Last year’s sudden and tragic jump in shooting deaths among Seattle youths made it clear that some new ideas and efforts were needed to keep things from spiraling into an endless string of retaliatory violence. Mayor Nickels responded by planning a new initiative to attack some of the root causes of the problem, and last year’s Halloween killing of Quincy Coleman outside of Garfield prompted the city to give parts of the plan preliminary funding. Last week at the East Precinct Crime Prevention Coalition meeting, Doug Carey, a city finance official and leader of the mayor’s public safety team, gave an update on the initiative’s progress in 2009.
Focusing on the Central District, South Seattle, and West Seattle, the goal of the initiative is to intercept kids from a few key populations that are at risk of being involved in street violence:
- Kids coming out of juvenile hall or state-owned detention programs
- Kids who are in trouble at school due to violent activities
- Kids who are involved in violence or who are friends of someone who was victimized
- Kids who are picked up for low-level non-violent crimes
One of the first pieces is to engage kids in middle school, which is the point where many first get involved in gang life. The city is placing several police officers into five schools on a full-time basis: Madrona, Meany, and Washington in the Central District, Aki Kurose in the south end, and Denny Middle School in West Seattle. The officer’s goals are to get to know the kids and help identify and work with those that are heading down the wrong path.
A second major effort is to deploy outreach services to help kids out on the streets. Using city funding, staff at the Urban League will go out and try to make connections with kids and help direct them into more constructive activities. A key part of this will use city facilities such as the Teen Life Center at Garfield to provide safe and supportive late night programs to keep kids engaged and to deliver mentoring, anger management, and employment services. The city will also provide Parks Department transportation to move kids between other organized activities in the community, such as boxing classes at Cappy’s Gym.
The city is also looking for grass-roots neighborhood participation to develop activity programs for at-risk youth. They’ve dedicated $180,000 in matching funds to that purpose, matching private funds dollar for dollar.
The next steps for the initiative are to get full funding and final approval from the City Council. The council’s Public Safety Committee will be discussing the issue on April 7th and 21st at 2:00pm in City Council Chambers at 5th & James.