Community Post

A Divided Neighborhood?

Well it is, according to a majority of the residents that spoke at this evening’s 23rd and Union Safety Forum, and its divided into two groups: the troubled youth on the street, and the people who fear them.

The forum was held in response to the tragic shooting that occurred two weeks ago at this now notorious intersection. About eighty people from the neighborhood attended and voiced their opinions on the crime problem, and Police spokesmen were there to answer questions and advise the neighborhood on how to deal with all of the problems.

The police spokesmen, Captain Paul McDonagh and Lieutenant John Hayes of the East Precinct, said that police are doing all that they can to combat the criminal activity happening around 23rd and Union. They have increased patrols and are assigning specialty units like the gang squad and narcotics to the area. They also stressed the importance of preventative organizations like GOTS (Get Off The Streets) that assists those with drug addictions find the treatment that they need. They did mention the “Cop Shop” that has been rumored to be coming to the vacant pharmacy on the southeast corner, but said there is much more work that has to be done and it’s not going to happen anytime soon.

But, as one resident along with the Captain pointed out, police can only arrest people once they have committed a crime. It’s up to the neighborhood to make sure that the crimes don’t happen. And how do we do that?

Well, some residents pointed out that the kids on the corner are outcasts, treated “like weeds”, and have no place to turn. Their families have pushed them out, schools no longer want them, and they’re left bitter and pessimistic. The residents said that the neighborhood has to reach out to these kids and show them that we really do care by getting them involved with various groups and programs, like SVI, that gives them the skills necessary for a productive life. The speakers also stressed the importance of the local business community providing jobs for the kids.

But, the overwhelming sentiment was that we all need to get out of the house more, meet neighbors, organize, and engage the kids on the corner to find out who they are, why they’re here, and let them know that we care about them.

One business owner that has a coffee shop on Jackson said that the area around his business was plagued with the same problems as 23rd and Union, but he engaged the kids, talked to them, and increased his presence outside his shop. After awhile, he said, they stopped coming around. He believes that crime is much less likely to occur in an active area. But, as he pointed out, “its not up to the police or outside groups to raise our kids.”

What do you think should be done?

Update: Here’s the Seattle PI’s take on the meeting

0 thoughts on “A Divided Neighborhood?

  1. The issues around 23rd & Union would, IMHO, benefit from an active neighborhood organization that draws together all the “stakeholders” in the immediate vicinity. Both the safety issues that brought us together tonight, and the redevelopment plans that brought us together last fall would benefit from a group that could speak for all of the community that surrounds the 23rd & Union “node” (I lapse into “planspeak”, another reason for a cohesive group: the City’s going to revisit neighborhood planning).

    The Central Neighborhood Association has a Google Group ( ) and represents (as I understand it) people West of 23rd and North of Union. They used to have a website, and did great work upgrading E. Union Street west of 23rd, and the Central Area plant exchange and garden tour but are apparently less active now (do correct me if I’m wrong).

    Squire Park ( ) is very active. Squire Park’s boundaries are East Jackson Street on the south, 12th Avenue on the west, East Union Street on the north, and 23rd Avenue on the east.

    There are blockwatches on 24th and other streets in the vicinity, and surely other collections of active neighbors.

    An organization of neighbors, businesses and churches (perhaps coming out of a reinvigorated Central Neighborhood Association, as suggested at the meeting) that specifically represents the area within 3 or so blocks of 23rd & Union would seem an ideal way to proceed.

  2. Judging from the emails sent through the CNA Google group, I think the CNA covers a larger area than that – probably something like 18th Avenue to 26th and East Howell to South Jackson. It appears to be much larger than the old CNA that in the early/mid-90’s met at the same Lutheran church we gathered at tonight. If anyone has a better grasp of this than I do, please correct me!

    The current CNA seems to me to be sort of an umbrella that overlaps the various block watches and Squire Park. Many people belong to both the CNA and their own more local organization, and emails sent through the CNA seem to reach at least one person in each block watch, and that person seems to forward pertinent messages throughout their own group. My experience is that the communication works pretty well, but actual meetings would be an important addition.

