Seattle council grills SPD, mayor’s office on new emphasis patrols

May 8, 2019, 4:12 PM | Updated: 4:13 pm
Seattle police emphasis patrols...
Mayor Jenny Durkan meets with downtown business owners to promote new emphasis patrols. (Mayor Jenny Durkan)
(Mayor Jenny Durkan)

Councilmember Lorena Gonzalez grilled the mayor’s office and SPD Wednesday on new police emphasis patrols, while constituents urged the city to make the patrols permanent.

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This all came as part of a Seattle City Council Committee meeting on Wednesday to discuss a host of public safety measures, including the recently-enacted police emphasis patrols across the city.

Seattle Police and Mayor Jenny Durkan’s office selected seven neighborhoods for patrols based on community input, as well as crime data. The list includes downtown Seattle along the 3rd and Pike corridor, Pioneer Square, SoDo, Georgetown, South Park, Fremont, and Ballard.

That all being so, Councilmember Lorena Gonzales had a series of questions for the mayor’s office and police, laid out in a letter she sent in late April.

That included questions regarding overtime for officers on emphasis patrols, the overarching goals related to arrests, the process behind how neighborhoods were chosen, and how success will be measured.

Gonzalez cited a need “to better inform the Council and our constituents about this short-term strategy,” in her line of questioning.

Police answered by noting that the goal isn’t specifically to tally more arrests, but to deter crime from ever happening in the first place.

“We want to just be present, [and] be on scene to prevent crime from occurring,” Seattle Police Assistant Chief Eric Greening said in front of the committee.

Data provided to the council pointed to increases in crime between 2017 and 2018, detailing why specific neighborhoods were chosen for emphasis patrols. That was demonstrated by a 21 percent increase in crime in South Park during that period, a 52 percent increase in person and property crime in Fremont, and a 30 percent increase in crime in SoDo.

Further data noted a 28 percent increase in crime in Pioneer Square, a 12 percent increase in Georgetown, and an 11 percent increase in South Ballard.

Meanwhile, constituents in attendance at Wednesday’s meeting urged the city to make the emphasis patrols permanent.

“I’m urging you to … take the emphasis out and make it permanent, and empower our police to actually get crime off the street,” one commenter implored.

“This is not new — we had opportunities to do something about (crime) 10 years ago, and now, we’re hanging our hopes on a 30-day program?” another said.”We hope that this 30-day program will at least open our eyes, and at least start a dialogue.”

As the measure stands now, the emphasis patrols will run through May.

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Seattle council grills SPD, mayor’s office on new emphasis patrols