The following is a letter to the editor from Tak-wah Wang, also known in the Chinatown/International District community as “T.W.”:
Gun violence and crime all around Seattle, or even King County, has aroused much concern to many people. As a long time member of the Chinatown/International District Neighborhood Block Watch, may I express my thoughts in this matter? The Block Watch was started back in 2008, under the sponsorship of the former mayor. The cosponsor is SCIDpda, which provides a place for the gathering of Block Watch members and also recruits and provides its staff to lead the Block Watch.
At first, some senior officers from the Seattle Police Department came to give us some rough ideas of how SPD operates. For example, they explained how the 911 function works and how we can report crime to the police quickly instead of taking actions ourselves.
At first, the Block Watch took place twice a week: Tuesday and Thursday in the evenings. Then, it was reduced to only once a week: on Tuesdays. Block Watch members included both young and old, some lived in the neighborhood, some did not. Even after I moved to Renton, I still took part in the Block Watch, which takes about one hour.
In the beginning, the Block Watch was led by a police officer who taught us how to look for anything suspicious. We patrolled around the International District. When we suspected anything, we would report to our team leader, who would then note it down and report it to the Police. In an urgent situation, we would immediately contact the SPD.
On the surface, the purpose of this Block Watch may not seem great. What is the use of walking just one hour a week? Yet the effect is after the walk. Since the members nearly all live or work in this district, and with their experience in Block Watch, we have built up a watchful eye even when we are not doing the Block Watch. There have been many times that our members have reported crime to the SPD when they are not on Block Watch hour. This is the aim of the Block Watch.
During the Donnie Chin memorial gathering on Saturday, August 15, I had a chance to speak to SPD Chief Kathleen O’Toole. She knows about the Block Watch. I suggested to her to gradually expand this Block Watch Project to all districts. This would help the SPD put more watchful eyes in Seattle’s neighborhoods.
Yet, to do this, we have to face two problems. First, how do we build up the Block Watch in other districts? Here in Chinatown we have the SCIDpda to help organize the team, provide staff, and allocate a gathering place. In other districts, volunteers may have to rely on the community centers to organize. This effort needs government support. We hope the mayor and police chief will sit down together and discuss this. Imagine, when every district has a neighborhood block watch and citizens are always on alert and can give a helpful hand to the SPD, what a peaceful city Seattle will become.
Second, we need more young people to join the neighborhood block watch effort, as youngsters are more alert than old people like me. To recruit more young people, we need the help of the police, the Seattle school district, and community colleges. Maybe students can get credit for participating.