At the monthly Chinatown-International District public safety meeting on June 21, community members, representatives of city and neighborhood groups, and two police officers discussed the latest concerns in the neighborhood, as well as recent trends in crime and safety.
Most people at the meeting were regular attendees, according to Jamie Lee, manager of IDEA Space, who facilitated the meeting. A notable exception was Captain Chris Fowler, commander of the West Precinct with the Seattle Police Department.
The meeting started with the news that a homeless man with mental health issues, who was a common source of complaints in the neighborhood, was recently arrested, and will most likely be away from the neighborhood for the foreseeable future. The man could often be found asking for change outside Uwajimaya and Oasis.
Officer Carry Godeke of the West Precinct described a common scam CID residents might encounter, in which people dressed as Buddhist monks sell bracelets or necklaces at high prices and ask for money. On one occasion, Godeke said, one of these people tried to snatch money from someone.
Fowler mentioned that he would transferring out of the precinct by around July 10, and would make sure his successor will be up to date on community needs. Fowler described the current neighborhood policing strategy as priority-based, which means community members should pick the spots that need the most focus.
Fowler then outlined some trends in crime. There had been an uptick in aggravated assaults, he said. “I think as we deal more with some of our homeless concerns, it’s going to stress that population, and unfortunately one of the results of that is that it becomes a territorial concern,” he said.
On the topic of shootings in the area, Fowler said they can usually be classified into two types: domestic violence with mental health issues, or gang related, in which rival gangs clash over territory, or retaliate against someone who hasn’t paid them. Fowler said the police are focusing on Rainier Valley, where gang disputes originate rather than the CID where they often end up.
Crime is on a downward trend this year, according to Fowler, including shootings.
The mayor’s public safety task force was also discussed. Fowler said that one of the task force’s recommendations was to combine Little Saigon and the CID into one precinct. Fowler said more work needed to be done to see how this could work strategically.
Task force members are tentatively scheduled to present to Councilmember Lorena Gonzalez’s committee on July 13.
Community members also discussed their concerns with the growing homeless population under I-5 and the best strategies to handle the situation. Mikel Kowalcyk, an outreach coordinator with LEAD Screening, noted that there are agencies with outreach workers that can help, including the Union Gospel Mission and DESC Host.