    We’ve had some informal discussion of having combined meetings of the block watches closest to 23rd and Union – sort of a mini-CNA, I guess – but then the holidays came along and everyone has so much going on anyway, and it never happened. Let’s do it!

  3. I did not hear about this event until after the fact, so perhaps I missed a good opportunity to ask some questions that I’ve wondered about for a while.

    I do not understand how SPD can say that they are using all of the tools at their disposal to deal with the the issues at 23rd and Union (and on several other major roads in the CD.) When I worked in Pioneer Square, which is another high crime area, I still felt safe walking around alone. At least during daylight hours, people who seriously harassed passers by were quickly confronted. I never felt like I had to fend for myself the way I do in the streets surrounding my home.

    In the past year while living in the CD I’ve dealt with more threats and harassment than I did in the entire time I lived in gang-riddled San Bernardino, CA. Several of my close friends have been assaulted near 23rd and Union because they were innocent bystanders in the wrong place at the wrong time. I’ve been chased in broad daylight while jogging by men who threatened to do terrible things to me if they caught me. When I do see police patrols, they drive by in their cars and don’t stop unless violence has already occurred. Why don’t they have foot and bike patrols the way they do downtown? Why aren’t loitering laws enforced in violent crime hotspots?

    I agree that the ultimate healing for this neighborhood involves reunification of a deep divide. That is a long term process, though. In the short term, I would like to see the SPD pay as much attention to the CD as they do to the downtown neighborhoods. It would be a lot easier to reach out to my neighborhood if I could once again walk where I want, at least during daylight hours, without fearing so much for my physical safety.

  4. alright i’ll bite: how can the neighborhood be proactive to reduce crime? what are some good ways to bring people out of their houses and into community spaces, like the parks, local businesses, and into other peoples homes?

  5. I was at both the Capitol Hill stabbing meeting and last night’s 23rd & Union meeting.

    The Capitol Hill meeting was about the seemingly random murder of a young woman, whose suspected assailant was still unidentified at the time of the meeting. The meeting had been advertised widely for some while. The Mayor was there, and stayed for quite a while. Three Councilmembers attended: Licata and Burgess from the start, Clark arrived later – all stayed to the end, as I recall. Assistant Police Chief Metz was there for the meeting. Several TV stations covered the event.

    Last night’s meeting was both about the tragic killing of the owner of the cheese-steak restaurant at 23rd & Union and about the levels of lawlessness and unemployment that seem endemic to the area. Announcements for the meeting only appeared a few days ago (2/7/08), perhaps explaining why one Councilmember could only send a staffer, and the two who attended could not stay long.

  6. Are you interested in the potential cop shop at the Chesterfield pharmacy? Contact the offices of Councilmembers Burgess and Harrell and let them know you live in the community and support the idea. It was intimated to me that this might help facilitate the process.

  7. Andrew raises a good point–I would have recommended we push the meeting out a bit and make it less of a regular East Precinct Crime Prevention meeting and more of a broad based, highly advertised meeting to discuss updates. Nice to see some city leadership there, but too bad it was not more widely attended.

    The meeting didn’t cover any new ground, but I thought it was at least helpful in that it brought out a broader cross section of the neighborhood than I’ve seen at some of the other meetings. However, I think it is critical that we engage collectively in our neighborhood association as this is the mechanism that speaks to the elected officials and others, hopefully with one voice.

  8. I talked to a couple of people at the meeting about coordinating the blockwatches. Michael Y. said he has a big plan — look for it this summer. Another person also has ideas — but wants to get a city grant first! Regarding wider community efforts, Rev. Phillips said to be patient, plans are being laid. Okay, great. Until then … here are a few concrete grassroots ideas I’ve heard (since someone asked). Their goal is not to reinvent the wheel, but rather to push forward whatever wheels are already in motion.

    For one, blockwatch representatives could take the initiative (this week?)to contact a couple other blockwatch reps and set up a time to meet and brainstorm about how blockgroups can coordinate with each other and, ESPECIALLY, with other local groups: e.g., churches, L.O.V.E.(mentioned by liltkid Maine1 in a post last week), SVI, CADA, CNA etc. I plan to contact the folks I know. It’s not like we’re all going to come together in a big circle of love, but we can at least braid ourselves together a bit more.

