Crime Is Not Actually Spiking Downtown

The city's power brokers say crime is spiking. They say it's a crisis. But data shows crime is mostly flat or down. Why are they trying to scare us?

Comments

1
Kind of a shame the campaigning had to happen during our regular "summer spike" when downtown's so much more active in general during the day and at night. It makes it easier for challengers to maximize, and harder for incumbents to minimize. Harder, but we can see that it's not impossible.
2
Great article Dominic -- this is an issue which I am constantly shocking people with: Crime is historically low and getting lower in this city. Lets leave the truthiness to the Seattle Times (but I saw someone on drugs downtown!) -- we have objective facts.
3
Dominic, thanks for your work on this article. This is one of the most important things you've ever written.
4
Violent crime may be down, but street disorder is certainly worse. More aggressive behavior - panhandling, loitering, drug dealing in plain site. Regardless if someone is stabbed or not, it's what makes people "feel" unsafe and should be controlled.
5
This is so good. It's our responsibility as citizens to pay attention to what's actually happening, what's actually improving, and make sure we don't distract from that work with political games like Murray is playing.
6
Nobody considers belltown, pioneer square or the ID part of downtown.
7
Dominic, will you please stop bringing *facts* into the conversation? This is a political race we're talking about after all. :p
8
Ok, so I haven't been raped downtown. But... I'm harassed on a daily basis by the homeless, druggies and gang members. Waiting for the bus on 3rd is a horror show with druggies screaming in people's faces, men urinating on the sidewalk and gangs congregating, flashing their weapons.

It may be literally safer, but it sure doesn't feel like it.
9
@6) The Downtown Seattle Association says those areas are parts of downtown. Wikipedia does too. I'll acknowledge that what people consider downtown is flexible, subjective (I don't consider anything east of I-5 to be part of downtown while others do), but Belltown, Pioneer Square, and the ID are widely regarded as inside the downtown boundaries.
10
I think it's pretty crummy that the Chamber and Murray are willing to hurt small downtown businesses for their own purely political gain. They are actively trying to make people too scared to come downtown to shop or eat out. I hope people are smart enough to see through these selfish tactics, and I don't like that Murray is so easily willing to blatantly throw people trying to earn a living under the bus to get ahead in his political career.
12
Crime isnt spiking downtown? Then why all the gun-free zones? Why the gun buy backs? Why even try to restrict firearm use or purchases?
14
I have advocated heavily the last three years that we appoint more foot patrols to the city's 5 percent of hot-spot blocks


What exactly will more foot patrols accomplish when nuisance crimes are treated as catch and release? The cops don't bother policing those people for the most part because they know it's a waste of time. Addicts and mentally ill people don't care about fines, and they're not great at keeping appointments.
15
Thank you. Christ, I kept seeing that "Downtown feels unsafe" piece floating around Facebook, and I wanted to slap somebody. "Feels unsafe" is the weak-sauciest bullshit I've heard all week, and might as well have been titled "The Times Editorial Board is Scared of the Dark. Can They Sleep With You Tonight?"
16
@8 I'll have to agree with you. The panhandlers have gotten very aggressive in the past couple of years. And noone wants to do anything about it. I've had them follow me for blocks demanding money. One that followed me for a few blocks even grabbed my arm to try to prevent me from ducking into a store to get away from him. I've had one panhandler try to extort money from me when I went to put change in a parking kiosk. He basically said I should give him the change to keep my car "safe." I rarely use the bus anymore because I got tired of panhandlers getting in my face demanding money. But my favorite happened the other night. I had a panhandler try to sell me someone's wallet.
17
All Ed has for us is Fear.

Fear solves nothing.
18
it's the street disorder that's getting perceptably worse, this summer in particular.

it FEELS LIKE every day, there are more and more ranting schizos, vestibule pissers, shameless meth smokers, "simple travelling folk" campers, & sprawling chronic drunks. tourists are right to be appalled - i'm fucking appalled. don't we have a plan to end homelessness? how's that working?

at least today i managed to shut a street crazy up when he was harassing a young woman. he was interfering with my silent appreciation.
19
'Violent crime' is often a race-neutral term employed by the business interests to encourage racial profiling and more policing against poor and minorities....see New Jim Crow.
20
Stranger writers who don't live downtown love telling those of us who do live downtown just problem-free it is. I realize of course that you are trying to do whatever you can to help McGinn get reelected, and you're hardly above doing your own cherry-picking of data to do it. But that doesn't change the fact that downtown has a lot of problems.

It isn't just violent crime. There are a lot of other issues that have not improved or gotten worse in recent years that make downtown feel sketchy/gross. As a downtown resident, I feel the problems have largely been ignored.
21
Half the comments in this thread: "BUT I HAVE AN ANECDOTE! LISTEN TO MY ANECDOTE!"

