Police plan for city unveiled in South End

In an open-house-style meeting, mayor Greg Nickels, along with Seattle Police Chief Gil Kerlikowske and deputy chief Clark Kimerer, unveiled his new Neighborhood Policing Staffing Plan for the city to a South End crowd first at the Van Asseslt Community Center located on south Beacon Hill within a short walk of the South Precinct.

An interested but anxious crowd of more than 70 South End citizens gathered on April 3 from 6-7:30 p.m. to listen, and question, the mayor's new plan.

"This policy is the most significant change in the way Seattle uses its resources in 30 years," Nickels asserted. "It will not only expand our patrol force, it proposes a faster, stronger, and smarter approach to protecting our neighborhoods."

With a call for changing the department's sectors, adding police beats, and changing the geographic area of the police beats, the plan will attempt to accomplish a re-balancing of the city's police resources. The basic idea of the plan, according to Nickels, is to put the police where they are needed the most.

The city will be divided into five precincts, as they are now, but with shifted sectors. There will be only three sectors assigned to the South Precinct. The South Precinct, according to the Neighborhood Policing Staffing Plan, had 10 beats in the old sector, but now picks up the east section of the Southwest Precinct (the SODO and Georgetown areas) and a portion of the southern tip of the West Precinct (the area encompassing the northern reaches of Rainier Avenue South). This expanded South End area will then be reduced to nine beats.

With an aggressive recruitment plan, the mayor hopes to increase police staffing by 154 new officers by 2012. He hopes with more officers on patrol, the response times can be reduced to 7 minutes or less, fulfilling one of the goals of this plan. With these extra officers, Nickels said he hopes to also start some proactive problem solving instead of always reacting to the crimes through the 911-call system.

After his short presentation of the new plan, the floor was opened to only a few questions. One of the audience members asked about a time line. They wanted to know when the neighborhoods could see a change in how the new plan works.

"I can't give you a time line in that we are still under negotiations with the Policing Guild for shift changes, but I do hope to get this in place by the end of this year," Deputy Kimerer answered. "You should start seeing a change by the beginning of next year."

Most other questions went unanswered.

Along with the mayor's presentation, there were booths lining three of the community center room's walls with various information on different departments. Represented were the Rainier Traffic Safety Project, Seattle Police Recruiting, and Seattle Neighborhoods Group to name a few.

Information about Seattle's new policing policy can be found online at www.seattle.gov/police/Publications/06_Report_to_the_Community.pdf.

Rainier Beach writer and photographer Dawn Trybjorn may be reached via editor@sdistrictjournal.com.<.i>[[In-content Ad]]