Community Post

23rd & Union Neighbors Agree: DMI Making a Difference

It was a solid consensus among community members at tonight’s East Precinct Crime Prevention Coalition meeting: the city’s Drug Market Initiative seems to be making a difference at 23rd & Union.

As we exclusively reported back in June, the program is designed to take drug dealers off the street with a deal: work with the community to turn around and stop pushing drugs, or else face the full brunt of the law. 

The intersection at 23rd & Union has had long-term problems, and over that time a lot of the residents in the area have become the most frequent attendees of the precinct’s monthly crime meeting. Each of them commented tonight that there’s been a major transformation in the last several weeks, with fewer drug deals, less loitering, and overall a safer feeling in the area.

For example, two neighbors said that they’re now able to walk to the post office and back and feel completely safe.  Another said that the improvement has spread up the hill to 21st and Union, describing it as having had a “wonderful effect” up at that intersection. A third said that while he has still seen the occasional drug deal, the volume and traffic in the area is much improved.

While the program may be making a difference on the street, it’s less clear whether it will have a positive long-term impact on the lives of its participants. Jonah has a great story on the SLOG today (update: more coverage at the Seattle Times) covering that angle, including the news that three additional participants have been arrested and are now facing serious drug charges. Additionally, he quotes Kay Godefroy of the Seattle Neighborhood Group, who says that other participants are not taking full advantage of the drug treatment options and other social services that have been made available to them.

But Tienny Milnor, deputy prosecutor for the city and a key organizer of the program, said tonight that the overall goal is to dismantle the open-air drug market along 23rd. If that happens, the program will be considered a success, regardless of the personal outcome of individual participants.

The path forward is less clear if the program doesn’t achieve that goal. The list of eighteen participants in the program was built using an unsually heavy application of police resources, including a lot of narcotics detectives that built the detailed cases needed to coerce the dealers to join the program. But while normal patrol officers are still keeping tabs on the area, those centralized investigative resources have been spread back around the city, opening a chance for other dealers to take the place of those who have been removed from the street. Additionally, Milnor says that there are no plans for any new lists of participants or additional community call-ins in the future.

Seattle Police Director John Hayes said tonight that expansion of the DMI program to other neighborhoods is under consideration, but no decisions have been made. Continued positive progress here in the Central District is the key thing that they’re keeping an eye on before it could be tried elsewhere.

Police leaders stress that community participation is key for the program to continue to make improvements. They urge everyone to keep an eye out for drug activity and to call 911 if they see it happening. SPD will continue to put a priority on those calls and will try to prevent new problems from popping up within the 23rd avenue corridor.

0 thoughts on “23rd & Union Neighbors Agree: DMI Making a Difference

  1. I live on 22nd near Union and have definitely seen less action lately….the pimp mobile that used to park in front of my house a few times every afternoon hasn’t been seen lately…there are still a few people smoking crack while walking down the street…(in plain view)..but all in all MUCH better.

    I hope the dealers don’t just move to another area but I am currently enjoying the quiet/safer days.

  2. I was at last night’s meeting, and first want to say I whole-heartedly appreciate the efforts put toward DMI by SPD, the city attorney’s office and neighborhood groups. In the near-term, at least, it has clearly met its objective of diminishing drug availability around 23rd and Union.

    As we try to gauge DMI’s potential for longer-term effectiveness, it would be helpful for us all to work with common information. Today I read in the Seattle Times a report stating that six people (33%) of the 18 invited to the DMI call-in have been arrested or face prosecution — which does not match up with the number put forth last night by city attorney’ office rep Tienney Milnor. In fact, Milnor was twice asked to clarify the total number of people facing prosecution, and maintained that it was three (16%). Leads me to wonder: Why the disconnect? Did I miss something?

    Whatever circumstances might explain the discrepancy between three and six, it’s in the city’s interest, I think, to share the most complete information it has, particularly with neighbors who care enough to show up at these East Precinct meetings. Doing so will foster a stronger sense of common investment among community members.

  3. I’ll take a stab at this, but there may be better interpretations.

    What I get out of the various sources is that there are three who were picked up last week and are awaiting charges, which is what I think we were told last night. The other three have already been charged – the one who was picked up the day after the call-in and was charged on August 11, plus the two who didn’t show up at the call-in.

    So I think it’s four (3+1) out of the 16 who showed up, and six (3+1+2) out of the 18 who were invited.

    I think a close reading of Jonah’s article in the Stranger leads to this explanation also.

    It’s very confusing, and I think it’s complicated even more because most of us aren’t sure of the exact meanings of legal terms like arrested, charged and prosecuted, so we miss a lot of the nuances that are implied in these words when professionals use them.

    If Tom Carr or someone from his office speaks at a future meeting, we might consider asking for a brief explanation of the differences between some of these basic terms.