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Seattle police chief addresses downtown safety in heated council session

Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best addresses City Council. (Seattle Channel)

Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best presented the city’s plan for addressing continued violence in the downtown core Tuesday morning.

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Chief Best’s presentation took place during a meeting of city council’s Public Safety and Human Services Committee. The meeting was a heated affair attended by over 100 people, with members of the public expressing outrage over a continued pattern of violence in Seattle’s Pike/Pine corridor.

“I appreciate the sentiment behind that we can’t allow this to be the new normal, but for those of us that live there, that rang as terribly out of touch with what’s going on, because it is the normal,” one commenter said.

“I’ve sent emails to this council for five years and finally got a response this last week, and I’ve constantly tried to bring attention to the fact that nothing is changing,” said another.

Tensions ran high while Chief Best addressed these concerns, with audience members exclaiming loudly during her presentation, and being told numerous times by committee chair Lisa Herbold to remain quiet.

“We hear you and we hear your concerns, and we’re going to take every effort to make sure our city is safe,” Best promised.

The SPD chief laid out the department’s plan to improve safety in the downtown core. That includes the placement of a mobile police precinct near Westlake, rotating non-911 respondents to “augment” existing resources in the neighborhood, and meeting directly with business owners, workers, and residents of the area to discuss other solutions.

Best went on to cite statistics to provide context for a perceived spate of violence and property crime across Seattle, pointing out that the city actually saw a decrease in both categories in 2019.

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“Statistics don’t matter to the person who’s been a victim of a crime, but we do need to use stats to invite context — it just can’t be a guessing game,” she pointed out.

Despite that, she also acknowledged the need for action to address a downtown area that’s been the site of many high-profile violent incidents over the years.

“This cannot be a flash in the pan response,” she stated. “We have to use this approach to get us through the near term.”

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