Seattle University Issues Report on SPD Micro-Community Policing Plans

Seattle University completed its two-year implementation evaluation of SPD’s Micro-Community Policing Plans (MCPP). Overall, the report highlights improved measures of perceived safety and police legitimacy compared to 2015, with all major metrics maintaining positive levels or significantly improving. The report summarizes research findings composed of participant observation, community focus groups, and the development and administration of the Seattle University Public Safety Survey. The evaluation was independently conducted by the Seattle University Department of Criminal Justice researchers.

The MCPP initiative began two years ago as a grassroots effort, bringing community residents together with their local precinct captains and Community Policing Teams to identify problems, analyze existing quality of life and crime data, and design individualized plans to reduce and prevent crime. Today, MCPP are an integral part of police-community engagement, with crime data and citizen perceptions of public safety being critical to directing police resources and services at the micro-community level. The department updates its interactive MCPP website every quarter for each of the city’s 57 MCPP neighborhoods.

Last year, Seattle University released results from its first ever citywide public safety survey, conducted in 2015. The survey was administered again in 2016, and garnered 8,524 responses (vs. 7,286 responses from 2015). The survey gauged attitudes around public safety issues, perceptions of police, neighborhoods, and crime.

Similar to the 2015 survey findings, respondents indicated that Seattle maintains high levels of social organization, social cohesion, and informal social control. Police legitimacy, as it relates to SPD and its officers, remains strong, and showed increases both citywide and across most of the precincts and micro-communities. This is consistent with findings from a recent, Department of Justice survey, which indicated that community perceptions toward the Seattle Police Department continue to improve.

Property crime continues to be among the top three concerns across both surveys. These crimes have been widespread, and a focus for SPD’s Major Crimes Task Force on prolific offenders. As a result, SPD has seen steady decreases in citywide property crime over the past several months—particularly in the North Precinct. Homelessness also was a prominent theme, and continues to be a central citywide focus through the development and implementation of the Navigation Team, real time collaboration of city departments through the Emergency Operations Center, and the Pathways Home initiative.

“Our Micro-Community Policing Plans provide the foundation for robust community partnerships,” said Chief Kathleen O’Toole. “We will continue to rely on the perspectives of beat cops and our community members as we refine our priorities. I want to thank Seattle University for helping us develop a framework to measure and enhance this leading edge strategy.”

“The SPD MCPP offers an innovative and transparent service and data collection system — the first of its kind nationwide to triangulate data on crime, citizen perceptions, and police activities at the micro-community level,” said Dr. Jacqueline Helfgott, Professor and Chair of the Criminal Justice Department at Seattle University. “The goal is to increase police capacity to respond holistically and collaboratively to reduce crime, increase public safety and neighborhood quality of life. This report shows the evolution of the MCPP initiative over the past two years into a dynamic, collaborative infrastructure that supports SPD’s data collection and sharing on crime, crime perceptions, and police activities across the City, in partnership with our community.”

MCPP remains a priority for SPD. The tools developed through this partnership between SPD and the Seattle University Department of Criminal Justice provide a framework moving forward for continued data collection, evaluation, and improvements to the MCPP. Seattle University will continue its work on this initiative through October 2017, and thereafter, pending additional grant funding.