Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Foot Patrols Pronto

Open Letter to Mayor-Elect McGinn: Foot Patrols Pronto, Please (UPDATE)

November 10, 2009
By Ahow
Open Letter to Mayor-Elect McGinn;

First of all, congratulations on your win. We appreciate your willingness to take one for the team, and accept one of the hardest jobs in the state. It always amazes me that there are multiple candidates willing to consider the task, so thank you.

Now on to bugging you, already. Crime. We’d like less.

Guns/violence, gangs, property theft, drugs, prostitution and the like are a constant source of chatter right here at our RVP. As a matter of fact, one of the more lively (and long) comment threads of late was devoted to a local establishment, Angie’s in Columbia City; specifically the City’s recent consideration of revocation of its liquor license.

The commentary seemed to me to boil down to a question: Is the management of Angie’s responsible for the nefarious activity going on in that pocket of Columbia City? Personally, I think they’re being made into a non-chevre producing sort of goat (an unpopular variety.)
Some would like to see the joint shut down. Refusing to renew their license would be a particularly tidy and expedient way of disposing with what was deemed by some of our commenters, a “cesspool” and “dump”. Others shared their experiences at being offered (sometimes aggressively) drugs and other “vices” outside and around Angie’s doors.

Yet other commenters pointed out the fact that there is a Youth and Family Services Center next to Angie’s that could be complicating a clean implication of Angie’s. Additionally, the mere proximity to an alley and parking lot at the far end of a typical CC visitor’s pedestrian tour makes for a convenient “vices to-go, drive-thru.” Location, location.

Still, one has to wonder if that’s really the issue. Tutta Bella, Columbia City Ale House, Wabi Sabi and soon-to-open Spice Room make for quite a cozy, comfortable yuppified quadrant of gustation in our jewel of a business district.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ll be rapping my fingers on Spice Room’s windows like in that commercial, “Open! Open!”

Yep, Angie’s is “retro”, and not in a “we-hired-people-to-make-it-look-like-this” way.
Combine this with the perception that crime down here is at a level where people are looking for a good, old-fashion, town-square burnin’. Catharsis can feel good, but the aftermath isn’t often what we’d anticipated.

After all, if what is going on outside of Angie’s was really our concern, shouldn’t we be addressing this as a community issue? Not just a problem for the proprietor of the establishment where a few do-badders stop for a brew (though Angie’s has a responsibility to run an especially tight ship at this point.)

Mr. Mayor-Elect, you are a lawyer. If the owner of Angie’s starts refusing service to customers on the basis of “suspicion of being a drug dealer, pimp or prostitute”, how long do you suppose it would take for them to accumulate a stack of lawsuits?

Even if they hire a goon squad to stand around outside, the goons can only move the unsightly “business” down a door or two. Get ready Wabi Sabi, welcome to the South End! Or even better, “business” moves on down the road right in front of everyone’s favorite new ice cream joint. Great for the kiddies. MiNt cHiP anyone?

Some have suggested a private security force for Columbia City. Should neighborhoods with customers who can afford to throw in for private security have the privilege of shuffling their drug dealers and pimps down the street to become someone else’s (Hillman City’s) problem? Do-badders know that private thugs won’t follow them down the street. They’ll just waive at them from the block they’re being paid to stand on.

I hold no degree in criminology. I am not a cop.  I have little but my gut and some encouragement from our veiled anonymous contributor, “South Seattle Cop” to go on here, but in your own campaign you have cited making a police presence in the community a priority. There is something to be said for seeing “Blue” on street level, at non-motorized speeds. Maybe even getting to know a local cop or two, by name.  It makes the do-gooders feel warm and fuzzy, and the do-badders feel… not so much.
A presence on the street might signal a new era for the do-badders. One where doing bad has higher risks, because cops are “about”. And the citizenry is chummy with the cops, making the info flow a little easier. Maybe the risk reward calculation for doing bad can be fundamentally changed, for a few. In the least perhaps doing bad out in the open for our children to witness will be less of an everyday, “Well, Johnny, ducks like the rain… Don’t stare at that hooker selling crack!” kind of occurrence.

I believe in specific requests so here’s mine:

Foot and bike patrols for Southeast Seattle. Friday, Saturday and Sunday during “peak” hours on Rainier Avenue South, between South Alaska and South Orcas. If that goes well, maybe shuffle patrols around as “activity” shuffles around. Let’s try that before we go boarding up peoples’ livelihoods.
Thanks for giving it a think.


P.S. Please go to McGinn’s idea engine website: www.ideasforseattle.org and search for this “idea”.  The title will be, “Foot/Bike Patrols for SE Seattle.”  Vote for it. Easy as pie. C’mon my RVPeeps, UNITE!  The site’s highest ranked issue (last I checked) had 66 votes. We can beat that. Or write your own letter with your own reasoning. That would be lovely too. Maybe if we all ask for the same, simple thing, we can get somewhere.

Ahow is a frequent contributor to the comments section side-show of the RVP. She resides in the Rainier Valley with her animals (husband, two kids and BIG dog). Read more of her stuff here.

UPDATE (4:45 pm): After just a few hours, Ahow’s idea for foot and bike patrols in the Rainier Valley has jumped to Number 2 on Mayor Elect McGinn’s Ideas for Seattle web site. Go here to vote now!

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