At meeting, Garfield Community Center announces series of conversations about violence

The crowd at Tuesday’s follow-up discussion about violence in the neighborhood was much smaller than the packed house that showed up in the wake of the killing of Justin Ferrari and the Cafe Racer shootings in May. If the May meeting was a much-needed chance for people to voice frustrations, fears and hope, Tuesday’s meeting was an attempt to keep the conversation going, even if it had no clear plan for action.

Garfield Community Center Director Mazvita Maraire announced that the center will host an ongoing series of discussions about violence every few months. The talks are a way to get more neighbors to meet each other, hear each other’s stories, fear and hopes, and learn about ways to get involved.

The meeting was a little bit disjointed as people talked about their projects and their thoughts on causes and solutions to violence. Below are some of my notes (if you were there, please add anything I missed to the comments):

Pastor Greg Banks from First AME and one of the founders of Standing in the Gap Seattle was the moderator for the discussion. He said Standing in the Gap decided to hold their CD-South Side march last weekend because they wanted to get ahead of the violence instead of simply doing prayer vigils after shootings.

“We decided we were being very reactive, and we decided to be proactive,” said Banks.

Robert Stephens talked about his work to get the Garfield-area “Superblock” active in encouraging positive safety changes around the Medgar Evars pool, which could include things like tree trimming, better lighting and chances for art projects.

For the sake of conversations about violence, he said residents need to move past throwing blame around to other groups.

“It needs to involve everyone who lives in the neighborhood,” he said. “It’s not an all-white neighborhood and it’s not an all-black neighborhood. At some point, we need to celebrate the people who are here.”

East Precinct Captain Ron Wilson said that shots fired incidents are down throughout the precinct compared to recent years. He said part of the perception of increased shootings could be because “instantaneous news makes it seem like there’s more.”

Much of the conversation centered around youth programs, and several employees of the city’s Youth Violence Prevention Initiative attended. They urged solutions that addressed issues in school instead of sending kids to “Gang University,” A.K.A. the Juvenile Detention Center.

But they also urged the group not to “criminalize youth,” especially for young black men. Much of the recent violence was by people older than the ages targeted by current programming, and there are few resources for people returning to the neighborhood after getting out of prison.

Several mothers talked about not knowing how to prepare their sons for dealing not just with violence, but also the prospect of racial profiling from the police. Foxy from Cortona Cafe asked Captain Wilson if he thinks there is a racial profiling problem in SPD.

“The Department of Justice said there was a concern that it is occurring,” said Wilson. “We don’t tolerate it.” However, he admitted that people often feel racial profiling is occurring.

“SPD needs to remove the perception that stops are racially charged,” he said. “We need to get better at talking to [detained] people and let them know why we’re doing what we’re doing at the very first safe opportunity.” If something does happen, he urged people to file a complaint with the Office of Professional Accountability.

Several residents expressed concerns about the long-standing perception that there are “two Garfield High Schools,” with well-to-do kids in the advanced classes on the top floor and the rest on the bottom floors.

At the heart of the challenge the neighborhood has as it tried to make changes to improve safety is the fear that those changes will leave out some residents or make some people feel unwelcome. At the May meeting, one man said he grew up in the neighborhood, but “I don’t know anybody on my streets anymore,” he said. “That breeds tension.”

This point moved conversation to the need for more people to get out and get to know their neighbors and be active in places like the Garfield Community Center and the Garfield Teen Life Center.

This seems like a perfect way to open conversation here on CDNews: What ideas do you have for giving people a better chance to get to know their neighbors? I’ve got one: The city should expand the streamlined block party process they use for National Night Out to encourage multiple block parties throughout the year rather than just one.

10 thoughts on “At meeting, Garfield Community Center announces series of conversations about violence

  1. I think this idea has great possibilities, as well as some more focused caucus groups such as an African American group meeting that was suggested. I’d bring food, would like to meet people from all communities here now (East African and Asian immigrant communities for example) and music would be nice. Kids activities would be important because for me this is about the young people. And, maybe with music we would get some dancing to get our endorphins happy.

    As an opportunity for connecting to people with projects they might be interested in working with and supporting, I’d suggest that folks who talked about the wonderful ongoing work please please find a way to produce leaflets that talk about the projects to put on a literature table at this event.

