Community leaders hope Seattle's new emphasis program will help with repeat offenders

SEATTLE -- It's a public safety initiative that city leaders hope will make a difference when it comes to crime and livability in Seattle.

The Mayor's Office just launched its pre-summer emphasis program targeting seven Seattle neighborhoods.

SoDo, South Park, Georgetown, Pioneer Square, Fremont, Ballard and the downtown core near the 3rd Ave corridor around Pike and Pine will get more resources and police presence.

“I’ve had knives on my face I’ve had guns pulled on me, it’s 3rd and Pike,” Nick Bryant said.

It’s an area just a couple of blocks from the iconic Pike Place Market.

“There have been insane amounts of aggressive activity on this corner I am on a first name basis of most of the police,” Bryant said.

From random verbal and physical assaults to theft and open drug use, Bryant who manages a store in the downtown core has seen it all.

“Every one of those people who have been violent towards me has been scared or desperate,” Bryant said.

Bryant says extra police presence is a good thing but not enough on its own.

“I want to see higher community works by the police in this area instead of just arrests and pulling people away,” Bryant said.

Bryant says the same people keep coming back to re-offend.

The Mayor’s office is promising more than just extra police presence during the 30-day program.

The emphasis program brings multiple departments from Seattle City Light to the Human Services Department to remove trash and replace street lights.

“We are taking additional immediate steps to not just make communities safer but to partner with communities on ways we can make neighborhoods cleaner and more vibrant,” Mayor Durkan said.

“Over the years we’ve had off and on emphasis patrols but we haven’t had one specifically in this format,” Lisa Howard with Pioneer Square Alliance said.

Howard called the program more comprehensive targeting more areas.

“It’s a step in the right direction,” Howard said.

Howard is one of several community leaders behind a February report called System Failure. It studied 100 repeat offenders cycling in and out of jail with what they call no accountability or little treatment for mental illness and drug addiction. In less than 3 months the groups behind System Failure say 66 of the 100 repeat offenders accumulated 105 additional jail bookings.

Visit Seattle who also helped commission the report is calling for a long-term approach.

“The emphasis patrols are a welcome first step toward immediate relief for the city’s neighborhoods, including downtown Seattle. These resources are vital and come at a critical juncture, but we know that a sustained effort will be essential to success.”

Howard believes the city’s program is partially in response to the outcry from business leaders.

“We need to find a better way so we aren’t seeing the criminal re-offenses affecting victims on our streets,” Howard said

Durkan said her office will work closely with Police Chief Carmen Best and other parties to monitor the impact of the new resources.