I'd be curious, too, to see how @8 identifies "gang members" on sight. Which gangs do they belong to? How did you recognize them?
22
A Campaign of Fear is perfect for Ed Murray, because his potential mayorship scares the hell out of me!
23
@21
Doesn't make them any less valid.
24
@20 - I work downtown and my boyfriend lives downtown. I spend a lot of time walking around downtown. The biggest nuisance I've experienced is the Eager Young People With Clipboards who want to shake my hand and wonder if I have a moment to spare for gay rights. Oh, but guess what, personal anecdotes are no substitute for data, and feelings (or fee-fees, if you're the Times editorial board) are no basis for redirecting city funds to excessive law enforcement. There are already problems with the SPD, but "I feel uneasy in the black part of town" is not one of them.
25
@23: Crime is bad. It is bad when crime happens to people. But Dom's point is that when you add all those anecdotes together, math happens, and that math disproves the claims of some pretty prominent people. We'll never be completely free of crime, but we'd do better as a society if we tried to understand the truth behind crime, rather than cower in fear about crime as an idea, or lie about the numbers to push certain agendas along.

Still waiting for @8 to reveal her magical gang member-spotting machine, by the way.
26
Keshmeshi @14:
What exactly will more foot patrols accomplish when nuisance crimes are treated as catch and release?

Foot patrols are a deterrent to real crimes like theft and assault, but they also discourage public drunkenness and other public nuisances like blocking the right of way.

I wish there was some way for people to feel safe around spots like Third and Pine, but honestly those spots really aren't that safe. More foot patrols would help.
27
You know, maybe instead of filling Murray's campaign coffers, the DSA types should be be working with the SPD to set up a fund that would directly finance more patrols and community outreach in hot spot areas. Just a thought...
28
@25 Why on earth would anyone trust the statistics from Dominic? At least the Times had charts and map of the area they were discussing.

Nowhere in this Stranger article do I see statistics for violent crime in all of downtown. They say something about Belltown crime being down, and then drop the subject all together.
29
But the key to making downtown safer is not by bringing the hammer of the law down on people who don't have anywhere to go to the bathroom.

No, but perhaps that is the key to making downtown less stinky. There is a real street disorder problem. Public urination and defecation are rampant. It's impossible to wait for the bus at 3rd/Pine/Pike without being harassed or watching addicts or troublemaker kids fight among themselves. There are some sidewalks (in particular, the south side of Pine between 3rd and 4th) where you can't walk without being threatened. We need to do something about this or downtown will not be able to develop economically.

You make a decent case that this stuff is unrelated to crime and that candidates who link it to crime are being disingenuous, but you fall flat on your face when you act as though it's not a problem. It's a huge problem, and a major weakness of McGinn (who I generally support) is that he seems to ignore it.
30
I wish they would enforce the no smoking policy up and down third between Pike and Pine, also near the tunnel entrances. Why the fuck should I have to run up to the bus as it pulls up to the zone because there are no smoke free zones IN THE BUS ZONE. I have sat and watched. Very rarely do these smokers ever board the bus. Most of them are loitering.
31
@29) You can't honestly claim that I "act as though it's not a problem." You're making that up. I plainly call public urination, addicts, and downtown disorder "problems," saying "These are problems that can be--and absolutely should be--mitigated. In particular, I have advocated heavily the last three years that we appoint more foot patrols to the city's 5 percent of hot-spot blocks (like around Third and Pine), which account for one quarter of all crime in Seattle, and expand programs that target high-rate offenders for treatment. More park rangers and public restrooms would also be helpful."
32
Constant has a point about anecdotes vs. data. That said, I still can't get the visual out of my mind of a huge trail of blood running the entire length of the sidewalk in front of the 3rd and Pine McDonalds I saw earlier this summer.

It's whistling past the graveyard to suggest that serious shit doesn't go down in that corridor all the time. Rarely do you see cops on that corner.
33
What if you look at the beat data for just the downtown core?, the primary area where most people shop and work. I get that if you expand the definition of Downtown then the amount of violent crime drops (crime did decline in Seattle as a whole), but the SPD data show an increase in violent crime in the Downtown Core over the past couple years(even without including First Hill). Let's look at where the crime is happening, not zooming out so far that it looks like crime is dropping.
34
Safety among the populace is a matter of perception and should not be confused with crime. Telling someone they should feel safe if they do not is a fools errand.

35
Dominic, when you equate "public safety" with violent crime, and only violent crime, and say that "the public safety crisis is a manufactured crisis," you are implying that street disorder has no impact on public safety. That's absurd, and anyone who ever catches a bus at 3rd and Pike will agree that it's absurd.

