There’s two parts to the crime element in neighborhoods. When bad guys are doing or about to do bad stuff, you want well-trained, professional cops out on the streets to get them and put them in jail. Our most recent crime stats show some solid progress on that front.
But there’s always going to be some number of bad guys out there, which leaves a critical question: what are some of the best ways to make it harder for those bad guys to do their bad stuff?
For more than 20 years, those questions have been answered by Seattle’s Crime Prevention Coordinators. They’re civilians who spend all their time doing the hard parts of anti-crime community building: organizing blockwatches, going to community meetings, reviewing crime trends, and teaching people about the easy steps to stay safe in their homes and on the streets.
But the city has a big hole in their budget, and SeattleCrime.com has a big scoop, reporting that the Crime Prevention Coordinators and Victims Advocates have been selected by SPD to be cut in 2011 if city finances don’t improve:
In a shocking move this week, Boulden and other employees in the victim’s advocate and Crime Prevention Coordinator programs say Assistant SPD Chief Dick Reed and SPD’s human resources department called them into a meeting and informed them they could be out of a job next year.
“[O]n Wednesday they gave us the warm handshake goodbye,” says Terrie Johnston, the Crime Prevention Coordinator for the West Precinct. “They gave us information on a retirement package, sick leave, vacation balances, information on COBRA, and classes on interviewing and resume writing.”
A federal grant used to fund the Crime Prevention and Victims Advocate programs for the last few years runs out in March 2011. With the city facing a more than $50 million budget shortfall in 2011, Mayor Mike McGinn has directed city agencies—with the exception of the fire department—to trim their budgets between 1.5 and 3%. Although the two programs have each been around for more than two decades, it appears the department can’t or won’t find the money to fund them now.
While it’s understandable that the city and the police department—which has already instituted a hiring freeze, in spite of a previous plan to hire around 20 officers every year through 2012—are struggling with tough cuts, advocates and crime prevention coordinators fill roles that most officers can’t.
Here in the East Precinct, community leaders have already been up in arms over the layoff of Mike Yasutake last year, who was the dedicated Crime Prevention Coordinator for this area. Since that time, three coordinators from neighboring precincts have been doing 30% more work to split up Mike’s old territory. But if these changes go through, there won’t be anyone left to serve in that role after 2011.
And be sure to read the whole story at SeattleCrime.com.