A Seattle Success in Preventing Crime

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Visiting businesses around 23rd and UnionLornet Turnbull’s excellent article in today’s Seattle Times highlights the remarkable transformation at 23rd Avenue and East Union Street in the Central District.

Crime has been reduced dramatically, businesses are opening and new apartments will soon be constructed. While we must be mindful of the history and long-time identity of the neighborhood, these are changes that can benefit new and old residents alike.

The transformation has occurred in recent years because neighbors and Seattle police officers rejected the belief that consistent crime and disorder are an inevitable part of urban living. Community members, police officers and representatives from other City departments put together a focused set of community-driven interventions that restored the neighborhood. The transformation started in 2009 when then-Mayor Nickels and then-City Attorney Tom Carr launched the Drug Market Initiative, an innovative offender-focused deterrence strategy. (Read my description of the DMI effort here.)

So, bravo to Seattle police and community members who came together in common cause to make their neighborhood a better place.

The same type of police focus that has proven so successful at 23rd and East Union Street should be the norm as we address persistent crime that is geographically concentrated at micro-places across Seattle. We should also apply the same keen focus on those few offenders who cause the most harm, offenders committing persistent felony and misdemeanor crimes and destroying the quality of life in many neighborhoods. This type of community-driven policing that focuses on specific places and specific offenders has proven successful in other cities and it is needed here, too. (Read my new philosophy of policy essay from January 2012 here.)