And if McGinn has been doing the right things about it (other than being stymied by a lack of funding), as you suggest, then why is the street disorder at Seattle's most important transportation node so much worse than it was a few years ago? It has not always been the case that waiting for a bus at 3rd and Pike is a scary experience.
36
The low level crime and disorder downtown lead to a perception of high violent crime in downtown. We can argue over the real stats but the fact is that people just don't want to come downtown anymore because the inmates are running the asylum.

Last time I walked down third I saw people openly dealing heroin, someone got punched in the face and a crazy person threw a half eaten donut at the back of my head.

I have been in the downtown core of dozens of cities and Seattle is by far the worst.
37
We can discuss stats all day, but the reality is that shoppers, tourists, workers, and residents all feel unsafe downtown. Not all of them all the time, but enough of them often enough that they might just stop coming downtown. I'm not particularly afraid of the street dwelling people, but I don't like to have to deal with their bullshit so I don't come downtown as often as I might otherwise.
38
"Linking "Street Disorder" to Violent Crimes Is Wrong: There has been a popular idea in American policing for the last 20 years that cracking down on street disorder will prevent serious crimes—the broken windows theory."

No, cracking down on street disorder prevents more street disorder. Leave a tag on your wall and see how long it takes for a bunch more to show up. Let the crackheads get away with breaking your car window for your spare change and they'll just keep doing it. Neither the tagger or crackhead were on a track for murder, but without intervention they were on a track for more tagging and car prowling. Seattle really needs to take care of the part of the crime spectrum that affects the most people. This is the only city I've lived in where every single person I know has been the victim of either burglary, car prowl, or car theft. Every single person I know. We may not be getting shot at every day, but fuck if I'm tired of seeing another pile of broken glass on my block.
39
I am downtown every day and I feel safe here. My friends and co-workers feel safe here as well. I value facts and data. I don't like fear-mongering and I really don't like the fact that the Murray campaign is trying to harm downtown businesses and real estate values by manufacturing this campaign issue.

If Murray and his team don't like data and facts, how will they run an city? "Oh, I am going to pretend we have enough money to do project X." "I feel like Y is the right amount of a tax increase to make." Huh?

Please stop this nonsense and work with facts. I love downtown Seattle and don't want a negative, ambiguous, whiny politician ruining our wonderful city.
40
I get that people really want this piece to be wrong, but street disorder isn't illegal, crime is. Crime is down - a lot - and continuing to fall, in part because of work this mayor has done. The Murray campaign didn't claim "street disorder" was up, they claimed "violent crime" was up. They lied - the facts tell the truth.
41
Also, nobody can argue that "people don't want to come downtown anymore". Downtown is booming. The number of people *choosing* to live downtown is going higher and higher. New restaurants are opening, new businesses are growing. More people are coming downtown every day, and the economy shows it.
42
I have worked downtown for almost 30 years. First in Pioneer Square, now in Belltown. My job requires me to walk to a number of buildings in Belltown and downtown. I feel safe. I have never been mugged, never felt threatened. I am fed up with all the nonsense I read. Certainly it can be uncomfortable to see a mentally ill person in distress, or be asked for money. It's not dangerous and it's not the end of the world. Get over yourselves!
43
@42 - exactly. I grew up in Uptown, and have lived downtown for almost five years. It's better than it was when I moved in!
44
great article on an issue(s) that I think need to be more considered and dissected. I'd like to know more about this mention in your article:

"officers made 74 percent more community contacts in the first half of this year than last year. Not coincidentally, they are documenting more crime."

I have heard, mind you anecdotally in some cases and in researched articles as well, that over the last 30 years – the timeline that shows most dramatic decline – the "documenting" of crime has changed by police forces, as has their responsiveness.

Leading to some concluding that the reason businesses and individuals express that it "feels like violent crimes rate are up" is that they may actually be but the ways of measuring and engaging crime is distinctly different.
45
Seattle Police Department spends gobs of money on time-and-a-half pay for officers working overtime. They tell us they just can't hire fast enough, so this is the best they can do. They also ask community groups to lobby City Council to increase their budget so they can hire more officers. Something is not right.
46
@42: exactly. For all of those with their anecdotes about how bad things are and how much worse they've gotten, I've my own anecdote about downtown right now is the safest/tamest I've seen it since first coming to Seattle in the mid-70s.

Fuck, in 1980 you had Penney's corner, the donut shop on 1st and Pike, drunks and dope fiends everywhere. The whole area was a zoo.

In 1990 there were boarded up buildings all over the place, SROs closing down, pawn shops, divey, dodgy bars, dirty bookstores, panhandlers everywhere.

