I’ve spent my entire life in Seattle, and for the first time, I hear more and more people concerned about their safety. This is due to a combination of factors, but it is clear our current policies and priorities are not sufficiently protecting our peace of mind. We need City Councilmembers who recognize the reality, and impacts, of neighborhood crime and act on them; public safety is one of the absolute core functions of city government.
I’ve been knocking on voter’s doors every day for nearly 4 months asking folks about their top concerns, and the stories I’ve heard I’m sure are all too familiar to you. Car prowlers, property crime, drug use near schools and in parks, stolen bikes and packages, threats of violence — it’s unacceptable, but it’s the reality in North Seattle right now. Community safety should never be a backburner issue.
I’ve also spent time meeting with and learning from those on the frontlines, including Seattle Police Department leaders and patrol officers, and our Seattle Firefighters. The best way to learn about these issues is to actually go out on the shifts with these officers and see them in action, which I’ve done. I’ve heard first hand their concerns, and suggestions, along with yours.
Here is my vision to better address public safety, and end the disconnect between neighborhood crime and City Hall:
Ensure the Seattle Police Department is fully and properly staffed, and explore the need to increase the number of officers. Our officers must be well trained, well resourced, and have clear direction from our city’s leaders around enforcement of laws, and their roles on the front lines. We need to recruit and retain the best officers, ensure they have top-level training and improve morale. This can indeed be done while maintaining and continuing reforms, to ensure our department becomes a national leader in de-escalation and non-discriminatory practices.
Take a serious approach to violent crime: Let’s be very clear, criminal behavior that threatens or harms others is not acceptable. Our attention must be focused on violent and repeat offenders. The small number of violent and repeat offenders creating the majority of public safety threats are too often returned to the street without treatment, only to commit additional crimes. Our justice system needs to fairly and compassionately address these individuals, including intense mental health and addiction treatment when needed, while also protecting our neighborhoods and businesses from continuing criminal behavior.
Work with the Offices of the City Attorney and King County Prosecutor on a coordinated strategy: important decisions around the prosecution of certain crimes, including drug crimes, cannot be made in a vacuum. These policy decisions have major cascading effects across our city. The City Attorney’s Office must have the resources to focus on frequent offenders. We need to continue to expand the use of Medication Assisted Treatment for opioid addiction. We must have a unified strategy which addresses the fact that addiction is a disease, but that sometimes, unsafe and/or criminal activity surrounds it, which impacts the entire community. We can have a city and region-wide policy that properly balances the challenges of addiction, while ensuring public safety in our communities.
Continue to work hard toward getting the severely chronically mentally ill into treatment, off the streets, and into additional permanent supportive housing. This will go a long way in making Seattle safer for everyone.