Community Post

Drug Market Initiative setback? Neighbors say issues returning

It’s been almost a year since we got the scoop on the city’s Drug Market Initiative, which focused police resources and community involvement to clean up the open-air drug sales in the area around 23rd & Union. Dealers were identified, cases were built against them, and they were given a choice: get help and stop dealing, or go to jail for a long time. More than a dozen dealers took them up on their offer and left the streets.

For about six months afterwards the comments from community members were glowing. Residents could walk to the post office without wading through crowds of users and dealers. Nearby streets that were once occupied at all hours were suddenly quiet. 

But things began to take a turn last month, where residents at the East Precinct Crime Prevention Coalition meeting reported seeing an increase in activity around 24th & Union. And based on reports from tonight’s EPCPC meeting, the situation has only worsened since then.

A resident on Spring Street near 24th said that traffic is way up on that street at all hours, with people hiding out and doing deals behind the bushes. Other neighbors confirmed the increase, including reports of new issues around the post office parking lot.

Police Lt. Sean O’Donnell says that they are “well aware of it, and there are issues being worked.” Residents confirmed that, saying that they’ve seen a frequent police presence in the area.

Bob Hood, the former Director of the criminal division in the Seattle Attorney’s Office, has been described as one of the prime forces in launching the DMI program last year. We spoke to him at the meeting tonight, and he said that temporary setbacks have been seen in other cities where DMI has been tried. “When you think about how these things have happened in the past, big sweeps come through, everything calms down, and then it’s time to go back into business as it has been before.”

He says that the key is to maintain a strong relationship between the community and police, with open communication from residents about what they’re seeing on the street. Citing new statistics that show that 50% of area residents call 911 to report drug crimes, Hood said that “we’ve seen a great improvement, but we still have a lot of work to do. To really make the impact, the police need to know about it when it happens.”

0 thoughts on “Drug Market Initiative setback? Neighbors say issues returning

  1. …now that traffic is returning to 23rd and Union, there’s been a slight downtick near my area. Guess we need to squeeze the traffic out to another part of the city.

    What a waste. I’m happy for the folks who were able to use that intersection for the past 6 months, but despite the claims to the contrary, in my experience as a nearby resident it definitely just pushed the traffic a few blocks away instead of solving the problem. Maybe this will be a catalyst to a more permanent solution, not this “one block-one time” absurdity.

  2. As long as there’s (a) a dearth of legitimate commercial activity at 23rd & Union, (b) a pedestrian-hostile 4-lane on 23rd Ave, and (c) 10% unemployment, this problem won’t go away. If we make progress on all three of those fronts, we’ve got a chance.

  3. It will take generations to rid this area of drugs and crimes. Drug deaths and prison expansions will help.

  4. We’ve had 40 years of drug deaths and more prisons and things have only gotten worse. We tried your idea and it didn’t work.

  5. I think they moved to the area by the Seattle Medium at 25th and Jackson. I live at 25th and Lane and every time I walk by they are out on Jackson dealing. It has been getting worse. Wish the cops would patrol or the gym staff and seattle Medium staff would call the cops.

  6. legalize marijuana and much of the drug dealing will end.

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  7. Oly, do you really think that the majority of the drug dealing, especially in this particular area (23rd/Union, 24th/Spring) is marijuana? I live three houses from that corner, and I highly doubt that smoking some MJ is all that’s going on. Please elaborate if you know better – perhaps you live by this corner as well. I am very doubtful.

  8. Matt, while i agree with you, i highly doubt (no pun intended) that MJ is the drug of choice in the cited areas (23/Union or 24/Spring) but i think that perhaps if marijuana was legalized, the amount of funding/court time/atty fees etc…. would be reduced ,thus freeing up time/manhours/money to pursueand prosecute crimes that involve crack cocaine, heroin, meth, etc… on the “harder” drugs. Typically, one does not rob/steal/burglarize to feed a MJ habit (generally speaking) where as one does see these crimes, as well as idenity theft type of crimes, with the harder drugs. When a call is made to Law Enforcement, saying that a drug deal is observed, and the police respond, and its a MJ transaction, think of the time that the police are out of your neighborhood, transporting the offender to the precint, paperwork, etc…free attorney, court costs passed on to the taxpayer, etc….these are all things that could be applied to something more detrimental to the community. Just my opinion. Gia

  9. take those 100,000 “Crime cameras” in Cal Anderson park, that have helped catch ZERO crimes, and move them here! DUH.

    *knocks on city council’s heads* HElllllLLLO???!

  10. you still do not get it. We are a containment area. the raciest policy of aloowing crime to be conatianed in a black area is as old as segregation itself. Unless we sue and sue big it will continue. Sure they will appease us for a short while but it will come back. Would this be allowed in Wallingford, Queen Ann? We have a right to the same safe streetscape. We will not get it without a ugly big class action law suit. This has been going on for many decades.

  11. The best deterrent for open air drug sales is longer prison sentences with no chance of parole .
    The street thugs feel they can get away with selling drugs because they are released back into the community with little time served .

    “Double J”

  12. The idea that MJ is the problem in that particular area is not only the funniest thing I’ve read today, thanks for the giggle (!), but evidence of someone who hasn’t spent much time in the area in question. I’m more than for legalizing pot, but it will do nothing to touch the street dealing of crack (and the associated violence and insanity) that plagues the CD.

  13. There were people sitting on steps in front of a house in the neighborhood smoking something out of a glass pipe yesterday. I called 911 and the didn’t seem to care and didn’t seem to want to take the information on this crime. Cops never showed up and an hour later when I came home from a trip to the store they were still doing it (short glass pipe kept appearing along with the white substance they were putting in it. They could easily be spotted from a patrol care driving by but it never happend. All that great DMI work for nothing I guess. What a shame. May be since the offenders moved somewhere else for a while we don’t get the police attention we used to. Certainly makes an argument for “eyes” comment above. I have always been skeptical that the problem would stay away.

  14. If you get any push-back from 911 operators, SPD leadership has advised citizens to tell them “the precinct captain told me to call any time I see this”

  15. What a shame that the people driving by can look over and see a short glass pipe and white substance being placed into said pipe. Can you imagine this particular incident getting a write up in the New York Times????? NOT!!!!!! I agree with scott, the more calls the better, and if the 911 operator seems to be uninterested, perhaps asking for his/her id number and a follow up call will help increase the “concern” that these dispatchers may be lacking. I can appreciate the stressfulness of such a job, but when citizens are helping their community, as well as law enforcement, one would hope that we could all work together. This just makes me so frustrated!