  2. Read the report more carefully please and understand the methodology. The main thing is that it was NOT looking at whether programs were good in general or for other purposes. It was totally a measure of only one single dimension.

    I saw many programs that, based on the same in other places (whatever ‘the same’ means and whatever the characteristics of those other places are), should work. I also saw a few that could backfire and I totally get that. These mainly have to do with police officers performing engagement activities with youth. Truth is that youth in trouble will not wish to participate in an activity with someone wearing the shield.

    But, coordination and communication is truly the key. We ALL, of all ages including youth, make choices about what activities to participate in. If ALL the adults in their lives are in communication and all the programs and activities are publicized to them, the youth can choose.

  3. I couldn’t help but notice the meeting was more a gathering of affiliated representatives of various community groups, professional institutions, self appointed leaders, ect. They all seemed to be casting around for a constituency to fill their continuing activities. This seems to indicate a healthy community that has active civic groups and a wide spread of involvement.
    The takeaway I got was that perceptions of crime and inequality are the trigger that brings on fear mongering and blame throwing like the last meeting wrought. People not knowing who each other are and assuming the worst are the breeding grounds of petty tyrants and leadership cults. Even Capt. Lewis left behind the “troops on the ground” speech his superiors like to throw around at community meetings about crime.
    Crime is at a 40 year low in this city, please a little perspective. Hope to keep this conversation going.

  4. I’m assuming you are referring to Capt. Wilson. He became the Precinct Commander quite recently, so not everyone knows his name yet.

  5. Crime prosecution is at a 40 year low because the city has no money. Crime activity is quite a different story. Lucky for you if you haven’t been victimized.

  6. On an anecdotal basis I have observed crime decrease in the CD, on a statistical basis it has declined, and not from any increased or diminished police presence. The reasons are not clear, but on a nationwide level there is less violent crime than in the previous 40 years.
    Yes, I am in the majority of people who haven’t been the victim of a violent crime incident recently. If you are one of those people who have, it’s a tragedy that can effect your life and those around you, but not a statistical trend.
    I heard several people at Tuesday’s meeting who expressed strong feelings about violence and crime activity having a major effect on their lives, and made the same assumption that it must be the same for everyone else. It isn’t. Perception of crime activity and statistical evidence of crime are separate issues, not to diminish one or the other, just acknowledge them as two different problems that need to be approached separately.

  7. It depends on how you look at it I guess. I agree with Del.

    The citywide and precinct Major Crime statistics through July 2012 have now been posted.

    Through July, Major Crimes are up citywide by 1% when compared with the same time period in 2011. Violent Crimes are up through the first seven months of 2012 by 8% compared with last year, with increases posted in all crime categories. Property Crimes are up by 1% across the City through July, when compared with 2011. Burglaries are down by 7%, vehicle thefts are down 3% and larceny/thefts are trending up.

    156% increase in homocide as of June!

  8. as compared to 2011? which was down from the year before that, whitch was down from the year before that, all trending down from the late 1960’s. There were 60 homicides a year when I moved to seattle in 1986, and that was a solid number that didn’t change, now there are 30 a year. we have reached our 30 as of june, yes that’s true, but to take a snap shot of the MONTH and attribute a 156% increase?
    It all depends on who’s ox is being gored, isn’t it? If you have been the victim of a violent crime, that’s probably a 100% increase for you, not so much for everybody else. Statistics are notoriously easy to manipulate when you change the frame put around them. I am using the 40 year frame capt. Wilson used last tuesday.

    Now, I am not going to cite statistical sources as I feel I don’t have a very good grasp on that form of analysis, I am basing my thoughts , in part on a book a read ‘Freakeconomics” here’s a segment I found that sums it up pretty well.

  9. I just moved here and don’t know anyone. My perceptions of the crime are based on what I hear in the news (including this site). It spooked me, but I’m here anyway. Im not going to walk around ready to jump at any loud noise. I don’t know much about the past of this place it I’m envisioning the future.

    Block parties would be great. It’s probably a good way to get folks out that wouldn’t normally come to a meeting. Or how about occupying the plaza on 23rd & Union?