By Ruth Bayang
NORTHWEST ASIAN WEEKLY
Starting on Jan. 24, Chinatown, Japantown, and Little Saigon will all be in the same police precinct.
“I’m excited about it,” said Seattle Chief of Police Carmen Best. “It’s been a long time coming.”
Best said that about a year ago, the Chinatown-International District (C-ID) Public Safety Task Force did a lot of work, and came up with several recommendations for the Seattle Police Department (SPD). One of them was to have a unified precinct. The precinct boundaries will be adjusted to incorporate the community of Little Saigon into the West Precinct — welcome news to many in the community.
“We are relieved that finally, the C-ID will be under the same precinct,” said International Community Health Services (ICHS) CEO Teresita Batayola.
“Our neighborhood has experienced public safety challenges, including an active shooter a couple of weeks ago. While this action does not ever cover our loss of Donnie Chin, at least we now know our go-to precinct.”
Batayola had expressed concern in the past that the neighborhood “falls through the cracks in terms of timely and effective police coverage and response.”
Currently, the precinct boundary follows I-5, which runs through the middle of the C-ID, and divides it into two separate police districts — Chinatown on the west side of the freeway and Little Saigon on the east side.
“The physical barrier [of I-5] does not represent the community barriers,” said Best. She said this precinct has been a community wish for at least a decade and she credits the Public Safety Task Force for making it happen, as well as support from the city and mayor.
“We really listened and we made the commitment that we were going to follow through with as many of those recommendations [from the Public Safety Task Force] as possible.” Best described the list as “daunting.”
“We had to restructure our maps, our dispatching, account for different equipment and additional people, but we’ve done it because it was really important to the community.”
Three more officers will join the West Precinct by the end of February. Salimah Karmali of SPD Public Affairs said, “We do intend to have an Asian officer.” The officers will respond to 911 calls, do proactive patrols, and build relationships with businesses and residents.
“This will allow us to be more effective crime fighters and really show that we are a part of the community, and not apart from it,” said Best.
In regards to the Donnie Chin case, Best said the investigation is ongoing and that police are looking for people to come forward with information. She is preparing a full briefing to present to Mayor Jenny Durkan and her staff “in the near future.”
A tour of the new precinct boundaries with Durkan and Best was scheduled for the evening of Jan. 17.
Ruth can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.