Frustrated with a lack of communication from SPD, and a perceived lack of response from the city in general, residents in Georgetown and Belltown are taking matters into their own hands.
Last night residents in Gerogetown held, essentially, an intervention with their community patrol officer, Officer Sylvia Parker. Officer Parker joined Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes, Seattle City Council Member Sally Bagshaw, and Assistant City Attorney John A. McGoodwin in a crowded bar to field questions and frustrated comments from dozens of members of the Georgetown Community Council. Residents reported hearing 10 shots fired last Saturday night from a well-known problem club in the area, and say police aren't doing enough to help.
"SPD has responded to 29 calls on that place in less than two years," says council president Holly Krejci. The T-21 Club, also known as Taqueria El Trompo Loco, was closed for business on Monday—not because of the recent gunfire but because the owner voluntarily relinquished his liquor license (the Washington State Liquor Control Board suspended the club's liquor license in May but it was reinstated in June). Krejci asked: "What does it take to start shutting these places down? What's the tipping point?"
"SPD is aware there's a problem," responded Goodwin. "There's simply a patrol issue."
"The issue is Officer Parker doesn't communicate with us," Krejci later said. "We don't know what's going on in our neighborhood so how can we address problems?"
Which is why more neighborhoods are taking patrol into their own hands. Tonight, Belltown Citizens on Patrol are holding a public safety forum to address last weekend's rash of shootings and stabbings. The citizen patrol put out a call to Belltown residents for tonight's meeting—held at 7:00 p.m. at the Labor Temple, 2800 1st Ave, Hall #8—encouraging them to join the patrol in "making a positive change in Belltown!" The forum is expected to include SPD officers and representatives from the King County Prosecuting Attorney's Office, among others.
Meanwhile, Georgetown residents have banded together to create their unofficial own crime task force, using a neighborhood internet forum (which Krejci says Officer Parker no longer subscribes to) to update each other on neighborhood crime news. Krejci says she invited two city attorneys to last night's meeting because Officer Parker regularly fails to attend the meetings—or give the community crime updates. Now, they're forced to go over her head if they want information on their neighborhood.
Officer Parker attended last night's meeting. When pressed, she said there was nothing unusual to report on neighborhood crime.
"Then why are we being woken up by gunshots?" one resident muttered. Georgetown residents have begun organizing citizen patrols, neighborhood watches, and studying ways to kick out problem clubs from their neighborhoods.
"Why did [the T-21 club] give up their liquor license?" asks a Georgetown resident of Holmes at last night's meeting. "Why wasn't it taken away first?"
Some criticize the new city attorney for going too easy on bars. Holmes, who ran on a nightlife-friendly platform, explained that the city attorney's office is dealing with renewing 2,800 liquor licenses. Tom Carr, the previous city attorney, was known for objecting to liquor licenses for questionable reasons. Now, Holmes says, his office is "trying to build over time a really credible system." This means carefully choosing which licenses it objects to.
But Goodwin says that this means "things might get worse before they get better."
How does the Seattle Police Department respond? "You'll have a substantive response by the end of the day," says SPD spokesman Sean Whitcomb.
Mayor Mike McGinn and Seattle Interim Police Chief John Diaz will address neighborhood frustrations with a new Late Night Public Safety Initiative, which they will announce today at 3:30 p.m. in the plaza in front of SPD's West Precinct.