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Neighborhood Safety

We are all tired of divisiveness and false choices when it comes to public safety. We should be able to keep our parks and neighborhoods safe without blaming our unhoused neighbors as the root of our problems. We can understand that police play an important role in our society, and also acknowledge that serious racial bias and excessive force problems exist. We can address mental health and addiction struggles without criminalizing people. None of these ideas are mutually exclusive.


The truth is our city has fallen behind on the basics. Specifically, we have fallen behind in building and efficiently operating housing at all income levels and investing in our most at-risk neighborhoods and communities. These issues have only been exacerbated by systemic racism, such as the impact of the long term effects of redlining, and the decades-long increase in income inequality. The steep increase in housing costs, gentrification, and general cost of goods and services have squeezed many people either out of the city or into homelessness. Now, we are playing catch up because of too much dithering, delay, and inaction from previous Seattle elected officials. 

This public safety plan incorporates the need for urgency, the need to improve first response times, the need to reduce excessive force and racial bias in our police force, and the understanding that we are all in this community together.

Sidewalks and Pedestrian Safety

Pedestrian and bicycle safety are of significant concern in Seattle. Pedestrian and bicycle fatalities have risen at an alarming rate in recent years. Like many District 5 residents, this issue has touched Nilu personally:

  • On Sand Point Way, Nilu and her neighbors experience yearly car crashes into their yards and homes in addition to drag racing throughout the neighborhood. Nilu has been organizing neighbors with the city and state to implement traffic calming measures and to get the sidewalks that have long been promised but not delivered. 

  • In December, Nilu’s son’s classmate was hit by a car while getting off the bus for school, joining the great many of our residents at risk from cars. We need to implement strategies to achieve Seattle’s Vision Zero goals. In Seattle’s District 5, many students do not have a safe route to school.

  • Recently, a friend told Nilu that she had to move but was severely limited in location due to many Seattle neighborhoods’ lack of sidewalks, which she needs for mobility access reasons.

Sidewalks are indispensable to having a safe, walkable, and equitable community, and they need to be constructed taking environmental impacts into account to avoid damaging our vital watershed system. If elected, Nilu will immediately create a prioritized sidewalk construction plan and work to secure federal, state, and local funds to give District 5 the sidewalks it has long been promised.


Improve Response Times

  • Continue to prioritize emergency calls: We need to continually assess our prioritization of emergency calls based on the severity of the situation and the potential threat to public safety.

  • Expand the 911 response team: We need to send the people most effective and trained for an emergency situation. A Mental Health Division and Crisis Diversion Program can help free police officers from responding to calls where they are not needed and reduce overall costs. Thankfully, Seattle is launching a pilot program to explore these options, and if successful, we must properly fund and quickly ramp up this solution.


Alternative Response Models

  • Community policing: Seattle needs to transition to community policing in partnership with SPD. This change can only be accomplished with aligned support from our police department, city officials, community representatives, local businesses, and related organizations working collaboratively together toward clear goals. Further, law enforcement should have training on all the resources available to a community as well as a means of sharing feedback on community improvement projects that could be  useful for driving down crime.

  • Crime prevention: Implement community policing in juvenile hotspots to prevent crimes and combine with resource officers to help redirect youth to healthier alternatives.

  • Utilize CARE Response Teams: Properly fund and utilize Mayor Harrell’s CARE response team as a powerful means of addressing the community’s need for alternative response measures.

  • Education on gun ownership: Host community education events like an anonymous gun buyback to both reduce the number of guns on the street and simultaneously engage with gun owners to provide free trigger locks and information on suicide prevention, domestic violence resources, and proper gun storage.

  • Reassess the role of law enforcement in traffic control: Especially in light of an understaffed police force, we need different and more cost-effective solutions for addressing some of our traffic needs.

  • Address systemic issues: The issues facing policing in many cities often stem from larger systemic issues such as poverty, underemployment, unaffordable housing,  inequality, and lack of access to resources, especially in areas that have faced historic marginalization due to racism. Addressing these issues directly and with accountability will reduce crime and improve community-police relations.


