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Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Greg Nickels Must Be Running Out of Space on the Walls of His Office

posted by on January 30 at 13:49 PM

Remember this?

Seattle mayoral candidate Greg Nickels today blasted Mayor Paul Schell’s handling of Seattle’s Mardi Gras violence and vowed to hang Kristopher Kime’s death certificate on his wall if elected mayor “to remind me every day that protecting the public is my job.”

That morbid bit of political posturing—along with Paul Schell’s myriad shortcomings—helped lodge Greg Nickels’ ass in the the mayor’s office. Kime’s death, at the hands of some thug during the city’s since-cancelled Mardi Gras street party, seemed an aberration at the time. (Kime was beaten to death during a riot as the chief of police—where is that guy now?—looked on from his “command post.”) Now it seems like it’s been open season around here on pedestrians (RIP Shannon Harps), gay people (there are more and more reports of bashings), cyclists (we ever catch those assholes with the BB gun?), and, yes, club-goers (Sugar, Tabela, Baltic Room, et al). And besides the highly dubious busts of few doormen, the city, under Greg Nickels’ increasingly Zelig-like leadership, doesn’t seem particularly interested in public safety.

I grew up in Chicago in the 1970s and early 80s. It was a dangerous time in big American cities. But I never once saw a gun growing up—never saw a gun pulled on anyone, never saw a gun fired. I used to think that my son, growing up in Seattle today, lived in a safer city, at a safer time. Six months ago my son saw a man get pulled from a car and shot at point-blank range. At 23rd & Union. So, shit, maybe it’s time to move somewhere that feels safer—like New York City or Chicago or, if things keep going at this rate, Detroit or DC.

The stats say crime is down in Seattle, I realize. But those crime stats are seriously out of out of whack with perceptions about public safety and, fairly or not, perceptions about safety tend to trump stats about crime. If people don’t feel safe on the streets, they don’t go out, and with fewer eyes on the streets, the streets become less safe. Crime stats may be down—for now. But we may be at the start of a negative feedback loop and those stats may change rapidly. They may already have.

And what’s Greg Nickels going to say when some ambitious pol decides to run for mayor and pledges to hang Shannon Harps death certificate on his office wall?

RSS icon Comments


youre full of shit or criminally retarded to think seattle is less safe than chicago.

Posted by Bellevue Ave | January 30, 2008 2:01 PM

Chicago was a gang war zone in the 80's and DC had more killings than Lebanon. I suppose if you lived in parts of the northside of Chicago was safe. But your ass was grass if you lived in Oakland and other southside neighborhoods. For the rest of Chicagoans they were left to fend for themselves.

Even today, Southeast DC has more shootings in a week than Seattle has in 2 years.

Stats might be boring, but crime is down and that is a fact. Compared to other cities this city is safe and I feel safe and I live in the so-called hood.

Posted by SeMe | January 30, 2008 2:02 PM

Well, I'm off to the airport to meet Bill Clinton. Last time I met him he was flying in Big Blue. Wonder what it will be today. So what does this have to do with your post? Well, I'm debating whether or not to strap on the .45. Probably will. Christ, they let me into the White House with it, so it shouldn't be a major problem. Plus, there's a major little cutie on his Secret Service detail who I think likes me. Bill probably got to her first, though.

Posted by Fifty-Two-Eighty | January 30, 2008 2:05 PM

blah blah blah....

The stats say crime is down in Seattle

...blah blah blah

How is the Mayor supposed to make you "feel" safer, Dan?

He's already worked to reorganize the police precincts to even the workload. He wants to hire more cops. And he's been somewhat resistant to efforts, spearheaded by the Stranger I might add, to increase police accountability.

(Which is not to say that I'm opposed to accountability, but working on that issue takes uses some negotiating chips with the police union to increase public safety)

Posted by MHD | January 30, 2008 2:06 PM

Frankly, if any Stranger staffers left Cap Hill or Belltown more than twice a year, they might have a better idea of how safe the city is.

Violence is just part of an urban environment anyway. Just like panhandlers and junkies. Stop complaining, everyone! If we can push the murder rate up by 2009 (when our choo-choo train to the airport starts running), we'll nearly be a big city!

Posted by joykiller | January 30, 2008 2:07 PM

Seattle's got a problem and it needs fixin'.

First thing: Shitcan the Mayor and the Police Chief.

