Update on the Center City Initiative

Police horseVia the City of Seattle:

The Mayor’s Office and the Evans School have convened a series of meetings under the rubric of the Center City Initiative, going back to last November, that have included a wide spectrum of downtown stakeholders. The purpose of these meetings has been to have open and frank conversations about how to improve public safety downtown and to effectively address needs of people in crisis living downtown. CCI is a groundbreaking collaboration among neighborhood leaders, business leaders, social service providers and civil rights advocates, all of whom agree that public safety & public order are priorities that can best be achieved by coordinating law enforcement efforts with targeted human services investment in a way that is smarter, more comprehensive, more strategic and more effective than past approaches.

These conversations have advanced several important policy and operational changes:

Park Rangers: In June we added two new Park Ranger positions and also focused their work on known hot spots – Cal Anderson, Westlake, Occidental and Victor Steinbrueck parks. The added capacity and new focus means that the Rangers are able to have a more permanent presence in these four key parks. We are also working on an effort as part of the 2014 budget to provide dedicated SPD resources able to back up the Rangers whenever needed.

Police Enforcement: Since taking over the West Precinct over a year ago, Captain Dermody has focused on data driven policing and getting more officers out on the street. Proactive emphasis patrols have already been focusing on known “hot spots”. Last week we announced $400,000 in additional resources that will be used to augment this work through more violence prevention emphasis patrols. In the West Precinct this will mean 2 to 3 officers each week out on the street focusing on known trouble areas. We will also be prioritizing police resources in our 2014 budget.

LEAD Expansion: The Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD) program has been in effect in Belltown going on 2 years thanks to private grant funding. Through LEAD, officers are able to divert individuals who are causing problems or who need help into services and case management. SPD is able to work with other outreach workers to identify and prioritize known challenges. And instead of cycling individuals quickly through the criminal justice system, officers are able to give them a more productive path that is then monitored by a case manager. LEAD is a partnership between SPD, the City Attorney, the King County Prosecutor, the Mayor’s Office, the King County Sheriff, the Department of Corrections, the ACLU of Washington, the Public Defender Association, and community partners including the MID, the Downtown Seattle Association and the Belltown Community Council, as well as downtown social service providers. We are now looking at expanding LEAD to cover all of downtown.

Multi-Disciplinary Team: In preparation for LEAD expansion across all of downtown, we have set up a multi-disciplinary team that includes HSD outreach workers, SPD, the Park Rangers, and the MID Ambassadors. This group is now meeting weekly to strategize about addressing the needs and issues of individuals who have posed public order issues, with an initial focus on Westlake and Occidental Parks. Follow up will include outreach, service provision and, where appropriate, using traditional law enforcement tools in a way that is coordinated by all involved law enforcement agencies. We are working with Councilmember Sally Bagshaw to fund service dollars in the second quarter supplemental that will help stand up this work prior to LEAD expansion.

Failure to Respond: The City Attorney has agreed to file failure to respond charges on a case by case basis to provide a level of criminal justice accountability for repeat low level offenders who have received citations for behaviors such as sit/lie, public urination, and drinking in public. Captain Dermody has developed a priority list of repeat offenders and that has been submitted to the City Attorney. It is expected that the multi-disciplinary team will help prioritize these and other individuals for failure to respond citations if that is deemed the most effective way to change the individual’s behavior.