Bike patrol and case manager need to be funded

If you go to Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels' Web site, you will see that public safety is one of his first priorities. He states that we need to give police the tools, training and equipment to do their jobs. City government is eager to encourage citizens to report crime, to watch each others' homes and property, to work with city departments in making our parks and business districts safe and inviting for legitimate public use and a thriving local economy.

Well, we are doing all of those things and have been doing them for a long time here on Capitol Hill and in the East Precinct. And frankly, I'm disappointed and disgusted. Why is the mayor not giving the police the effective tool of a fully-funded, dedicated, eight officer bike patrol for the East Precinct?

We spent a long summer and fall collecting data and information about crime here on Capitol Hill. We met in meeting after meeting with human service organizations, attempting to dismantle the polarization that existed between service organizations and the people they serve, and neighbors and business owners. We saw the power in the two divergent groups working together to address very real social problems and criminality.

We organized an extensive grassroots effort of neighbors, businesses and other community organizations to be the squeaking wheel in the ears of government and law enforcement, and we were successful, or so we thought, in getting the City Council to budget $400,000 for a fully funded, dedicated bike patrol of eight officers and one sergeant, and $30,000 for a full-time street outreach worker to assist the homeless and disaffected youth who wander our streets and live in our parks and doorways.

We knew this was a short-term solution, but at least we had our foot in the door of public process. We know the problems are multi-layered, complex and need a much greater focus and commitment of resources.

You can imagine our disappointment, frustration and anger when Mayor Nickels put a freeze on the money we need to ensure public safety and a minimum support effort for homeless youth. And now we are treading water in the thick mud of process with the city and the police department, trying to find a way to utilize the money if and when it is every unfrozen. Don't you just love it?

The buzz was loud on Capitol Hill last summer, and it spread to other neighborhoods and organizations in the East Precinct. We have finally united to say we have had enough of the lawlessness, the incivility and the lack of safety in our neighborhoods and parks. All of us have been quietly talking about it for years as we've seen our neighborhoods change. And now we are stating it loudly and clearly, in an organized and powerful voice, and we will be heard whether public officials or law enforcement leadership wants to hear it or not. We will not be buried under interminable public process, staged photo-ops with the mayor and police chief, honorary award ceremonies to thank us for our good citizenship and public efforts. We demand results and we will get them.

We have worked with the Parks Department in addressing the environmental safety of park open spaces and public restrooms. The Seattle Parks Department has been a valuable resource for the community and is peopled with dedicated public servants. We have formed block watches and park watches, groups of citizens strolling about the streets and parks and reporting illegal activity. Neighborhood groups are working tirelessly to bring legitimate activities into the parks for all citizens on Capitol Hill, including street youth and homeless people, not just the "cranky neighbors" or "heartless homeowners," as some of us have been categorized.

Those are yesterday's monikers, anyway. We know who we are on Capitol Hill - a vibrant and rich sauce of all classes, all colors, all sorts, all genders, all ages, all beliefs - and we are going to make it work. But we need some real leadership from the city, from elected officials who have a real vision for Seattle neighborhoods that includes basic safety and public civility.

It is true that following Mayor Nickels' 17-point plan to address issues in Cal Anderson Park last fall, things got better. They usually do when summer ends, the rains fall and the weather turns chilly. You can know with complete certainty that as spring and summer return, we will be watching closely and reporting in very public ways just how effective those measures were and how closely you heard our demands for assistance.

And we will hold the mayor to his well-published statements that "public safety is the paramount duty of the City." We expect to see this commitment in the funding of the eight officer, fully funded, dedicated bike patrol for the East Precinct and funding for a street outreach worker to work with Capitol Hill's homeless and disaffected youth.

Brad Trenary is a Capitol Hill resident.

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