@ Highland Park Action Committee: From crime to campaigning

Crime trends, a possible solution, and a campaign pitch comprised most of this month’s Highland Park Action Committee meeting, Wednesday night at HP Improvement Club.

First, the crime trends, presented by Community Police Team Officer Erin Nicholson:

If you don’t have time for the clip, three notes:

*43 auto thefts in the past 90 days in the Highland Park/South Delridge area
*49 stolen vehicles recovered in the area in that time frame (some from other jurisdictions)
*Cleanup of area stairways continues, in the wake of robbers targeting students on some of them – goats might be brought in for serious brush-clearing

WOULD ‘LEAD’ WORK IN HIGHLAND PARK? Kris Nyrop spoke to HPAC about the Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD) program, by invitation of a resident who said she looked into it because so much of the crime in her neighborhood seemed to be related to drug dependence.

Nyrop is the project manager for LEAD in King County, which he said started on a pilot basis in 2011 and is currently being used in the West Precinct but will expand shortly into King County Sheriff’s Office territory, including Metro Transit Police. He summarizes it as a “post-arrest, pre-sentencing” program, potentially available to people detained for street crime such as prostitution, drugs in quantities of less than three grams … Their records are checked and if they don’t have a disqualifying offense, Nyrop explained, the officer could say “I have two doors – one leads to the King County Jail, one to a (LEAD) case manager. If you take #2, I go away, this arrest goes away.” That doesn’t mean they get a business card and an invitation to call someone at some point in the future – it means they are immediately handed off to a case manager who would be called in and would arrive in 15 to 20 minutes. Nyrop said that goal has been met in all but one instance over the past three and a half years.

The case manager does immediate screening and triage, including finding out from the suspect/client, “What is it you need right now to not be back out in the same situation the officer just arrested you in?”

Nyrop said officers started to ask, “Why would I need to wait to make an arrest to trigger a referral” for chronic offenders they’ve been seeing for years, and that led to the creation of a “social referral” involving people known to be engaged in criminal activity, primarily drug-related.

Case managers, he said, help with housing – downtown, 88 percent of the people diverted into the program are homeless at the time, he said – as well as job training and education. (As an aside, he mentioned three people who got trained in handling hazardous material and needed help getting passports when they were hired for work overseas.) Housing is the biggest hurdle, according to Nyrop, because of people’s past criminal records – even one felony can suddenly present a barrier to getting a rental, even if the program guarantees rent payment and promises intensive case management.

Does LEAD work? So far, Nyrop said, participants have been evaluated at points such as six months after and two years after. The latter evaluation is when a “dramatic reduction in the amount of new criminal activity by participants” is noted, he said. And they’re expecting soon to have an evaluation of LEAD participants compared to a control group of people “who were not diverted (into LEAD) but could have been.

“So how do we get (LEAD)?” asked co-chair Carolyn Stauffer.

“The neighborhood needs to tell the mayor and police chief that it’s interested.” At that point Nyrop noted that “the number of referrals has declined dramatically” and he blamed a reduction in the amount of support since Mayor Murray took office (the program began under his predecessor), saying the program is currently operating “under capacity.”

Lisa Herbold from Councilmember Nick Licata’s staff (and also a District 1 City Council candidate herself) spoke up from the audience, saying that the “squeaky wheel” will get the funding, but it could also be “tied to wherever the needs are.” She did note a potential funding challenge ahead – private foundation funding is “going away at the end of the year.” Nyrop added that there’s hope King County will apply for a share of a “huge” private grant.

SPEAKING OF THE CITY COUNCIL RACE: Candidate Amanda Kay Helmick was officially on the agenda to speak to HPAC about her campaign. Co-chair Carolyn Stauffer said HPAC doesn’t do endorsements but says she and co-chair Billy Stauffer had given testimonial-type quotes to Helmick and Herbold based on past interactions and relationships with both. Here’s what Helmick told the group about herself and her campaign:

Helmick was brought back up later in case anyone had questions. She was asked one, regarding hate crimes. She suggested that more officers on foot patrols could increase protection and prevention in the community. And toward the meeting’s end, she mentioned the upcoming community cleanup along South Delridge, meeting by Home Depot at 10 am March 7th, trash bags and tools provided since it’s being done in conjunction with Adopt-A-Street.

HPAC LEADERSHIP NOTE: At the last meeting, the Stauffers had invited anyone interested in taking over to come forward. Absent that, Carolyn Stauffer said this month, they’re willing to keep the reins for one more year but they need more help with various HPAC functions – a representative to the West Seattle Transportation Coalition, for example, and a representative to local school(s). Contact HPAC through its website if you are interested in helping – and/or come to the next meeting, 7 pm March 25th.

1 Reply to "@ Highland Park Action Committee: From crime to campaigning"

  • Cindi Barker February 27, 2015 (7:35 pm)

    Thanks to Bill and Carolyn for their amazing work on HPAC! Part of me hopes that they get to step down and have a break, but part of me never wants to let them go.

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