By David Della, former Seattle City Councilmember
Tony Au, President, Friends of Gee How Oak Tin Family Association
Dr. Ming Xiao, small business owner, Chinatown-ID
Anna Hau, small business owner and Seniors In Action, Chinatown-ID
The Chinatown-International District (CID) is a historic and culturally rich neighborhood of small businesses and residents, many of us immigrants, low-income, and elderly. Sadly, over the past two years, our community has been besieged by sharply escalating rates of violent and property crime and we fear for the safety of our most vulnerable and the viability of the small businesses and cultural spaces that serve them. That is why we urge the City Council to support Councilmember Sara Nelson’s resolution, which calls for a staffing incentives program to accelerate the hiring of new officers and sets the stage to free up unspent funds in the Seattle Police Department (SPD)’s 2022 budget to pay for it.
The deaths, assaults, drug dealing, and robberies associated with the now cleared encampment at 12th and Jackson in Little Saigon were widely reported, but such activity is still widespread and ongoing throughout the neighborhood. Citywide, year-to-date (YTD) homicide events are up 70%, with 17 fatalities compared to 10 YTD last year, and shootings are up 138%, with 62 events YTD compared to 26 YTD in 2021.
There are not enough officers on the street to address our public safety crisis due to the Seattle SPD’s severe staffing shortage. Since January 2022, SPD has lost almost 400 deployable officers representing a 28% reduction of its in-service force. Every other jurisdiction in our region has implemented some form of hiring or retention program and Seattle must do the same in order to compete for a limited pool of applicants.
Councilmember Nelson’s Resolution 32050 establishes the policy direction for robust deliberation of her proposed Council Bill to authorize the use of up to $4.5 million in surplus funds for incentives, such as relocation expenses, hiring bonuses, and professional development. For officers already in the department contemplating leaving Seattle, passage of this resolution will be a signal that this city values them and their service.
Last summer, over 200 community leaders and small business owners in the CID signed on to a letter to City Council expressing our support for improved police accountability and our opposition to additional cuts to SPD’s budget. We now stand together again in support of Councilmember Sara Nelson’s legislation to incentivize the recruitment of enough officers to ensure the safety of our small businesses and residents—in our neighborhood and across Seattle.
Councilmember Nelson’s resolution is scheduled for a vote in the Public Safety and Human Services Committee on May 10. You can email your support to Council@seattle.gov.