One month after taking office, Mayor Bruce Harrell, his deputy mayors, and public-safety chiefs went before the media at midmorning today to promise action on violent crime that’s at its “highest level in 24 years.” You can watch the video above. For starters, Mayor Harrell said, he’s told Police Chief Adrian Diaz to “focus on those places where crime is concentrated, and on the relatively few individuals causing the most harm.” (He wouldn’t say exactly where “those places” are, at one point suggesting that locations could be deduced if you “read the blogs.”) He also acknowledged “inherit(ing) a depleted and demoralized police force,” now down 350 officers, and promised the remaining police he would support them providing they “perform (their) duties with honor and excellence.”
“We need more police,” declared Chief Diaz, also identifying gun violence as a particular problem. The mayor’s list of statistics included a 40 percent increase in shootings, with or without injuries. Chief Diaz said officers recovered 3,200+ shell casings recovered last year, in 600+ incidents.
That category of crime is affecting how firefighters do their work too, said Fire Chief Harold Scoggins. His department responded to more than 400 “scenes of violence” (weapon-involved injuries, not only guns) calls last year, up a third from 2020. They’ve had to change their policy on weapons incidents – now wearing “ballistic vests and helmets,” and staging 4 blocks away until assured the scene is secure. He also talked about the increase in SFD responses to encampments – this month averaging five fire responses and 33 medical responses a day. That’s in the context of an increased number of all service calls – 94,000+ last year, up from 80,000+ in 2020.
Public safety isn’t just about SPD and SFD, cautioned Senior Deputy Mayor Monisha Harrell, promising a “holistic” approach. She was followed by Tiffany Washington, Deputy Mayor for homelessness/housing issues, who also made the point that “the issues of homelessness and public safety are not one and the same.”
So what exactly are they doing? “We are building systems right now,” said Mayor Harrell, who said he and his team are working “feverishly” toward solutions. He promised more specifics to come. West Seattle/South Park City Councilmember Lisa Herbold, who chairs the Public Safety Committee, issued a statement of support afterward; you can see it here. In it, she also spotlights some of the public-safety alternatives the city is funding, which she detailed to the District 1 Community Network this week, as reported here.