    Another concrete project would be for someone to complile a list of “Seed” projects to which blockwatch groups can contribute. This could then be posted on the city’s blockwatch page. As it is, I think new BW groups get much better tips on how to “weed” than on how to “seed,” which minimizes to the W&S program’s potential for good … in case its name alone isn’t hinderance enough.

    A third suggestion — Meeting Space: If you have access to a cool meeting space then find a youth leader and let them know. Coordinate some sort of event where youth can meet with folks outside their regular peer group (and vice-versa). This is something blockgroups could contribute to — For example, I think it’s possible to reserve parts of the Madison “Y”. If blockwatches knew who to contact they could arrange, say, a game and meal night where local kids and local adults could get to know each other. (BTW: I heard a sad story last night: kids living around Union were scared to walk to a church on Jackson for fear of getting shot.) Do you have access to a safe space?

    These suggestions focus on blockgroups not because I think they’re the linchpin of the CD. It’s because that’s what I know and because I see potential for them to support other organizations & programs. Start from where you’re at.

  9. Homer Harris Park, next to the Madison Y on 24th (BTW I saw the director of the Y in the audience last night) has great potential for open-air summer events. It was used for an outdoor film series a couple of years ago, though I gather there were concerns about the non-PG content of some of the movies shown. Homer Harris, the Y, Garfield Community Center and surrounding outdoor areas (and Medger Evers pool) are all within easy strolling range of 23rd & Union, and could all be of use for planned activities.

  10. Come on people-

    The upper echelons of Seattle think your neighborhood is crap. The developers want your houses, land and businesses. The city is perfectly willing to let your area spiral into the depths so certain individuals and groups can make money taking what you have worked hard for and redeveloping it for their own interests and to line their own pockets. The police are not doing “all they can”. This is ridiculous. The “crime trends” flow like a biorhythm in sync with redevelopment, money and the upperclass moving things around with their long sticks on the board that is Seattle. It is so obvious that it makes me sick just thinking about it. Talks that take place on golf courses, fine restaurants, backyard parties, “fund raisers” etc. Look around you- Seattle is of finite size and you will loose out to both old and new money and corrupt selfish politics.

  11. Yes, indeed. I am going to put a proposal into this comment box that will just fix everything. Raise home values, bring back the dead, save all the kids from crime etc. Pardon the sarcasm, but I see this trend in many areas of Seattle and then magically whole blocks get transformed into new development pushing out long time residents and culture. This type of transformation takes time, yet it appears almost out of nowhere right as things hit an apex. Why is this? Who is looking into the far off plans that are really in the works and keeping locals informed. Data like this is out there, but one has to dig deep to find it and to put the picture together. Your average person does not have the knowledge to do that. They only see things apparently collapsing around them for no reason and to have the city blame them and tell them they need to do something. Who are the real owners of some of these properties, what are their interests and who is waiting in line with baited breath to snatch it up. Who is holding on for the next apex. Who is being kept in the dark?

    Yes, locals coming up with ideas to improve things in their area is great. But so is coming down hard with questions to the systems and services that are supposed to be provide to them. I don’t want to hear a couple police officers give excuses, or play me with things like “we are now assigning specialty units” for example. This area has been like this for a long time.. Those “units” should have already been in place long ago.

    A rumored police station for that corner? which will take a long time coming? Why is that? No money? Put a squad car on that corner and you will have your “police station”. Yes, this is overly simplified to make a point. The point being that there is no money to be made in doing that. But they WANT their new station. Because somebody has to build it. Someone gets to sell their land. Someone gets to benefit monetarily from having that new station there- next to their next planned development.

    Yes, it will take time to for the city to figure a station like that out, to make “arrangements”, to make everyone involved “happy” and politically and monetarily satisfied. So that you can be told to move out and find somewhere else to live. The last thing the city wants it seems is to give any added value to locals who they blame for driving down the area in the first place.

    My intention is only to provide some other angle to consider along with current ones. I am sorry it may come off as a rant but this all seriously has me ticked because I feel we are being pushed around by others with completely different agendas. Not unlike what happens when you try to go buy a new or used car. ha!

