Business leaders advocate for City Center initiative

by: Essex Porter Updated:


SEATTLE - Seattle business leaders have been demanding more police officers but say that alone won't make downtown safer.

Now they've reached an unprecedented agreement with social service advocates to ask for more money to get people out of trouble keep them out of jail.

Even visitors who like downtown say it can sometimes feel unsavory and unsafe.

"I have the impression that there are drug deals, yeah some drug deals that might go on," said Phil Ginsberg as he enjoyed the sunshine Downtown.

While downtown businesses are still demanding more police officers, they also want $1.5 million for the City Center Initiative.

The money will be used to expand the Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion Program.

The program gives police officers the ability to defer arresting small time criminals and instead provide case workers to give then into housing and drug treatment.

The idea is that once their needs are addressed, they will have no need to cause trouble on the seats.
Charges can be filed later against individuals who get into more trouble.

"We know we can't arrest our way out of this problem," said Jon Scholes of the Downtown Seattle Association, "when we had more officers five years ago we still had these issues."

Mayor Mcginn has put the money in his 2014 budget, but the City Council must agree.

So the group that makes up the City Center Initiative has written a letter to the council. "Help us create a system that intervenes in the lives of those who want to change, and the resources that are needed to address the challenges that affect every downtown neighborhood."

Still, change will require patience. "Well, you know it's not going to happen overnight," said Lisa Daugaard of The Defenders Association, "we're talking about hundreds of individuals who have really chronic problems; on the other hand it's not going to take a decade."


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