Councilmember Lisa Herbold (District 1 – West Seattle and South Park), Chair of the Public Safety and Human Services Committee, alongside her Council colleagues voted 8-0 to approve a $10.4 million spending plan for community safety, that will invest in the capacity of organizations building community safety from the ground up to end violence and reduce crime in Seattle neighborhoods, called Community Safety Capacity Building.
The legislation makes it possible for the Human Services Department to award $10.4 million to strengthen organizations that provide community-led public safety initiatives. A request for Proposals (RFP) has been issued with applications due by Friday, April 9. Priority will be given to Black, Indigenous, Latinx, Pacific Islander, and Immigrant and Refugee-led community groups, as they are most impacted by racism, systems of oppression, and harm from violence and the criminal legal system.
“Time and again, we’ve heard from our constituents that the response to poverty, behavioral health crisis, and homelessness shouldn’t be an armed police officer, but instead better resources and community-led programs that address these core needs. The fourteen members of the National Commission on Covid-19 and Criminal Justice, including interim SPD Chief Diaz, recommend exactly this kind of investment in anti-violence strategies to combat increased violence and property offenses in cities across the country, including in Seattle,” said Herbold.
“This $10.4 million investment will help build safety from the ground up across Seattle, by allowing organizations closest to the problem to build and expand new solutions. This work builds upon the $4 million awarded last year to the Seattle Community Safety Initiative, led by Community Passageways, which built community safety hubs and wraparound services in three Seattle neighborhoods,” said Herbold.
“Due to investments from the City, Community Passageways, Safe Passage, Urban Families, and Alive & Free are able to collaborate and no longer work in silos. These community-led organizations are powerful and effective because we’re driven by a proactive approach built on relationships rather than a reactionary and punitive approach. Equally important, when the community sees all of us working in unity, it provides a model of how the community can work together as well,” said Dominique Davis, CEO of Community Passageways, which leads the Seattle Community Safety Initiative (SCSI).
Davis continued: “In just a couple months, the SCSI team has been successful in preventing gun violence because we’re so highly trusted in the community. In addition to stabilizing families with basic needs such as employment, housing and therapeutic services, we’ve protected families at funerals who have lost a loved one to gun violence and are fearful of more violence being perpetrated on them. We’ve de-escalated highly intense situations by leveraging our relationships with those in conflict. Normally, the police would have been called in these circumstances and the outcomes could have been much worse. But when the SCSI team intercedes in these situations, our communities are able to begin healing, which is part of ending gun violence.
“Lastly, through this community safety investment we’re able to provide jobs and training for community members who normally might not be able to make a living wage with a healthcare package. We’ve hired people with lived experiences in the streets and in the systems that are going back into those same streets and navigating those same systems to work with the young adults and families that have been victims of gun violence,” Davis concluded.
“A gun-and-badge response to poverty, homelessness and mental health or substance-induced crisis is not a solution. Instead, we need to continue to scale up civilian-led and community-supported alternatives that increase safety for everyone in our neighborhoods and business districts. We need to invest in community-led programs that address the roots of those problems. This $10.4 million investment builds upon the work the City has already done to quickly scale up community safety alternatives rooted in harm reduction,” said Council President M. Lorena González (Position 9, Citywide).
“Our communities have always had the solutions to best address their needs, this investment is our commitment to strengthen those solutions and build on what we know works. Over the course of last year, it has been made clear that community solutions are what the future of safety looks like in our city. The capacity building that this funding will provide is critical to the visionary work we have begun. As we scale down the responsibilities we have placed upon our police officers, investments like this are what will allow community organizations to step up and respond to calls for help,” said Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda (Position 8, Citywide).
“Gun violence, mental health episodes, homelessness – many of these issues are public health crises, and they need a public health and community-centered response. Our individual communities are best equipped to care for our neighbors in a way that meets them where they’re at, and provides the solutions they need to be successful in the long term,” said Councilmember Tammy J. Morales (District 2, South Seattle and the C/ID).
Community Safety Capacity Building is a continuation of the Council’s work starting last summer to reimagine community safety and increase investments in alternatives to policing. Additional actions include: Ongoing work to transfer 911 and parking enforcement out of the Seattle Police Department; creating a new civilian-led Department of Community Safety & Communication Center; investing $30 million for community safety via a participatory budget process; and, expanding funding for the Crisis Response Team and Seattle Fire Department’s Health One, which launched in 2019 and will expand from one to three units by October due to Council’s budget additions. These alternative programs can reduce the workload on sworn officers, and allow them to focus on work only they can do.
The National Commission on Covid-19 and Criminal Justice reported about increases in crime in 34 cities across the country. This report noted the strain individuals and organizations have experienced over the past year, and concluded that implementing proven anti-violence strategies will be necessary to combat increased violence and property offenses across the country, including in Seattle.