Today there's like two blocks of downtown left (3rd between Pike and Stewart) that are dodgy. Aside from that area, Seattle is Mayberry with high rises as Judy Nicastro aptly put it.

Seattle is like the safest mid-size city in the country. I utterly fail to get the fear-mongering.
47
It's ridiculous to use some definition of downtown that includes South Lake Union or Lower Queen Anne or even the ID. When people here complain about the crime downtown, they are talking about Pine/Pike around 3rd and 4th. They are talking about the area around city hall.

Lower Queen Anne? LOL
48
@24: you mean Chuggers (Charity Muggers).
49
@46, It's the less quantifiable "feeling of safety" that's the big issue. If you witness drug deals and crazy people screaming and see some kids fighting, you aren't actually in that much danger, but it sure feels like you are. That's the problem here.
50
I've lived in Belltown for the last 3 years and I have never once had a safety issue. Yes, there are homeless people that do drugs and pee in alleys and ask you for money, but those things aren't DANGEROUS.

If you look at the comment threads of those Seattle Times editorials, it's usually people from the suburbs complaining most about crime downtown. The ironic thing is that those people are more likely to get injured in a car accident driving into work from their suburban home than they are to be attacked downtown. Maybe they should be more worried about driving than homeless people...
51
@49, it clearly isn't a problem, or downtown wouldn't be experiencing its largest boom in three decades.
52
@51, or they'd be experiencing even more of a boom.

53
I'm not particularly afraid of the street dwelling people, but I don't like to have to deal with their bullshit so I don't come downtown as often as I might otherwise.


That's pretty much the way I feel about it. If I do venture downtown, I stick to Western or First, quickly get whatever it is I came for, and then I leave. I'm not afraid of anyone down there, but I am sick of the bullshit in that area. And I don't see increased foot patrols being a solution to that.

My sticking point about much of The Stranger's position on this issue is that even measures meant to discourage loitering that are completely harmless make them go bananas. Various writers have gotten extremely bent out of shape over things like playing classical music in public areas as a way to discourage the homeless from congregating. It really does seem like The Stranger's official position is that literally nothing should be done to reduce loitering or nuisance crimes, period.
54
@46: Today there's like two blocks of downtown left (3rd between Pike and Stewart) that are dodgy. Aside from that area, Seattle is Mayberry with high rises as Judy Nicastro aptly put it.

I work downtown and spend a lot of my spare time there.

Just off the top of my head, you're forgetting about everything within 2 blocks in any direction of 2nd and Yesler; the chaotic bus stop at 5th and Jackson; Westlake Park; Victor Steinbrueck Park (which should really be renamed Steel Reserve Park at this point); Occidental Park; the McDonalds at 6th and Lenora; and the area of 3rd and Lenora.

@50: If you look at the comment threads of those Seattle Times editorials, it's usually people from the suburbs complaining most about crime downtown.

I'm not from the suburbs, and I'm not complaining about "crime," I'm complaining about street disorder which makes large areas of downtown feel unsafe and unpleasant to large numbers of people.

I've spent time in lots of other big cities, and the only one that has anything close to the disorder problem we have in the core of downtown is San Francisco. Big, scary eastern cities with much worse crime problems take much better care of their economic cores.
55
Both violent crime and street disorder are directly linked to lack of adequate social service and mental health programs. You can't talk about crime w/out talking about adequate policing, social services and urban poverty.

Course, Dominic isn't really interested int this, since this piece really functions as another Murray hit piece.
56
How do we explain the Mayor's announcement last month of an extra $400,000 in new money for policing if City Hall truly believes that crime is down? Policy or politicking?

If the Murray campaign is using crime & safety as a campaign strategy it must be said that McGinn's campaign is not above using the same tactic.

Frankly, tonight Im disgusted by both campaigns battling for scraps over this issue. Public safety is an issue of governance & community action. I'm sure that its tempting red meat for all involved - most especially Dominic Holden - but I'd like to think it possible to rise above that for the common good.

And covering your ears and shutting your eyes to an issue as a benefit to either candidate is a really, really bad way to think about making a better city.
57
Murray is engaging in the FUD that appeals to the fears and prejudices of urban, white people with money.

As upper class professionals and retirees move into the city from their gated suburbs expect more of this barely coded language from politicians about the "undesirable others."

These people won't feel "safe" until Seattle is another "Disneyland."
58
Why is there no map of the area that you defined as "downtown" so your readers could see the actual boundaries? Why is there no chart showing the crime for this "downtown" area over the past four years?

