In Letter to McGinn, Downtown Group Decries Ongoing Violence in Area

In a letter to Mayor Mike McGinn—whose latest ad credited additional beat cops with "the lowest crime rate in 30 years"—41 downtown community members decry "frequent street violence" in the neighborhood.

By Erica C. Barnett July 31, 2013

In a letter yesterday (signed by more than 40 downtown leaders) decrying what they describe as a growing epidemic of violent street crime downtown, the Downtown Seattle Association asked Mayor Mike McGinn and the city council to implement "immediate new resources and strategies" to combat street violence. 

Citing seven "alarming" incidents that took place in broad daylight over the past two months—including a fight involving knives and skateboards at Westlake Park, a brutal beating at 7th and Pike, a "savage attack" of a building concierge at 4th and Pike, and, most recently, a man with a crowbar who smashed car and business windows in the Pike/Pine corridor, causing $5,000 in damage before he was apprehended—the letter says, "The level of intimidation, physical assault and violence, particularly in and near Westlake, has been growing in a very visible way. ... This level of violence in Downtown is unacceptable."

The alarming letter—signed by representatives of downtown developers, the Downtown Residents Council, hotels, Seattle Central Community College, and Nordstrom, among others—appears to sharply contradict McGinn's new ad touting his success at getting "police officers out of their cars and onto the streets" by increasing bike and foot patrols, resulting in the "lowest crime rate in 30 years."

According to a May report on police staffing, though, "the number of officers in service is declining," and the number of officers on active 911 duty has shrunk by 9 percent since 2010.

And here's a fact check on McGinn's "lowest crime rate" claim: Although major crimes like rape and murder are down (along with property crime) in the city as a whole, contributing to lower overall crime rates, violent crime is up due in part to an increase in domestic violence. In 2011, McGinn eliminated the Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault Prevention division of the city's human services department, rolling those two functions into two new divisions not primarily focused on domestic violence or sexual assault.

The DSA letter goes on to criticize the McGinn-initiated "Center City/Roundtable" effort to address street disorder downtown, saying that although "we have patiently participated" in the mayor's Roundtable and support the approach, "this increasing pattern of violence downtown must be addressed immediately," through an increase in downtown park rangers and a "significant and immediate" increase in downtown foot and bike patrols. 


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