South Seattle Residents, Police Team Up to “Take Back” Rainier Beach

After several violent incidents in South Seattle, Seattle Police are partnering with South Precinct residents to make community members’ presence felt and let criminals know they’re not wanted in the neighborhood.

“We’re taking back our community,” says South Precinct Crime Prevention Council Chair Pat Murakami. “We want [the neighborhood] to take ownership to the fact that there’s a problem down here.”

In December, Murakami began working with South Precinct Lieutenant John Hayes to organize neighborhood walks, where South Seattle residents could document graffiti, broken windows, litter, overgrown bushes and “places where somebody could hide and jump you,” Murakami says.

Those dead streetlights and overgrown bushes also make it tough on officers while they’re out on patrol, says Lt. Hayes, who regularly attends the South Precinct walks with community members.  “We found so many street lights that were out,” he says. “If everything’s dark and the trees are overgrown, officers can’t see” if there’s trouble afoot in alleyways or darkened parking lots.

So far, Murakami says the walks have been a success. “It may only be a temporary respite, but crime has gone down in areas that have the walks,” she says.

In response to South Precincts’ residents concerns, SPD has also assigned Community Police Team officers to foot patrols in business districts in South Seattle, and deployed SWAT, Anti-Crime Teams, and bike patrol officers to focus on violence prevention in the South Precinct.

Lt. Hayes and several other officers from the South Precinct have also met with dozens of South Seattle business owners and employees to talk about crime in South Seattle.
 
Ron Glatz, Owner of Rossoe Oil—located near 53rd Avenue South and Rainier Avenue South, just a block from the scenes of several recent shootings—says that he felt “comforted” by a recent visit from Lt. Hayes and other officers. After talking with SPD officials, Glatz created a buddy system for employees, to keep them safe as they’re leaving work at the end of the day.
 
Overall, Glatz says, “I feel safe” in the neighborhood. Murakami’s group has been on nearly a dozen walks through the South Precinct since December, and has two more walks scheduled for next week, on March 4th and 5th. Murakami says that Seattle residents who live outside of the South Precinct are welcome to attend the walks and  lend their support to the community.
 
The walks are “bringing more and more community awareness,” Murakami says. “It’s also making people more aware there’s a problem with crime. People now are calling 911, and we’ve had more arrests as a result. That is huge as a turning point.”
 
Please visit the South Precinct Crime Prevention Council’s website for more information on the community walks.