At least the Times provided a map and charts so you could see for yourself exactly what they were doing. This Stranger article seems like horseshit. If it was legit, you'd be more transparent with your data.
59
The paid clipboarders ("chuggers") are by far the worst.
60
@55: Seattle is often considered to have the most generous social services for transients in the country. you've heard it called "Freeattle", right? is that false?
61
You tell me, Max. It seems to me that the amount of homeless, mentally ill& chronic inebriated that I pass every day would indicate that, however wealthy we may be in services, we are not doing a very good job as a City in delivering those services to the people who need them.
62
Downtown Seattle is like walking through a Mad Max set. With the white trash, druggies, drug dealers, homeless, loonies walking around you can call it safe or not, but it is certainly shameful. The issue is simple: Seattle is a 'progressive' city & as such they enforce the police to have priorities. None of the above mentioned are a priority for the SPD & these orders are given from the top down. Anybody that works or lives downtown knows that the police do not actually police downtown. You can watch ppl dealing drugs, urinating, loitering, doing drugs, etc in plain site. It doesn't take Sherlock to figure out whats going on and what actual crimes are being committed. If this was say Chicago, Dallas, etc this outcome would be very different. Said individuals above would not be coddled & left alone....they would be dealt with. Seattle wants their cake and ice cream. Sorry but you can't have both & will have to deal with shit where you sleep.
63
Further to point the citizens of Seattle Chinatown had to pay for their own surveillance system & police their own neighborhood because of what I stated above (http://goo.gl/J155Yb).

64
@60, @61, clearly both can be (and are) true. Consider that (under Murray's leadership, but I digress) over the last 4 years we've seen MASSIVE cuts to human services at the state level, across the board -- whether DoC funding, mental health services, assistances for needy families (like TANF) or otherwise...the list sadly goes on for for some length.

Meanwhile, here in Seattle, we also faced a budget crisis. But we did something different. We PRIORITIZED human services. Because when the bottom falls out, those on the bottom have the hardest fall. You can thank McGinn for much of that, by the way.

So what happens? The already real disparity between human services in Seattle vs its friends and neighbors across the state grows even deeper. Where's the logical place for those to go who need help the most? And if you have to resort to living on the streets, where would you rather be? A walkable city with Urban Rest Stops and a (rightfully) bleeding heart? Or out in the human services wasteland? Let me ask you, would YOU want to be living on the streets of Moses Lake when it drops to 18 degrees?

Seattle should make no apologies for this -- for doing the right thing. But when you're the only porchlight left on, you're going to get attention.
65
And re: @61's comment also being true, it becomes all the harder to deliver services to an increasing number of people in need, especially when much of the previous support system has disappeared.
66
Wow, @62, saying disorder would be in check if only we were more like Chicago or Dallas? Wow wow wow.

I would never, ever, ever, ever, ever trade Seattle's crime for Chicago's (perpetually the whipping boy of discussions with urban violence) or Dallas's (the only city in which I've been truly terrified, an experience validated as legit later talking with friends who have lived many years in both Seattle and Dallas).

Annnnd.....just did a spot check of stats to make sure my incredulity is appropriate (it is).
67
@62, like many others who have weighed in, I've also lived and worked in your "Mad Max set" for the last few years. I must be quite the hardened post-apocalyptic road warrior to have not recognized the squalor and chaos you outline.

Scurry back to Broadmoor already.
68
@55, 61, Was it last year or the year before that you lobbied hard (and successfully) to get benches removed from Cal Anderson park so that chronically homeless and inebriates wouldn't have a place to sit?

You don't see these people as people--you see them as problems. So spare us your concern trolling, Michael.
69
Well. I'm sure bike lanes and bike programs will solve all these problems.
70
It was a year ago that you posited in this paper that safety in Cal Anderson was a non issue, Cienna. The next summer, this summer, we experienced 2 stabbings, an attempted rape, another sexual assault and drug dealing explosion and bias crime complaints. The police and the Mayor's office take this problem seriously, Cienna, even if you don't.

Also, those benches were the site of an assault on an 83 year old man that resulted in his broken arm, as well as numerous complaints of sexual harassment from women walking Pine St. Pine St. folks saw them as a part of the problem. The City agreed. You did not.

And there's a big difference between concern and concern trolling, whatever that is.
71
I like Dominic's assumption that because The Stranger is told what to write by McGinn, The Times is told what to write by Murray.
72
I have been the most anti-McGinn person since the police debacle, couldn't wait to get him out of office. However, I felt like he deserved to make it to the primary based on the things he HAS done for the city since he was elected, and I voted for him then. I wasn't sure I would vote for him in the general, but this pretty much clinches my vote.

I'm pretty disturbed by Murray's politic playing here especially, playing up the danger danger danger baselessly to the possible detriment of small businesses downtown. Boo.
73
@70 "Those benches were the site of an assault...!"