Posted by ecce homo | January 30, 2008 2:13 PM

I've been trying to make you feel safer by making you understand that a lot of news stories about pit bull attacks doesn't mean a pit bull is going to bite you. A lot of pictures of Britney Spears' coochie doesn't mean you're going to get some (FWIW). It's just that there are a lot of people paid to take pictures of it. And a lot of people paid to write stories to make it seem like we are in a perpetual crime wave.

You should take that Intro to Statistics class at UW Extension that I keep saying Eli Sanders should take. That will make you feel safer, and you would be right.

Posted by elenchos | January 30, 2008 2:14 PM

Your son saw a man get pulled from a car and shot at point-blank range?!

Posted by Hooty Sapperticker | January 30, 2008 2:14 PM

@8: That was my initial reaction too. If you're gonna murder somebody, the least you can do is make sure there are no kids watching!

Posted by Jerod | January 30, 2008 2:19 PM

Ditto for 8 and 9. What, praytell, do you tell a kid after that? :-(

Posted by Christin | January 30, 2008 2:24 PM

Seattle in general is pretty safe but there are hot spots like 23rd and Union where visible violent crime is much higher than a few years ago. If you live near one of those hot spots it's easy to feel like you're less safe than you used to be.

Posted by Rhiannon | January 30, 2008 2:24 PM

@3: Just don't pull it out unless you want to die.

Posted by Greg | January 30, 2008 2:30 PM

I know that Seattle is among the safest of American cities (and a shitload safer than the small town where I grew up; here, you can at least avoid the people most likely to shoot you), but I can completely understand the perception thing.

Mainly because I live at 20th and Union.

The people who live in my neighborhood are quiet, middle class families. We get together for a great block party every year with all the neighborhood dogs running wild and waiting for hot dogs to drop. It's pretty boring, really, especially compared to the U-District.

But now with shootings happening on a regular basis at 23rd and Union, calling 911 once a month after hearing gunshots, I feel like I'm within spitting distance of Bogota, circa 1984, and it sucks. It's part of what drove me to vote for Tim Burgess, because he wants even more cops on the streets. So, yeah, I'll vote Nickels out if the other guy has a decent plan for funding 150-200 more cops on the streets, stats or no.

Stats just don't capture what it's like to live in those areas where crime really is regular and dangerous.

Posted by Gitai | January 30, 2008 2:30 PM

the problem is that white people from the burbs are "mortified" when a shooting happens near them because they have no experience with such things. the perception thing is 100% of the issue here.

the best example i can think of is 9/11.

some really bad shit happened that we have no experience with so we go absolutely stark raving mad and let crazy shit happen to us.

Posted by Bellevue Ave | January 30, 2008 2:35 PM

Seattle is safe and so is Greg Nickels.

Posted by J.R. | January 30, 2008 2:44 PM

What @7 and @14 said. Look up "confirmation bias", Dan. That's what you're showing here.

Having said that, isn't our cops per capita rate significantly below the average for cities our size?

Posted by tsm | January 30, 2008 2:45 PM

@14, really? The problem is white people (the majority of the population in both city and suburbs) from the suburbs (which are in no way uniform) are freaking out?

Not only is your premise totally off-base -- aren't non-white people scared too? what about people from the city? -- but your assertion is too. See, me, I would have thought the problem was that people were shooting each other.

But, hey, like I said, it's all part of the "vibrancy" one has to expect when living in an urban area. Heaven forbid people move somewhere -- from the burbs, out-of-state, or two blocks away -- and take their unreasonable expectations of safety with them.

Posted by joykiller | January 30, 2008 2:47 PM

unreasonable? i think it is unreasonable to expect safety at all times. i think it is unreasonable to demand safety only when a crime happens in close proximity to you, and not when it happens in "the bad part of town"

Posted by Bellevue Ave | January 30, 2008 2:59 PM


Move to Detroit.

Then move back to Seattle.

You'll feel safer then.

Posted by TheMisanthrope | January 30, 2008 3:07 PM

You're scared?

What are you? Gay!?

Posted by pointless | January 30, 2008 3:20 PM

Um Dan... I might actually take you seriously on this issue if you hadn't done everything in your power to spike Hizzoner's efforts to address the issue of club violence last year.

