Mayor Ed Murray today issued his action plan to address persistent public safety and disorder challenges in the Chinatown-International District (C/ID). The action plan reflects the recommendations of Murray’s Chinatown-International District Public Safety Task Force, which was convened last year in the wake of the murder of long-time public safety advocate and community activist Donnie Chin.
“Thank you to the many community members who contributed their time to this public safety task force and for their commitment to the neighborhood. Donnie was one of the people who taught us that it requires more than police presence in a neighborhood to address public safety,” said Murray. “The neglect that the Chinatown-International District feels did not occur overnight, but I am committing our City to work with the community to address these issues so that we preserve this wonderful, vibrant, diverse and historic neighborhood.”
Murray’s plan includes four key elements identified for early action:
Community Engagement and Outreach Specialist – This one-year pilot creates a new civilian position at the Seattle Police Department that will be trained in national best practices around community policing and will be the City’s point to implement strategies to address the most acute criminal activities afflicting the neighborhood.
Neighborhood-Based Public Safety Coordinator – The Department of Neighborhoods will provide matching funds for a position based in the neighborhood to provide public safety coordination between City departments and the residents and organizations in the C/ID.
Public Safety Steering Committee – City employees and community members will identify key public safety projects to implement in the next 12-18 months, which will be measured and monitored for concrete outcomes.
Improved Police Communication and Responsiveness – The Seattle Police Department will increase positive police engagement and relationship-building within the community with additional and redeployed staff, improve 911 responsiveness and language capabilities, and ensure that police patrols maintain high visibility in the neighborhood.
“We have recently seen the benefits of better coordinated police efforts in South Seattle and in our downtown core,” said Seattle Police Chief Kathleen O’Toole. “We are committed to a similar multidisciplinary strategy to address the important concerns of Chinatown-International District stakeholders.”
In recognition of the significant impacts of heavy litter on quality of life in the neighborhood and the strong correlation between heavy litter and public safety concerns, Murray announced that the City will launch a new intensive litter clean-up program. The program will be piloted in two neighborhoods, the Chinatown-International District and Ballard. Seattle Public Utilities (SPU) will increase litter pick-up with bi-weekly clean-up crews, install more trash bins on the street and increase community engagement to speed response to illegal dumping.
Additionally, Murray has instructed the Office of Planning & Community Development (OPCD) and Department of Neighborhoods (DON) to work closely with the new Public Safety Steering Committee to guide the development and planning of infrastructure investments, as well as monitoring related issues that need immediate coordination.
“Chinatown-International District is a unique cultural environment that faces distinct public safety and infrastructure challenges,” said Maiko Winkler-Chin of the Seattle Chinatown-International District Preservation and Development Authority. “For decades, our neighborhood has felt that it has not had the same access to City resources and services as other neighborhoods. Community members, especially recent immigrants and our seniors, often feel disconnected. These task force recommendations and the mayor’s action plan are intended to build new bridges while making our neighborhood safer and even more vibrant.”
“The City must be held accountable to the Public Safety Task Force recommendations by keeping our community inviting, safe and a competitive place to do business, to live, and to work,” said Tam Nguyen, owner of the Tamarind Tree restaurant. “We need the City to support a healthy neighborhood by targeting crime inducers, ensuring safe environments for all law-abiding residents, and improving communication and coordination with the C/ID.”
“Small businesses are the road to prosperity for many residents of Chinatown-International District,” said Ali Lee of the Greater Seattle Chamber of Commerce. “Creating safe and welcoming streets is critical if these small businesses are to continue to attract customers from the neighborhood, elsewhere in the Seattle and across the region. Our goal is to create a neighborhood where everyone feels comfortable walking, shopping and dining at all times of day.”
Donnie Chin was born and grew up in Seattle’s Chinatown and committed his life to the neighborhood. In 1968, he founded the International District Emergency Center (IDEC) to help respond to the needs of the immigrant, elderly, low-income families in the neighborhood.
Through IDEC, Donnie was always the first on the scene in the neighborhood responding to emergencies. He also provided CPR and public safety training to the residents and businesses in the neighborhood. Over the years, Donnie and IDEC became an invaluable partner to Seattle’s law enforcement and first responder communities, and he came to embody the “heart and soul” of the C/ID.
Last December, Murray convened the Chinatown-International District Public Safety Task Force of neighborhood leaders, City staff and the Seattle Police Department to identify strategies to improve neighborhood public safety and city infrastructure investment. Over the course of the last six months, the Task Force developed a detailed series of recommendations to address public safety and livability in the Chinatown-International District. The mayor’s action plan prioritizes the first steps that address the most urgent needs. Additional actions will be developed in conjunction with the C/ID community through the Public Safety Steering Committee.
According to the InterIm Community Development Association, more than three-fourths of C/ID residents are people of color and more than half speak a language other than English at home. Six out of ten neighborhood residents are of Asian descent, and at least one in four are seniors.