Brilliant! There are some sidewalks we ought to get around to removing too, then.
74
I was wondering what this sidebar is about benches disappearing from Cal Anderson. Last time I checked the park had tons of great benches. So I dug a bit and found Cienna reported (almost two years ago to the day) about the city removing two benches from just outside the park, those ones that faced Pine Street in the shrubbery there, by the steps.

And look! A similarly hot comment thread: http://www.thestranger.com/slog/archives…

And Justin at Capitol Hill Seattle's post about the same thing: http://www.capitolhillseattle.com/2011/0…
75
Manufactured crises? Every time a fag stubs its toe the Stranger manufactures a crisis.
76
As if it has to be said, to many of the 'mainstream' Seattlites, noticing a larger number of brown people, black people and homeless people downtown = THERE MUST BE CRIME!

Even if they arent seeing any crime. Psychologist have done studies showing that middle class white individuals associate crime with race and vice versa. That means, when they hear of a crime but are not told of the offenders background, more often than not they assume its a brown or black person.

Pertinent here is the reverse, which was also shown. In that when middle class whites see larger numbers of brown and black people, they assume that crime is present, even if no indicator of crime is given.

Source- http://www.amazon.com/Color-Crime-Protec… (Note the author, a famous white supremacist named Jared Taylor wrote a book with the same title that argues the opposite, though it has been debunked academically repeatedly)

source2- http://www.uky.edu/AS/PoliSci/Peffley/pd…

Seattle is fucking NO_TO_RI_OUS for that mentality. Has been for years. I was hearing about that (as the traditional "why seattle is more racist than people tell themselves" speech) from locals before I even moved to western washington.
77
For source 1- the author is NOT the famous white supremacists. I worded that wrong. The authors book is viable. The white supremacist wrote a different book with the same title.
78
@ 76 Ummm plenty of minorities are concerned with the situation downtown.
79
Time to re-refuterate? (h/t @jseattle) http://www.downtownseattle.com/blog/2013…
80
@76
Nice Strawman you got there!
81
Jeez, now everyone's taking a bite.
In the retail core and at Westlake Park, for example—two areas where people frequently complain they don't feel safe—violent crime has more than doubled since 2013. In the police beat that includes the waterfront and Pioneer Square, it's at its highest level in six years.

The Stranger has a theory [...] People who feel scared downtown, they argue, don't have a right to feel scared because they're just being duped by "power brokers" (the Seattle Times, Murray, and the anti-McGinn members of the city council) into feeling scared. "This is a divisive political ploy based on misrepresentation of the context and facts," they write. Not sure you win this argument by telling people their perception that downtown is less safe is just irrational.

(And, side note: The paper also misrepresents what Murray said about an aggressive panhandling law city council member Tim Burgess proposed in 2010, cherrypicking a tiny part of his response to the question. Murray, they write, said he would consider such a law if elected. "That is something that has to be looked at," they quote him as saying. Okay. But here's what he said next: He would "veto" such a proposal unless the city had reformed the police department "reestablished respect between the police department and the citizens," and expanded programs like Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD), which directs low-level offenders to services instead of jail—and all of those steps failed to reduce street disorder.)
http://www.seattlemet.com/news-and-profi…
82
Why is Ed Murray pushing fear mongering in his campaign for Seattle mayor so desperately? Did he roast and eat Mike McGinn?
Why doesn't Seattle overhaul its corrupt police force and get rid of the bad cops altogether? Just about every day I read about another badge toting bully being wrist-slapped, then it's back to business-as-usual.
What the fuck am I missing here, besides the Seattle I once knew and loved?!
84
adsf
85
@82, Auntie Grizelda asked, "Why doesn't Seattle overhaul its corrupt police force and get rid of the bad cops altogether?"

Because of SPOG.
86
The Downtown Association posted a statement on its website yesterday that said it was "refuting" this story. The DSA claimed my article "misses a number of key facts and misstates others."

But the DSA needs to focus on what I actually wrote: I said the "public safety crisis" described by Ed Murray and the Seattle Times has been overblown. Blanket statements that violent crime is up are not accurate. Sweeping claims that downtown crime is up are not accurate. However, as I wrote, certain types of crimes are up an average of 7 percent in four police beats in central downtown so far this year compared to the same timeframe last year, and some people feel very concerned about public disorder. That's true. But across downtown, violent crime is largely down or flat. That reflects a multi-decade trend of decreasing crime across Seattle. In the northern beat of downtown in Belltown, for example, crime is down by nearly one-third in the last four years. The DSA statement doesn't challenge those facts—the DSA reiterates things I have already said (crime is up slightly in four downtown beats) while while ignoring my repeated acknowledgment of certain downtown crime problems, support for fixing them, and descriptions of things that I think will hep fix them. The DSA is not really refuting my story but insisting that crime downtown is a problem, which the group has said for years. (The same talking point that crime is worse was a theme of their legislative push in 2009 and 2010 to add a fine for aggressive panhandling in addition to the criminal penalty already in the criminal code.) But the DSA sidesteps my main point: The crime uptick in a few areas, while crime drops overall, does not constitute a "public safety crisis."

