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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, May 24, 2013 - Volume 41 Issue 21
Whose streets? Our streets! - SOSea launches Block Watch program with neighborhood anti-crime march
Section One
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Whose streets? Our streets! - SOSea launches Block Watch program with neighborhood anti-crime march

by Shaun Knittel - SGN Associate Editor

We are not going to take it anymore. And if you are a criminal, or involved in violent activity, we are watching you. From business owners to their employees and the very neighborhoods criminals terrorize, people have begun to fight back. And it is just the beginning.

I led the Wednesday night (May 22) march from Capitol Hill's Seattle Central Community College (SCCC), a site where several recent attacks have taken place, to Plymouth Pillars Park on Pike Street near I-5. My organization, Social Outreach Seattle (SOSea), has had four of our founding members suffer attacks in just six months. The neighborhood has taken on a different feel these days, and enough is really enough. Trading in freedom for fear is not something that we are ready to do. The message was clear: OUR NEIGHBORHOOD BELONGS TO US, NOT HATE.

BLOCK WATCH
Criminals need to know that we've set up a neighborhood Business Block Watch. The business part made a few people uncomfortable for whatever reason, but it doesn't take a rocket scientist to see why we did this. You see, businesses employ people, and not everyone who works at the hundreds of Capitol Hill stores, bars, and service-based nonprofits lives on Capitol Hill. When they join Block Watch their employees receive training from SPD and other emergency response personnel that they can then take back to work with them - and home to their own neighborhoods. So, as you can see, this is the fastest way to reach the greatest number of people, living throughout Seattle and its surrounding areas.

SPD has agreed to train these employees (and it is open to citizens who don't work on Capitol Hill) four times a year. The trainings would take place at an LGBT advisory council meeting with SPD. The first training is being planned for September, in which citizens will learn from 911 operators.

The Block Watch program consists of a sticker (or, if your storefront is online, a digital logo) that is placed in the window of the business. The sticker, which is colored like a rainbow Pride flag with the silhouette of the city and Space Needle, reads SAFE SPACE. That is to let criminals know they are being watched and also to let victims of crime know they have a place to receive comfort from trained employees while waiting for SPD to arrive - or to call SPD in the first place.

DIVIDED WE FALL
I was honestly shocked, though not deterred, when I announced this program and a number of community members attacked it. I think I see why the criminals think they can come to the Hill, hit us, and run - a house divided cannot stand. Although most business professionals and organizations seem to get along, there are always those who seek to divide and criticize the positive efforts of others. I'm still waiting to see any results from those who criticized my efforts.

Business for Block Watch is booming. SOSea, along with SPD officials, will begin to show up at neighborhood businesses and organizations and enroll them for Block Watch. Little to no pushback has been received from owners and managers - the program will be in most of these businesses. That is really going to pound the message home to criminals that WE ARE WATCHING. Crime is not welcome on our Hill.

KEEPING IT PEACEFUL
Throwing rocks, breaking windows with bats and skateboards, or worse, is called vandalism. Vandalism has no place on the Hill either. That is criminal activity. Be a good citizen and do not engage in this type of behavior. Be a good neighbor and if/when you see these things happen, get a good description of the offender and call it in.

There was only one message on Wednesday and we said it over and over again so that our rally, and peaceful march thereafter, was not hijacked by any other group or organization trying to prove its point.

The speakers, Mac McGregor, Temper Ruska-Roma, and Robbie Turner, were excellent, respectful, and educational. SOSea and the guest speakers are not pandering to City Hall, SPD, or anyone else by not shouting anti-SPD chants. On the contrary, we are asking people to be accountable for their own actions and to be good citizens. SPD is not the answer to the rise in violent crime on the Hill. We, the people, are. It is our Gayborhood, so why not protect it? Why not protect each other? There is no good reason not to.

As we marched down the street, behind a banner that read OUR NEIGHBORHOOD BELONGS TO US, NOT CRIME, people driving by honked and waved, other came out of businesses and cheered, and the roughly 60 marchers became one giant voice for peace in our streets.

I am proud of what we did. I am hopeful for what we will accomplish. For information about Block Watch and the training dates, or announcements of when and where our next self-defense class will be held, go to www.socialoutreachseattle.com.

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