In the face of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic’s third year, the Chinatown-International District (CID) in Seattle grapples with profound challenges to public safety, a surge in homelessness, and an alarming increase in anti-Asian hate crimes.
The findings of a 2022 C-ID Public Safety Survey reveals escalating concerns over declining perceptions of safety, increased anxiety, and a surge in criminal activities in the CID.
Conducted from April to June 2022 in English, Chinese, and Vietnamese, the survey collected responses from businesses, residents, employees, visitors, and the public at large.
Cecilia Liang, the CID Public Safety Coordinator, analyzed the results, and provided a report that also includes data from 2018 and 2019 for historical context.
Perceptions of safety
Over 50% of respondents would seek refuge in restaurants or businesses/stores when threatened, reflecting a reliance on commercial spaces for safety. Concerns regarding the lack of safe spaces during nighttime persist, with some respondents noting the early closure of businesses.
The perception of CID as a safe place to live and work has drastically declined, with only 33.0% agreeing or somewhat agreeing in 2022, compared to almost 70% in 2019. Anxiety and stress levels related to safety concerns have more than doubled, as 38.2% felt true or very true in 2022, compared to 18.9% in 2018.
The survey also captures changes in perceptions of safety and cleanliness from 2018 to 2022. While 36.7% agreed the streets were cleaner in 2022 than 2021, and 32.6% agreed the streets were safer, it’s crucial to note the removal of the “Neither agree nor disagree” option in 2022, potentially affecting response patterns.
Older respondents and those primarily speaking Chinese or Vietnamese were more likely to disagree that the neighborhood is safer than last year. Limited English-speaking respondents expressed higher disagreement percentages than proficient English speakers.
Insights into specific worries reveal the health and safety of the homeless topping the list. Respondents aged 36-54 expressed more frequent concerns about break-ins and vandalism, while non-English speakers worried more across listed situations.
Respondents feel safer in different areas of the CID, with Japantown ranking highest and the I-5 underpass area being the least safe. Non-binary respondents generally felt safer, while English speakers felt safer in all areas compared to those who spoke other languages.
Trespassing/loitering, public intoxication, and drug usage are the most frequently observed behaviors, with over half of respondents noting their occurrence at least once a week. However, despite these high observation rates, the reporting percentages for witnessed criminal activities remain relatively low, with only about a third of respondents reporting non-violent crimes and even fewer reporting violent crimes, citing concerns such as police follow-up, safety, and language barriers as significant deterrents to reporting, thereby highlighting a critical need for improved communication, trust-building, and community engagement to address these underreported issues effectively.