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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, May 29, 2015 - Volume 43 Issue 22
SPD Safe Place launch a success
Section One
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SPD Safe Place launch a success

by Shaun Knittel - SGN Associate Editor

Something has changed on Capitol Hill. Business owners, citizens, students, and community organizers are fed up and we are sending a clear message to criminals that their days of running the streets of Capitol Hill are coming to an end. Residents - old and new - are tired of the intimidation, tired of the assaults and muggings, and are being empowered through partnering with the Seattle Police Department for a program called SPD SAFE PLACE.

SAFE PLACE asks store owners/managers to put up poster - visible to employees and customers alike - or a decal that is a rainbow shaped badge containing the words SPD SAFE PLACE in their storefront window. More than just a sticker/decal project, SPD and community partners such as Social Outreach Seattle, hit the pavement on Tuesday, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. to canvas Pike/Pine and Broadway (the area hardest hit by muggings and attacks, intimidation, and most recently nearest to a shooting which left another suspect and one victim with gunshot wounds) businesses to sign them up for the program.

What we found was not expected, I think. I thought we were going to run into some people who didn't like the fact that community groups were working with SPD or the fact that the LGBTQ rainbow pride flag was being featured alongside anything that has to do with the police; after all Stonewall was a police riot they might say. True, Stonewall was a police riot - 46 years ago this month. And while this is the police department that has had to operate under a federal consent decree to fix their over use of force and bias policing practices since 2012, it is important to note that this is not the exact same department it once was. In June of last year, a new police chief arrived and cleaned house, the most praised for his time as East Precinct commander, Capt. McDonough, has been reassigned to once again head up policing in the area and aside from gentrification anxiety, most Capitol Hill residents are now looking towards ways they can help keep the neighborhood safe instead of demanding that 'somebody, somewhere, do something' about this issue.

As SOSea and SPD LGBTQ Liaison Officer James Ritter made their way through the neighborhood with community advocate Doug Vitaley and nightlife officer Chris Herrera one thing became very clear: Businesses were supportive. In fact, out of the more than 50 we made personal context with, every single one of them signed up and every single one of them put the decal in their window. That's right - 100% of the solicited bars, clubs and restaurants that were asked to display the decal, did so.

The densely populated neighborhood of Capitol Hill, with its restaurants and nightlife, is better known for its diversity, not violence. People simply coming into the neighborhood that don't know its history and don't understand the community. Seattle police are now reaching out to this community, trying to stem a growing number of biased crimes and harassment.

Rutter was assigned to community outreach back in September. 'I'm openly Gay,' said Officer Ritter, SPD's community liaison for the LGBTQ community. 'I'm looking forward to working with the community in a level I have never worked with them before.'

Officer Ritter has spent the last few months meeting with businesses and community members such as myself, hearing concerns, and teaching us about the new SPD Safe Place Program.

'I think it's critical to have businesses buying in on this, I think it's critical. This program cannot work without your support,' he told the businesses during a meeting last month. The program includes a new website that allows victims to document their concerns, even if they don't rise to the level of a bias crime - reports that Ritter himself will review.

'Many times the suspects out here can be verbal initially and it could turn physical the next time they confront somebody. That's what we're trying to get on top of,' said Ritter.

A big component of the program is getting businesses to place placards in the window, agreeing to report crimes and shelter victims. Businesses liked the idea of unifying for a cause to promote safety.

SPD and Social Outreach Seattle emphasized that the reports coming in to their website should not replace 911 calls. Those calls are still important to dispatch officers to crimes as they happen.

My initial thoughts on this program is that it is a good thing because it is inspiring people while helping police the neighborhood, too. When criminals see that these decals are in all kinds of windows on the Hill it is a sign to them that there is a mobilized effort to stamp out crime, which sends another message that violence will not be tolerated and creates the kind of community space needed at this point in time.

A reproduction of the SPD Safe Place poster/decal is in this week's SGN on page 6

For more information go to http://www.seattle.gov/spd-safe-place/

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