The Downtown Seattle Association also made stuff up. In the first sentence, they say: "Dominic Holden argues that there’s not much to talk about when it comes to public safety in Downtown." Uh, I never said there is not much to talk about. Otherwise I wouldn't have written about it. So that's is why I'm putting this reply in comments of the full story—where I acknowledge the crime that does exist and talk about solutions—because the DSA's strategy seems partly to be accusing me of saying things I didn't say and ignoring the things I did say.

I don't dispute the DSA's numbers for the police beats mentioned in the statement, but the analysis and characterization of them aren't fully accurate. For example, the DSA says, "Violent crime in this [M2] police beat has steadily increased over the past six years." While the crime rate peaked this year, it hasn't actually risen steadily over the past six years—it has fluctuated. It dropped from 2008 to 2009, then rose in 2010, went down again in 2011, and then up again the next two years. It was highest this July. That's undisputed (and I never did, guys). But if we are focusing on that month, let's also acknowledge we had an usually hot July and an massive study recently confirms what we already knew: Violence increases in hotter weather.

The downtown business group doesn't address the nuance of fluctuations or places where crime is down. I'm not a statistician—so I'm not sure if those upticks in certain years or downturns in other years are statistically significant. But those shifts from one area to the next, one year to the next, underscore my point: You can always sift through police precincts and find upticks and downturns in crime patterns in localized areas. That's how cities are. Crime is down substantially since 2009 in the Belltown beat, which is adjacent to the retail-core beat (I suspect that if crime were down in the retail core but up slightly Belltown, the DSA would be hollering about that instead). We need to look at a slightly bigger picture than just a few beats over a few months before declaring an emergency—that was my point.

The DSA also suggests that crime went up in certain beats because police patrols went down in the West Precinct. But crime across the entire West Precinct has dropped 10 percent since last year, police data show. To imply a causal relationship there doesn't doesn't appear to be supported. It also ignores the fact that officers in the jurisdiction made 74 percent more community contacts on the beat than last year.

Then today, the DSA posted an open letter to city officials in which they talk about the violent crime along with residents afraid of "the panhandlers, faux homeless and drug dealers." This sort of link between violent crime and the street-disorder crimes associated with vagrancy—like public drinking, urination, drug use—seems to do more to foster fear and confusion than develop strategies to deal with them.

For the record, I think I agree with the DSA on many of these issues. We should recognize the need for foot cops on the street and more patrols in hot spots. We should press for intervention programs that direct chronic street offenders into treatment (and sometimes jail). I support those those things. But what I don't think we should do is pretend there is a crisis based on a very small data set. We shouldn't panic over a few police beats of data as a harbinger of a terror while ignoring improvements a few blocks away. Choosing our crime strategy should be based on all the data—not cherry-picking information to whip up hysteria, which is what people have been doing.

I want to end with total agreement with the DSA. They write, "Violent crime is up in some areas of Seattle. The number of officers is down and our city is growing. These are real and serious issues that warrant a public conversation this election year." I completely support this public conversation, which is why I wrote a long-ass article (and long-ass comment) that brings more relevant facts to the conversation.
87
This is a long-winded article and frankly I can't be bothered to read the whole thing. Whether you think there's been a spike or not, there's clearly a problem. Let's address it and not indulge in mental masturbation
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Face it, they just want the neighborhoods to pay for the millionaires living downtown "feeling safe".
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The DSA has not admitted that due to horrible traffic, parking costs, and the proliferation of other places to shop, there is no particular reason for people to patronize their businesses anymore. Someday they will be successful in driving all the poor people out of Pioneer Square (perhaps soon after Murray is elected) and they'll be shocked when they still don't get customers.
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@55 Can it really be a Murray "hit piece" when it never discusses what Murray has or hasn't done relative to crime downtown?

The biggest thing I hear from people more vulnerable than I (women and tourists) about downtown and its environs is not that they feel threatened but rather that it it smells way way to much like piss. I never feel threatened there myself. More toilets would be way cheaper than the city paying for more vagrant jail time.
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@87 What they said!
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if Downtown had their own Councilmember (as they would with District Elections) they would have someone to complain to. Vote YES on Charter Amendment 19.
93
I like it that your personal communications with unremarkable corporate entities (empty suits) are available to us.

