The Seattle Police Department has decided to reconfigure patrol lines for the Capitol Hill. The police precinct boundaries were redrawn and went into effect last month.
Changes made to the East Precinct on 12th Ave. closest to Seattle University will result in more coverage for First Hill and less for the Eastlake area. This is good news for officers in West Precinct, as the new boundaries allow them to avoid extensive traffic on I-5 to respond to calls that would bring them to First Hill.
Several factors are expected to result from this change. The new lines will bring more patrols into corridors of Capitol Hill that experience the most action at night.
Ever since last year’s increase in street robberies and assaults, Chief Kathleen O’Toole decided to take action on containing and stopping violence associated with nightlife. Increased patrols are expected to occur along Pike and Pine as well as around Cal Anderson Park to address reported issues involving gang violence.
Beginning on Jan. 28, the supervisor-to-officer ratio also increased within the patrol squads, allowing for more guidance and improved supervision.
With added manpower in SPD, along with changes involving the Public Safety Department at Seattle U, efforts toward making the area as safe as possible for the community seem to be working.
“I don’t know enough about the way policing is done in Seattle to have an informed opinion about [this issue],” said senior Margaret Quartararo. “But I do feel safe on campus to a certain time at night.”
Seattle U has increased staffing within Public Safety to the point that, for most of the nights here on campus, eight uniformed officers will be patrolling the area. An added four dispatchers have also been included in the office, with a state-certified 911 dispatcher.
This adjustment to the staffing model, along with the added segways that officers can use to patrol campus, has made Public Safety a larger presence and deterrent to criminals on and around campus.
“Our ability to patrol campus and be a visible deterrent and cut down on our response time has increased dramatically,” said Executive Director of Public Safety Tim Marron.
With the highest number of reported violent crimes occurring in the Pike and Pine corridor and also on the Jefferson corridor between 12th and 14th, students are encouraged to be wary of their surroundings especially during the evening. Not coincidentally, these are also the places where bars, night clubs and late night establishments are open, consequently bringing higher concentrations of people and more predators that victimize individuals.
“It’s hard to resist the pull of going out to explore,” said freshman Jerry Hobson. “Especially when all the interesting events seem to happen when the sun has already gone down.”
Integrating with the greater Capitol Hill community is one of the values important to the Seattle U student experience, but some students may be afraid to do so because of their perceptions of crime in the area. If they have a better idea of where crime actually occurs and when it occurs, then they can make more informed decisions about their own behavior, according to Marron.
“Safety on and around campus is our main concern,” Marron said. “A part of that is developing a relationship between the student body and Public Safety that’s a partnership rather than an antagonistic [relationship].”
One change that Marron attributes to the improved reception of Public Safety officers and the students is their shift in focus as a department. While student conduct issues still need to be addressed by the Public Safety department, their main concern now is safety for the Seattle U community and eliminating any threats to that safety.
“We are not there to pass judgment on people’s conduct,” said Marron. “We [as a public safety department] need to do everything we can do to strengthen that trust and confidence in the student body so that the students will call us.”
Nationwide, universities are recognizing that times have changed over the past 20 years. Across the board, the level of training and professionalism in public safety departments in universities is getting the attention it needs. Seattle University seems to be leading the way.
“I still don’t feel comfortable being out when it’s dark,” said freshman Lindsey Parker, “but our Public Safety is dedicated enough that I trust them to take care of all of us.”