The park needs to be used

After many months of being deeply involved in public safety issues, I have been quiet recently regarding public safety and civility in our neighborhoods. But that does not mean that I haven't been involved in the on-going process of attempting to respond to and resolve some of the issues. I've tried to be more realistic about what can and cannot be done.

I'm now a board member of the East Precinct Crime Prevention Coalition, one of two representatives for the Capitol Hill Neighborhood. It gives us access to the Seattle Police Department and a forum for documenting our issues directly with the police precinct. It is a good group of committed people.

We have a new precinct captain, Captain Mike Meehan. He is open, encouraging and realistic about the roles of the police, social services and neighbors. I recently spent an hour and a half with him, walking about the neighborhood and looking at areas that I've had concerns about. He really listened. And that's important.

We went into one of the smoke shops on Broadway where he asked the owners what all the "paraphernalia" was for - the glass pipes, the bongs, the highly calibrated weighing machines - and of course, the answer was "tobacco only."

The point, though, is that Captain Meehan is very interested in solutions that are achievable and do-able. Even though they might not be breaking any laws, he said neighbors should be outraged that all of this stuff is for sale just a block or two from the areas that we have been calling the police about when we ask them to arrest people for doing drugs.

He suggested that neighbors might want to exert pressure on these businesses to stop selling this stuff and demand that they be accountable for their participation in the drug issues. What neighborhood, after all, needs seven shops that sell this kind of product? It was encouraging to hear the captain's ideas and his enthusiasm.

I am beginning my process of documenting concerns that I see. I encourage you to do the same. Don't forget to call 911 every time you see something suspicious, of concern or that is a problem. If you don't call, it doesn't get counted as a concern and will not add to the focus of the Police Department.

Be visible in the community. Go to Cal Anderson Park to read, to get some sun, to visit with friends, to throw a frisbee, to play croquet, to just be outside. The more we use the park, the less likely nefarious activity will occur.

It will not change overnight. Nor even just this summer. We are in the process of making a change of the culture of the park, and it is up to us to people it with healthy, legitimate activity. We can't just sit in our houses and look at how pretty it is. We need to use it.

I fully plan to stay active. I don't know exactly what that means, but I will let you know as things come up. The budget for next year is going to be worse than it is this year. The police will not be cut, but they are stretched really thinly.

Captain Meehan, though, says that isn't an excuse for not doing the work that needs to be done. He is committed to solutions, not just coverage. And don't forget, we still have a bike patrol here in the East Precinct, and it is due to the activism of last summer. They have extended it through the summer. Good.

So, don't get discouraged, stay active and responsive to issues and let me know of concerns that I can forward on in the East Precinct Crime Prevention Coalition meetings. Be present and enjoy.

Brad Trenary is a Capitol Hill resident.

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