Like TMZ for smart people. Like listening to conversations that we should not a part of.
94
re the "freeattle" meme.

1. I would love to see the % of the homeless population in Seattle that is from somewhere else (whether Yakima or Minneapolis) compared to the % of the general population that is from somewhere else. I'll bet it's less.

2. I've worked in social services in Seattle for over 20 years, in that time I've met exactly one person who came here for "easy" services.

3. Every city on the West Coast from Vancouver to LA has the myth that they have so many down and out because they're too liberal and giving.

4. This is nothing new. In 1969 in "You Owe Yourself a Drunk: An Ethnography of Urban Nomads" anthropologist James Spradley chronicled the very high rates of street alcoholics in Seattle. Unlike people today, he actually talked to people and asked them why they ended up here. He got the same answers I used to get:

5. This is as far west as you get before you hit water. And, more importantly, your odds of freezing to death out here are markedly lower than most other places.

6. Our services are objectively worse than many other areas.

Freattle is bullshit.
95
Well, DSA, if we have more people, more crime, and fewer cops, how about lobbying the legislature to raise taxes on the rich and to permit cities to raise taxes on the rich so they can hire more cops and send out more foot and bike patrols? I mean, there's room, right? You know, given that we have the most regressive tax system in the country? I'm sorry; what's that? That's a peripheral issue? Oops; my bad.
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@4, waaaaaaaaaay up there, if you think that loitering is aggressive, you've got a problem with definitions.

"Street disorder" is a Burgess phrase and shouldn't be used by any actual feeling human being, certainly not a Stranger writer. It's the same sort of bulltshit term that "food insecurity" is. The latter was used by the Bush Administration because they didn't want to use the explicit term "hunger", and it's now appallingly being used by advocates. Please please don't use "street disorder", Dom.
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@94 So you think they simply end up here because this is as far west as they can venture? Not that if they were in x,y, or z they would not be as welcomed? You seem to go against your own claim that you only meet one person that came here for "easy" services, yet many knew that the weather was mild and welcoming haha

I also have a brother works in social services in another state (NV) & guess where a lot of their "patients" end up getting shipped to?
98
Holden and the rest of SLOG paint such a rosy picture of downtown and The City that the psychic dissonance of real live people who live, work and witness the actual events on the street sends them into apoplectic fits.

Only in the abstract agenda fueled world of blogs can paying $2000 a month for an apodment the size of a kennel cage be considered the ultimate lifestyle.

The suburbanite who rushes in on Sounder trains and the just as hastily flees 8 hours later, escaping back to the sanity of a big hose, trees and quiet is anathema to his factless urban artifice.
99
Vote YES on Charter Amendment 19.
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Jesus, Bailo, get a grip, take a writing class. @98 is just THE WORST.
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@97: if you can't see a difference between folks coming to Seattle because they think they can live high off a welfare hog and folks who end up here sticking around because the weather is conducive to not dying, I can't help you.

Also, there's a wee bit of a subtle difference between folks going some place of their own volition and mental patients from Nevada being given one-way bus tickets to California cities (not Seattle btw) and instructions to call 911 when they get there. But I get that you're not big on noticing that X is not Y.
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They are anticipating a response to some policy coming down the pike and would like to be prepared.
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Sherple. Clearly that is what the issue is. What is violent crime is distinguishable from victimless crime which is what is the main issue in the Seattle "core" however you define it.

Last year marked the most shootings on record and this year the Police have been the most aggressive shooting many mentally ill people as a way of culling the herd. But hey if that cleans up the streets so be it.

So please explain the proliferation of hate crimes on the hill. The signs that say "don't walk alone" and each doorway filled each day with the refuge of the streets, the open heroin use and disposal of it without regard to anyone's safety.

This City is a nightmare. What we have is of course fake numbers altered to reflect a fake city. We have many many taken to Harborview as the defacto dump hold for both perpetrators of the crimes, the victims and most often the homeless/mentally ill. They are held there by law and mandate of King County to serve that group for 72 Hours. They really should change the name to Horrorview. They are the sole source of public health as well as the Trauma center for 5 states. In January they will be the largest primary care giver with the advance of ACA. We have an infrastructure collapsing at the seams and yet this article shows the excellent digging skills of one with a plastic spoon, once broken it stops. This is what research and journalism is.. PR material for the Stranger deigned candidate McGuinn. Good work.

Not voting for anyone but waiting for the first boat/train/plane out of here once I can. The most anyone can ever say about Seattle is the extrinsic bullshit - its pretty. Yeah and what about affordable housing, public transit, decent schools, health care. They are shit beneath your hipster shoes apparently.