. South Precinct Anti-Crime Teams, Sound Transit security and Seattle Gang Unit officers also work the problem.
As we walked around the Rainier Beach Light Rail station, I spoke with my fellow walkers and with Lt. Hayes about actions we can take to help improve neighborhood safety.
Here are some key suggestions:
If you see a street light that is burned out, call Seattle City Light and report it. Every light pole has a number on it. Report it online or call (206) 684-7056 with the pole number and street and ask them to repair it. The City Light folks are trying to be very responsive. If you don’t get a positive response in a few days, call customer service at (206) 684-CITY (2489).
Know your neighbors – join a block watch, or do what we did last night. Invite a group of people to regularly walk around the neighborhood. Police talk about “the power of Hello” – and how recognizing and acknowledging the people who live and belong in your neighborhood can be a powerful deterrent. I have been told by a captain in the North Precinct that the single most important factor in cleaning up Aurora was the neighbors who united and did their own regular foot patrols. Drug dealers and prostitutes were put on notice that they were not welcome.
SPD advises that when you see your neighbors, it’s a good idea to wave and say “Hi.” Acknowledge each other. When you see people you don’t know on your block, wave and say “Hi” as well. Acknowledge them, too. Send the message that you are engaged in your neighborhood and that you are attentive to what is going on and who is around. People who want to commit crimes don’t want to be noticed. If they are noticed, they can be identified; that in itself is a deterrent.
Report unmaintained property. The “Broken Window Theory” suggests that one “broken window” or nuisance, if allowed to exist, will lead to others and ultimately to the decline of an entire neighborhood.
Neglected and poorly maintained properties are breeding grounds for criminal activity. Report property that’s poorly maintained—for example, if there are inoperable cars on the property, if people seem to be squatting there, if the structures are dangerous, if unsavory late night activity goes on regularly, or the owner lets shrubs or trees overgrow public sidewalks and create dark dangerous areas, report it.
Here are some important numbers to call. As the police tell us “If you see it, report it.” For example, if you see someone cutting down a tree on park property, call (206) 615-0808 to report it immediately. If you are a tenant with a landlord who won’t keep up the property you live in, you can call DPD Code Compliance Complaint Line at (206) 615-0808 for help.
Call 911 and report crimes. Even if the crime already occurred and you are safe, call 911. Statistics count. If you don’t file a report with the police, the police have no way of knowing that the event happened and they can’t help. That part is up to you.
The response part is up to the police. Request that the police call you back when you call in a report. If they don’t, call them again. Ask for an estimate of when an office will call back. Get the names and business cards of officers who respond in person or the name of the officer who spoke with you on the phone. Remember to get an incident number.
If you have called the police but do not get a response, please send me an e-mail and tell me what you’ve done. We will see what we can collectively do to make a difference. As Lt. Hayes said, “Community safety is a community issue.” Once again, we’re all in this together. Thanks for being part of making our communities safe.
Many thanks to Lt. Hayes from SPD and Pat Murakami, the community member who organized and led the walk. Thanks to those who joined me on the walkabout, because crime prevention through environmental design can contribute to neighborhood safety.