Last week the Downtown Seattle Association (DSA) sent a letter to the mayor and City Council expressing their concerns about the negative activity that has occurred over the last several weeks in the core of our city. The letter was eloquent and full of frustration, understandably. No one wants to see or feel the intimidation or level of violence that is occurring on some of our streets.
DSA is troubled about these events, and truth be told, so I am. The letter talks about the street violence in Downtown’s “most visible and traveled public spaces”. As someone who lives and works downtown, I am concerned about the behavior on these streets and parks as well as all of the others throughout our city.
Everyone deserves to feel safe in our city, whether we are walking near Westlake or running through Seward Park. Violence and “bunch” behaviors are off-putting if not outright dangerous and should be addressed by a standard of respect from every one of us.
I do not take DSA’s complaints lightly. The City is responding on many levels: with more police presence on the sidewalks, with better outreach to and with our human service providers, and with more Park Rangers in several of our downtown Parks.
We have doubled the size of our Park Ranger crew in four downtown Parks.
The objective or our Parks Ranger program is to assist park users and to seek voluntary compliance with laws and Park Code SMC 18.12. The Rangers are empowered to issue citations and parks trespass warnings and they are in close contact with Seattle Police should they need backup.
On our Department of Parks and Recreation website, the Park Rangers’ purpose is described this way:
“To enhance the real and perceived safety and quality of life in our city parks through a uniformed presence, to provide respectful and professional assistance to all park users, and to ensure compliance with laws and the Parks Code through education and enforcement.”
I have walked with the Park Rangers early in the morning and have seen firsthand what they do. They know the regulars by their first names. They assist those who need to get cleaned up and dried out. The Park Rangers actively support the Center City Parks Concierges and Seattle Parks activation programs by meeting and talking to people in our park. They are supported by Parks cleanup crews to keep Westlake, Steinbrueck, Occidental, and Cal Anderson super clean every day.
Park Rangers are appreciated by those of us who live in the neighborhoods. To provide the best possible coverage, Parks Department changed the Rangers weekly schedules from four 10-hour shifts to five eight-hour shifts.
In addition to these actions, we are continuing the good work on Third Avenue and our City Center Initiative. We are in constant contact with the Police Department, who provide updates regularly.
DSA wants resources and strategies. Our Center City Initiative has brought together nearly 100 people within our City departments and leaders downtown-wide to identify problems and find solutions.
I have met with the Hoteliers and the Visit Seattle organization, knowing how frustrated they are about downtown behaviors. I have met with our Human Services providers and Public Defenders to discuss how we can improve living conditions for those on the street. This is truly a “we” deal. Our streets will improve when we all work to find safe places and healthy solutions to the behaviors we find intolerable.
I am determined to have a downtown, and a city, that makes us all proud and where we feel safe. As I’ve stated, anything less is unacceptable.