• How a crime "report card" could improve public safety


    SEATTLE - LaRue Banic is a life-long Seattleite who says downtown isn't as safe as it should be.

    Pointing to Third Avenue, she said, "This street down here is very unsafe, and you kind of just have to watch. You watch every person."

    Shawn Newell grew up in Seattle and wonders if she should keep shopping downtown. 

    "I've seen people doing drug deals, I've seen fights break out a couple of times. I just barely missed being involved in a gun fight," Newell said.

    City Council Public Safety Chair Bruce Harrell convened police officers, prosecutors and social service workers to help him develop detailed data -- a "report card" on what's happening.

    "What this will do is make sure the city puts the right resources and measures themselves and holds themselves accountable for making sure we have a safe downtown," Harrell said when asked how a report card would improve public safety.

    While some in the public feel that police officers' hands have been tied, Seattle Police Chief Jim Pugel disputes that.

    "We continue to arrest people, we continually book people. If a person says I can't do it because my hands are tied. I'd like to see who's tying them," Pugel said.

    At a roundtable meeting convened by Harrell, City Attorney Pete Holmes doubted more law enforcement is the primary answer.

    "We should address criminal conduct swiftly and appropriately," Holmes said. "Where we've got conduct committed on a regular basis, offensive behavior by people who are mentally challenged, who have chemical addictions who are homeless, who have all these other challenges the normal hammer of law enforcement is going to do little or nothing to cure that behavior." 

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