After a late-January in which three, high-volume shooting incidents in or near the Rainier Beach Safeway parking lot left almost 100 bullet casings scattered about — and fortunately no one injured or killed — there appears to be a broader sense of community purpose around preventing further gun violence.
The latest tools of the City of Seattle, Find-It/Fix-It walks, were designed to have regular citizens meet their city leaders, to chat with police officers, and to point out things like graffiti and trash. Those need to be pointed out because, obviously, no one from the City has noticed these things recently.
These walks were designed to assuage the fears of people living and working in South Seattle. To show that city leaders were indeed paying attention. Attention to the fact that, since April 19, more people have been killed in the 37th Legislative District, which South Seattle dominates, than in the War in Afghanistan. Attention to the fact that, while violent crime has fallen city-wide, gun violence in the South Precinct is up 165 percent over all of 2013. Attention to the fact that the South Precinct has its 8th new police captain in five years. Attention to the fact that 75 percent of robberies in the South Precinct occur within 250 feet of transit stations, and that robberies are way, way up.
On Tuesday, Seattle Mayor Ed Murray joined in the fifth “Find-It/Fix-It” walk, the second in the Rainier Beach area. It was gratifying to see the Mayor in the neighborhood, especially since he missed the July 22nd Rainier Beach event. Tuesday’s walk was also attended by Councilmember Sally Clark (a resident of the Brighton neighborhood), and Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes (who lives south of Seward Park). Councilmember Bruce Harrell, a lifelong resident of South Seattle, participated in the first three walks.
But residents of South Seattle should be very concerned that none of the other seven members of the Seattle City Council have bothered to show up at the Find-it/Fix-It walks. Not the only member who served as a police officer. Not the only member who served as a Deputy King County Prosecutor. Not the Vice Chair of the Public Safety Committee.
Of the 80 people participating in Tuesday’s walk, more than half are paid city employees, representing the departments of police and fire, parks, neighborhoods, transportation, and lots of young interns and junior staff from the Mayor’s office. It was uplifting to show such a huge city contingent that the Seattle city limits extend beyond McClellan Street. Welcome to Rainier Beach, Mr. Mayor.
One could be forgiven for being skeptical that these walks would accomplish much. Since the first Rainier Beach walk two weeks ago, we’ve had numerous drive-by shootings, the home break-in and sexual assault of a child, and the pistol-whipping of a young woman in the Rainier Beach Public Library. Within hours of the Find-it/Fix-It walk around the Genesee Station, teen girls were robbed at gunpoint. More shootings here, there, everywhere in South Seattle.
Refreshingly, newly-hired Police Chief Kathleen O’Toole walked side-by-side with real neighbors genuinely excited by her presence. But while it was great to rub elbows with police brass, there was a disturbing disconnect. Capt. John Hayes seemingly wanted to fill Robin Williams’ void by serving as jovial entertainer-in-chief. If he was describing, at any point, the violence that occurred in our library a few hours earlier, it wasn’t apparent because his demeanor was nothing but casual and flip. DJ, play me some Bobby McFerrin.
The first Rainier Beach Find-it/Fix-It walk had us leaving the light rail station, heading east on Henderson. Tripping on overgrown, unkempt street trees and broken sidewalks, my friend, who is blind, could see more blight and decay than city staff. A nine-year old girl was bleeding from overgrown blackberry vines arching over sidewalks and onto city streets. I asked a representative of the Department of Transportation why the city couldn’t take care of this, especially when it’s on a block served by light rail and several bus lines. “This is private property,” she said. “It’s the owner’s responsibility.”
“I don’t (expletive) care,” I exploded in exasperation at her arrogant, let-them-eat-cake attitude. “Take care of it! Look at this bleeding girl and a fallen blind man; this is a hazard that needs to be fixed.” She argued with me, sputtering excuse after excuse why SDOT couldn’t help. Worse, with a straight face, she said that Rainier Beach gets the same resources as Queen Anne. And so goes the denial; so the lies are framed.
It’s one thing to ignore problems in South Seattle, as city leaders have done recently. But to take us on a stroll around a neighborhood, acting as if all is under control, as our city leaders praise their own responsiveness, is simply a Dog & Pony Show. We need the promised increase in police presence; we need those officers out of their cars and meeting youth and families; we need city administrators who won’t make excuses and will make progress; we need elected leaders who care as much about South Seattle as they do about South Lake Union.
Cindi Laws is a resident of the Rainier View neighborhood and a long-time activist.