Posted by Hypocrisy or a short memory? | January 30, 2008 3:26 PM

Dan, I am so sorry about your son, that must have been horrible for your entire family!

Posted by Megan W | January 30, 2008 3:47 PM

Last week, an SPD officer told me that they have 60 job openings. Also, they are stretched thin, because members of the force are in Iraq and Afghanistan. He did elaborate on how many. Maybe it's something The Stranger can research.

Posted by Tony | January 30, 2008 3:57 PM

Uggh, how awful, Dan - sorry about your son seeing something so horrendous. Having lived a few different places, I'm convinced there's really no way to declare a separate peace from these things. People in the community just need to dig in and do the best they can to make it better.

Having said that, I would LOVE more progressive friends, neighbors, and pinko homos to keep me company in the OKC metro area. Me and the boys would totally roll out the red carpet for you. Not that it would be your cup of tea, but hey...

Posted by OklaHomo | January 30, 2008 3:59 PM

Just read the Stranger's column "Last Days" and count how many times it mentions crime in other cities (because of our lack thereof) and how many days that go, "Nothing happened."

Posted by Anna Montana | January 30, 2008 4:40 PM

No, the REAL problem Belleuve Ave, is when people - any people - become so desensitized by continual, unchecked violence that they DON'T become "mortified" when a violent crime occurs near them.

Taking the attitude that "this is just the sort of thing one must expect in a big city" is self-defeating from the get-go. Just because one lives in a city, it does not follow that one must become conditioned to ignoring violence where ever, whenever, and however it occurs.

Although one may expect a proportionally larger incidence of violent behavior, simply due to the larger, compacted population of an urban environment, that's not at all the same as condoning, or, otherwise passing it off as a "normal" part of living in such an environment.

Posted by COMTE | January 30, 2008 4:50 PM

Chicago was safe Dan? Bullshit. I lived there for 25 years. Saw guns, saw people shooting, got beat up many times, and was harassed by cops. Seattle has a fraction of the violent crimes committed in Chicago.

Posted by elrider | January 30, 2008 5:31 PM

I lived in Chicago for 40 years and just moved to the burbs and felt safer in Chicago! At least in Chicago I knew all my neighbors and they wanted to know me. Out here in McHenry, my neighbors don't talk to each other and everyone seems scared!! I can't wait to move back to Chicago! Safty is about how comfortable you feel in your neighborhood. No matter where that neighborhood is.

Want to keep your neighborhood safe? Get involved! get to know your neighbors and your area! its up to us to keep our communities safe!

Posted by LauraS | January 30, 2008 6:43 PM

Nice idea @28. Now, if only people would stop freakin' shooting my neighbors I might be able to do just that.

Posted by COMTE | January 30, 2008 6:54 PM

Thanks @29. Sad that your neightbor are being shot up!

Posted by LauraS | January 30, 2008 7:06 PM

Up until around 2000, I walked at midnight from my job on First Hill to my pad at 2nd and Battery in Belltown. The streets were pretty much deserted but every now and then I'd pass an establishment with people inside. Only once - when some teenage punks in a van tried to heckle me into something distinctly dangerous - did I feel threatened. After that little episode, I merely changed my route home.

Now (and this could be age-related), I wouldn't dream of making that trek alone at midnight. There is definitely a real sense of "not safe anymore." I feel it at night downtown and in Belltown, on Capitol Hill, and in the UD even. Very sad, because it's like a right has been taken away - the right to be safely out and about.

Many women, of course, have long felt threatened out alone at night. Now, I can empathize with their plight to a degree that was heretofore impossible.

I want my Seattle back.

Posted by Bauhaus | January 31, 2008 3:09 AM

Less heat, more light: Do some reporting for a change instead of spouting off - is Kime's picture still on the wall, for instance, and what do the mayor, and neighborhood crime stats, say about your assumptions? Would you rather enrage or enlighten? Yeah I know: you'd rather lick doorknobs...

Posted by frankr | January 31, 2008 8:11 AM

"The stats say crime is down in Seattle, I realize. But those crime stats are seriously out of out of whack with perceptions about public safety and, fairly or not, perceptions about safety tend to trump stats about crime."

Maybe, then, you should repeat over and over and over again that crime rates are down and that crime rates are generally low in Seattle rather than burying this important fact in the middle of a long list of statements suggesting the opposite.

Posted by josh | January 31, 2008 9:58 AM

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