On Friday, July 1, Seattle Mayor Ed Murray issued the “Mayor’s Chinatown/International District Public Safety Action Plan” six months after he first convened the Chinatown-International District Public Safety Task Force and almost one year after the murder of community activist Donnie Chin.
The community’s reaction to the murder of Chin, who spent his life protecting the neighborhood and trying to keep the community safe, led to renewed calls for the city to recognize the International District’s longstanding public safety concerns.
The task force was assembled by the city following the release of a public safety packet put together in September 2015 by International District community members to lay out their concerns and offer suggestions to improve public safety. The packet included 34 letters given to Murray and the city council with the purpose of urging the city to take action.
Murray’s action plan was based on the task force’s recommendations, which were released to the public today. Task force members included: Maiko Winkler-Chin (co-chair), Tam Nguyen, (co-chair), Sharyne Shiu-Thornton, David Leong, Richard Mar, Minh-Duc Nguyen, Sue May Ho, Sheila Burrus, I-Miun Liu, Sokha Danh, Abdi Mohamed, Zamzam Mohamed, Larry Larson, Greg Garcia, Paul Murakami, Ron Chew, Sonny Nguyen, Karen Yoshitomi, and Alan Lai.
To read the Task Force recommendations, click here.
Over the last six months, task force members were instructed by the city not to disclose the task force’s discussions and penultimate recommendations to the mayor. The final release of the mayor’s action plan and task force recommendations to the public comes as concerns by the International District community over public safety have grown. For decades, the community has called on the city to address evolving, yet constant, manifestations of the same core public safety issues: a lack of police presence, the need for better emergency response, and problems with drugs and general safety late at night.
To read the mayor’s action plan, click here.
A statement from the mayor highlighted four key elements from the action plan identified for early action:
- Community Engagement and Outreach Specialist—This one-year pilot creates a new civilian position at the Seattle Police Department that will be trained in national best practices around community policing and will be the city’s point to implement strategies to address the most acute criminal activities afflicting the neighborhood.
- Neighborhood-Based Public Safety Coordinator—The Department of Neighborhoods will provide matching funds for a position based in the neighborhood to provide public safety coordination between city departments and the residents and organizations in the International District.
- Public Safety Steering Committee—City employees and community members will identify key public safety projects to implement in the next 12-18 months, which will be measured and monitored for concrete outcomes.
- Improved Police Communication and Responsiveness—The Seattle Police Department will increase positive police engagement and relationship-building within the community with additional and redeployed staff, improve 911 responsiveness and language capabilities, and ensure that police patrols maintain high visibility in the neighborhood.
“Thank you to the many community members who contributed their time to this public safety task force and for their commitment to the neighborhood. Donnie [Chin] was one of the people who taught us that it requires more than police presence in a neighborhood to address public safety,” Murray said in a statement. “The neglect that the Chinatown-International District feels did not occur overnight, but I am committing our City to work with the community to address these issues so that we preserve this wonderful, vibrant, diverse and historic neighborhood.”
The mayor also announced that the city will launch a new intensive litter clean-up program piloted in the Chinatown-International District and Ballard. The mayor said Seattle Public Utilities (SPU) will increase litter pick-up with bi-weekly clean-up crews, install more trash bins on the street, and increase community engagement to speed response to illegal dumping. The mayor said there were significant impacts of heavy litter on quality of life in the neighborhood and a strong correlation between heavy litter and public safety concerns.
Murray also said he instructed the Office of Planning & Community Development (OPCD) and Department of Neighborhoods (DON) to work closely with the new Public Safety Steering Committee to guide the development and planning of infrastructure investments, as well as monitoring related issues that need immediate coordination.
“Chinatown-International District is a unique cultural environment that faces distinct public safety and infrastructure challenges,” said Maiko Winkler-Chin, executive director of the Seattle Chinatown-International District Preservation and Development Authority and task force co-chair, in a statement. “For decades, our neighborhood has felt that it has not had the same access to City resources and services as other neighborhoods. Community members, especially recent immigrants and our seniors, often feel disconnected. These task force recommendations and the mayor’s action plan are intended to build new bridges while making our neighborhood safer and even more vibrant.”
“The City must be held accountable to the Public Safety Task Force recommendations by keeping our community inviting, safe and a competitive place to do business, to live, and to work,” said Tam Nguyen, owner of the Tamarind Tree restaurant and task force co-chair, in a statement. “We need the City to support a healthy neighborhood by targeting crime inducers, ensuring safe environments for all law-abiding residents, and improving communication and coordination with the C/ID.”
“We have recently seen the benefits of better coordinated police efforts in South Seattle and in our downtown core,” Seattle Police Chief Kathleen O’Toole said in a statement. “We are committed to a similar multidisciplinary strategy to address the important concerns of Chinatown-International District stakeholders.”