With school buses being cut and school start times skewed many of us working parents will be sending our kids to school on Metro or on foot in just a few weeks. If you’re within the 2-mile ‘walk zone’ of your child’s school then your child will not be riding a school bus this fall. As many of us are not afforded the luxury of beginning our workday at 10 a.m. (can you say 9:30 start times?) our older kids will be in charge of locking up & getting themselves to & from school. Add that to the near daily reports of phone snatchings and home invasions and anxiety ensues. Here are some ways of teaching our kids to protect themselves while we’re not with them, both at home & on the road.
Somewhere to start:
Speak honestly with your child about being aware of their surroundings while using a phone or other electronic device. This includes while riding the bus or train as well as while waiting at the stop or station. The idea to convey is that being aware of your surroundings makes you appear to be less of an easy target.
Discuss plans of action if someone is acting aggressively or making your child feel uncomfortable.
Communicate some common sense rules about locking up around the house, including locking up bikes & not leaving expensive items near open ground floor windows.
Additionally the South Precinct Crime Prevention contact, Mark Solomon (firstname.lastname@example.org ), offers the following tips to share with your family:
STUDENT PERSONAL SAFETY
Violent crime in Seattle is one of the lowest for cities it’s size in the nation. And “Stranger Danger,” one of the most frightening types of reports in the news, is actually one of the rarest types of crimes. With that said, there are no guarantees that you will never become a victim of violent crime. However, there are some basic, sensible and easy to follow precautions that can lessen your chances of this type of encounter.
Follow your intuition. Pay close attention to the uncomfortable feelings that often warn us of potential danger. “Trust your Gut.” If you feel that a situation is not right, move out of the situation. Trusting your own instincts that a situation feels “wrong” can be the best personal safety tool you have. Don’t be afraid to cross the street, return to a business or ask for help based on that “funny feeling.” You may be right.
Be aware of your surroundings. In social situations, be alert to places and situations that make you vulnerable. Know who is nearby or who may be following you.
Walk confidently and alertly. Avoid walking alone and using shortcuts.
Walk with others and stay on paths that are well lit where you can easily see and be seen.
Carry your valuables safely. Don’t display items (e.g., I-pods, cash, phones), when walking to and from your destination.
BEING SAFEON THE BUS OR LIGHT RAIL
Maintain situational awareness on the bus, train and at transit stops.
While waiting for public transportation, keep your back close to a wall (or pole) so that you cannot be surprised from behind.
Don’t use or flash valuables like IPODS on the bus or train.
If there is a problem on the bus or train, notify the driver and/or call 911.
If someone is bothering you on the bus or train, notify the driver
If few people are on the bus or train, sit near the driver.
Use the transit schedules to minimize the length of time waiting for the bus or train.
Keep your purse, shopping bag, backpack, packages, etc., in your lap, on your arm, or between your feet — not by themselves on an empty seat.
Don’t let yourself doze off on the bus or train; it can make you an easy target.
If you feel uneasy about getting off at your usual stop, stay on until the next stop.
Guard transit passes like cash or other valuables (the school is not entitled to give you a new one if yours is lost or stolen).
BEING SAFEON THE STREET
Know your routes. Notice lighting, alleys, abandoned buildings, and street people.
If you are being followed or you see a person or group further down the street that makes you feel uncomfortable, cross the street, walk in another direction, or ask other people walking if you may walk a short distance with them.
Pick out places that you consider safer, places where you can either make a stand or reassure yourself that you are not being followed (i.e., lit porches, bus stops, stores, etc.).
Walk near the curb and away from buildings, trees, and shrubbery, which can hide potential threats.
When walking to your home or apartment, carry your house keys in your hand. Don’t stand in a doorway and fumble in your purse or pocket for your keys. Have them ready to use.
Always dress so that your movements are not restricted.
IF YOU ARECONFRONTED
It may seem like a good idea to tell a robber that you have no money, but this technique may backfire. It is safer to give up a few dollars. Carry a little money separate from your other funds in an accessible place.
If someone demands your property and displays or implies in any way that they have a weapon, don’t resist. Physical property isn’t worth getting injured or killed over.
If someone tries to grab you, make a scene. Scream, kick, fight . . . do what you can to get away and attract attention.
Robin Boland is a contributing columnist, South Seattle Enthusiast, and often is referred to as “little bird” by her friends who have heights over 5 ft 7
Amplifying the Authentic Narratives of South Seattle