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Seattle councilmember proposes solution to downtown violence

The scene of a fatal shooting in downtown Seattle. (Getty Images)

In the wake of a fatal downtown Seattle shooting that killed one person and injured seven others, the city councilmember representing that neighborhood has a proposal he thinks could help prevent more violence in the future.

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Andrew Lewis represents District 7, which encompasses Seattle’s downtown core all the way up to Magnolia. His proposal calls a pair of measures working in tandem: Increasing law enforcement presence downtown, while also increasing access to social services.

That approach would have downtown using what Lewis calls a “Community Storefront.” It would be open 24 hours a day, and staffed by Seattle police officers, community service officers, and social workers.

“A 24-hour Community Storefront staffed by Community Service Officers (CSOs) will send a message that violence will not be tolerated in Seattle’s core. It will also serve as a visible center for people seeking information, whether they are tourists experiencing Seattle for the first time, or residents who need help navigating our system of social services,” Lewis said in a Monday news release.

A CSO is a non-commissioned officer who does not carry a weapon, instead functioning as a liaison to the public for non-criminal calls for service and public safety community outreach. They receive training in mediating non-violent disputes. The city is currently on track to hire and train 18 CSOs by the end of the year.

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Lewis cites the success of Community Storefronts in Auburn, Kent, and Tukwila, and hopes to see similar results in a downtown area of Seattle that’s been problematic for years now.

“This is not a new idea, but it is a good idea,” he noted. “Downtown Seattle should be a vibrant place where everyone feels safe, yet there is a history of violence near 3rd and Pine that affects everyone in our city, and particularly our most vulnerable populations.”

According to the Seattle Police Department’s crime dashboard, the downtown core saw over 41,000 911 calls in 2019, as well as over 1,000 reported crimes. Both of those numbers represent the most of any neighborhood in the city.

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