  12. with all due respect, your “post” is just a series of theories, many in the conspiracy category, that are probably not true and are certainly not productive.

    Thanks for your thoughts. You seem to know our neighborhood so well. It was a real pleasure hearing your tutorial.

  13. *RENTING* space from the property owner at the SE corner of 23rd & Union, most recently leased by Chesterfield Pharmacy, for a ‘drop-in’ police station. This would NOT be a permanent police facility, nor even a city-owned facility. It would be a place for cops to get out of their cars and have somewhere to sit, eat, use the bathroom, etc.

    With any luck, it might also get some of our notoriously auto-dependent SPD officers out on foot a little bit, too.

    But this huge rant about redevelopment? Parts of it are probably true. In this specific instance, there’s a rather large lack of factual information related to the discussion at hand.

  14. Speaking of walking as a means of keeping the neighborhood safer – last summer and fall we did some walks, meeting up at a local restaurant and then walking around the neighborhood. I think those walks were helpful, both in introducing some local establishments to some new customers, and in getting us out on the street.

    I’m hoping to get another walk going soon, as the days are getting longer again.

  15. There isn’t anything to prove wrong. How do you prove something wrong when none of it is fact-based or backed with any data?

  16. The CD has and is still a containment area. It can be documented back to the Cherryhill Coalilition days of Chicken Charlie days (Mayor Royer) when a live chicken was let loose at a city council meeting. Prior to that Cd residents collected needles and used condoms and sent them to Council members so that they could see what they have to see every day. Yes it is a rant but it is release of the frustration of living in a crime containment area with those in city gov. denying it. Ask yourself, if you lived in Wallingford or just about anywhere north of the ship canal how much publicity would the medis give to these problems and how fast would the city fix it?

  17. A City Council staffer asked me about the meeting, so I referred them to this post (and to today’s Capitol Hill Times), with a comment that I hoped that the neighborhood would unite around the issues. Here’s their reply:

    Thanks Andrew! I’ll look these over. I also hope that they band together, for their own sake. You know better than most that the squeaky wheels really do get the City’s grease.

  18. It really is too bad that the meeting played out this way as the community is far more caring and multi-faceted than was indicated here. The leaders did not seem to desire to collect comments from all and allowed a few to dominate with no time limit on speakers. I’m curious about who arranged and organized the meeting. It was announced in many web sites with no sponsorship announced. Considering that a number of police officers were present along with City Council members the purpose should have been defined. Was this organized to address concerns of residents around 23rd and Union based on the recent homicide or for some other purpose? My assumption was that it was in response to that incident and with the police. I went hoping to find out more about the specific circumstances that led to the shooting at the restaurant and if there are some immediate actions to be taken by the police and community to prevent any other incidents. Maybe it could have also been organized to hear the family of the victim, but from my observation there was not a message that the police and family wanted to communicate. This was meeting with the police and yet the emphasis became youth and very unfocused.

    Youth do not necessarily make up most of the criminal elements. While young people do get caught up in bad situations and become visible as a result of various networks, a vast majority of the illegal activities are adult led. Many of these adults have long journeys ahead of them if they are to overcome addictions and become involved in lifestyles that allow them to legally contribute their talents.

    While the police should be well-trained in interacting with youth and community members when necessary, they cannot be expected to offer family counseling and activities for youth. Their willingness to volunteer with youth programs is appreciated, but the police cannot be the center of successful youth programs. The police have a job and cannot otherwise be the main solution to all other problems. The safer children feel within their communities and homes the more likely they are to make good choices and not feel the need to make alliances with criminal elements. People, especially children and youth, who feel afraid, angry and isolated lose their abilities to think clearly and learn. Fear and anger are not good for the brain. The police can be a part of making our communities feel safe by doing their job, but others including parents and guardians have to make the other choices available and accessible to children and youth. If youth are engaged in other activities and feel safe they will learn to live successful lives. A wide range of activities should be offered including sports, math clubs, spelling bees, chess and other games, arts (including many forms of music, dance, theater and visual arts), science and technology activities. It is not healthy for the youth to focus on the police. Their focus should be on individual achievements of their own and their peers. Programs that engage them must come from organizations whose mission is to serve children and youth. Counseling and other mental health services should be available to youth, families and all adults but this is not a main function of the police department.

