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City leaders questioned about prolific offenders at public safety forum

SEATTLE -- A discussion about safety in our neighborhoods wrapped up in Ballard Tuesday night, addressing crime, drugs, and what resources are working, and what’s not. It was the second of two public safety forums held by city leaders, hoping to connect with business owners and neighbors about what can be done to keep Seattle clean, safe and vibrant.

“The report is called 'System Failure' because, quite simply, that is what we found,” says Erin Goodman with the Sodo Business Improvement Area.

It was a packed house inside the Nordic Museum Tuesday night, with neighbors and business owners voicing their concerns over public safety in areas across Seattle. They detailed the findings of a report put together by neighborhood districts, in partnership with the city.

The report focused on understanding the impact of 100 high frequency repeat offenders; people with four or more bookings in the King County jail in the last year.

“As of today, six of the original 100 are still in jail from their original booking and 67 of the remaining 94 have been rearrested 107 times since February,” says Goodman.

The focus went from statistics to simple questions like: What’s the point in reporting crime anymore?

“We don’t have any emphasis in the University District because nobody calls anymore. Waiting three hours to get a little card that says you got screwed over isn’t worth doing anymore,” says one man who did not share his name.

Mayor Jenny Durkan explained that information is used to track crime and determine how to best utilize the current resources. Right now, the city is doing emphasis patrols in multiple neighborhoods and that’s expected to last through the end of the month.

But people at this meeting wanted long-term solutions, like more Seattle Police officers on staff.

“Those that come, when I’ve called them, are professional and all positive experiences, but we all know there aren’t enough of them. You get to the point where you feel like you have to step in. My questions is: when will we have full police officer staffing? When we will see them in our neighborhoods helping us?” said one man in attendance.

“So, the short answer is, not fast enough. I’ll be honest with that, but I will tell you that one of the things Chief Best and I talk about every week, when we meet, I’m looking at how many have you hired, how many have you lost and where are we going?” says Mayor Jenny Durkan.

At a time when the city of Seattle is seeing a huge economic boom, business owners say there are just as many hurdles.

“How do we tackle this? It’s beyond the control of any small business and we need the city’s help to do that,” says Don Blakeney with the Downtown Seattle Association.

"I hear it.  I see it.  I walk in these neighborhoods.  We know it's real, so we have to have a range of tools to address this," says Mayor Durkan.

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