    Of course, we want a safe community for all. Please, next time organize in a way that that discussion can be productive. Once again the lack of organization allowed our community to be portrayed only in the most shallow terms.

    Joanna Cullen

  19. I agree. I thought the event was not well organized, executed and moderated. The result was negative, not positive or forward-looking. An opportunity squandered.

    When my wife asked me how it went, I could only say, “It was ok. Nothing significant gained or learned.”

    What a shame.

  20. It was organized by the chair of the east precinct crime prevention coalition, Stephanie Tschida.

  21. I think the meeting presented some positive opportunities. People always say crazy stuff at these meetings. My worst fears, however, were not realized. I was afraid I wouldn’t see any new faces at the meeting. I appreciated the chance to hear K. Garrett, the representatives from the Ethiopian community, and others whom I rarely hear from. The folks who cared enough to go to the meeting and speak their mind are people who need to work together(big circle ‘o love not required. Should the public safety meeting have been a forum for crafting a new strategic plan? I respectfully disagree. Short,sporadic meetings populated by groups who rarely interact or intersect with each other are better used as places to identify new opportunities for collaboration. On that score, the meeting was a success.

  22. Actually the forum was organized by Sita Das, Program Coordinator with SNGI for the EPCPC. I know that there were planning meetings involved that included many more people and maybe Stephanie who acted as the moderator/chair for the forum and is also the Chair for the EPCPC may have been involved with that. I, personally, thought this was a success. The purpose for this forum was to give the neighborhood/community a venue to express their concerns and ask questions of the police. That’s exactly what happened. The purpose was NOT to craft strategic plans or solutions. However, I felt as though there was a lot of positive feeling at the end of the meeting and a definite sense that people wanted to work together as a community to try to create solutions. A lot of people at this meeting who had never met before exchanged information.

    You can never please everyone, so it wouldn’t surprise me if some walked out of the meeting with a negative feeling, but I believe the majority of those who attended felt positive about the way it ended and the energy it created. The problem is there are a lot of people out there who live in the world of instant gratification and become frustration when things don’t change overnight. There is no easy fix or quick solution. Bringing a community together is a lot of work on a the part of a lot of people and will not happen overnight.

  23. Instant gratification? Come on!! This crap has been going on for decades in the CD. We are considered by the Police and government as a containment zone for crime. If we were north of the ship canal we would be getting instant attention like the U district is now. Nothing brings attention like many law suits from residents against the city especially if it makes the two daily papers. You can claim damages up to $5,000 in small claims court. Times that by hundreds of residents every time an incident occurs and nothing is done about it immediatly!

  24. I may have been a bit harsh in my comments, but opportunites to meet with City Council members and the police are important enough to ensure that most attendees have an opportunity to comment. The article in the PI by Jamieson supports Jean’s comments regarding some of the positive aspects of the meeting. He seems to have heard a more united cry for safety than did the CD news. The headline and opening sentence of the CD news article reflects the point that the wide diversity and depth of voices that unite not just divide the this neighborhood were not heard. The beginning of the meeting seemed somewhat better organized. The adjournment seemed chaotic and unclear. I would have appreciated some summary of what the police heard. How would they summarize the needs expressed?

    I have lived in the CD for 30 years and in my current home for 21 years. My daughters grew up in this home and attended and graduated from local schools. I am not requesting instant gratification and have experienced cycles of peace and violence in the area and know that strongly insisting on safety for all ASAP is necessary if the community is to be safe, including the youth. Everyone in this city deserves a clean safe neighborhood.
    Peace. Joanna

  25. “But, the overwhelming sentiment was that we all need to get out of the house more, meet neighbors, organize, and engage the kids on the corner to find out who they are, why they’re here, and let them know that we care about them.”

    The thing is, I don’t care about them. Not anymore.

    I’m so sick of being harassed in my own neighborhood that I just want these kids gone and I don’t really care where. As a resident who lives steps from this corner, I’m past liberal hugs and kisses. I want my street back and I don’t want to wait around for a 10-year healthy community action plan.