Address Structural Issues that Contribute to Criminal Behavior, Mental Health, and Drug Addiction Issues

  • Address concentrated poverty and inequality: Expand mixed-income housing options, encourage small business growth, and sponsor community building and resource sharing events.

  • Fund education and job training programs: Provide education and job training programs, so individuals can gain the skills and resources needed to succeed in the workforce. For instance, Seattle Parks and Recreation, Urban League of Metropolitan Seattle, Goodwill, and many organizations have programs to expand upon.

  • Address underlying social and mental health issues: Underlying mental health or substance abuse issues should be treated and not criminalized. Addressing these issues properly reduces the misuse of the criminal justice system and improves overall community health. Simply arresting people with addiction and behavioral health issues and releasing them back into the street is not an effective deterrent and can contribute to even greater struggles. Increasing access to supportive services such as mental health treatment, addiction treatment, and healthcare can help individuals to stabilize and improve their lives, and those of our community.

  • Partner with King County: Expand access to behavioral health treatment sites with 24/7 staffing. This includes funding for training, hiring, and supporting staff. Delaying only makes our problems and the number of tragedies grow, i.e. rapidly increasing fentanyl deaths.


Excessive Force, Racial Bias, and Community Policing

  • Increase police accountability: Our police department has been under a federal consent decree since 2012 - more than a decade. While there has been some improvement, the work to make our policing department trusted and effective must continue. We must continue to make sure civilian oversight is strong in our city, with clear benchmarks for progress, and ensure that police officers are held accountable when they engage in incidents of excessive force and racial bias.

  • Training and education: All police officers must receive regular and current training on cultural competency, de-escalation techniques, and implicit bias. They should also be educated on the history of systemic racism, Seattle’s own history of exclusion and segregation, and how it affects policing communities of color.

  • Strengthen Police-Community Relationship: Police officers should be in community with the neighborhoods they serve. We must emphasize effective community policing models.We need police officers walking or biking in the community, out of cars, so they are recognizable to people in the neighborhood and build trust as fellow community members.


Addressing and Reducing Homelessness

  • Homelessness is a housing issue: We need more affordable and low-income housing! Our city has fallen far behind on making sure there are housing options at ALL levels of income. Focusing on affordable housing, especially at the 30 percent of the area median income (AMI) level, can prevent people from becoming homeless where the number of hurdles people face is only compounded.

  • Increase Shelter Capacity: We must increase our shelter capacity to meet the numbers of homeless in our city. Individuals experiencing homelessness need access to stable, safe, and secure housing. We can reduce the number of individuals living in parks and other public spaces by meeting this basic need.

  • Increase protection for women and their families: Domestic violence is a leading cause of homelessness for women and children. We must increase housing options for mothers and their children and not make them choose between violence and housing.

  • Increase public education and awareness: Educating the public about homelessness can help to reduce stigma and increase empathy. Many homeless are employed, albeit at low-wage jobs. Numerous children in the Seattle public schools are also unhoused. Community education can lead to greater support for solutions such as affordable housing and supportive services.

  • Increase collaboration between agencies and nonprofits: Expand Seattle’s HOPE team, increase outreach to encampments, and partner with local law enforcement to establish programs like Wichita’s H.O.T. program initiated by law enforcement officers. Organizations like Homestead Community Land Trust and Habitat For Humanity should be included in these processes to increase action around affordable housing and homelessness.

  • Engage with individuals experiencing homelessness: Engaging directly with individuals experiencing homelessness can help to build trust and understanding. This direct connection can help to identify individual needs and lead to developing effective solutions.

  • People Living in Vehicles: Around 40% of Seattle's homeless population are living in vehicles. We need to further explore a Seattle Vehicle Residency Program, as well as some publicly-owned parking lots where we can host and fund wraparound services including providing structural regulations and police presence. Shuffling cars around the city and across neighborhoods is not a solution, and it only makes it harder for people to access the services they need to stabilize their lives and transition into stable housing. Participants in the program will need to have both a means and the responsibility for keeping the areas around them clean.

  • Public health and safety: Encampments can present public health and safety concerns, such as the spread of infectious diseases or the risk of fire, or even violence. Sweeps should always be a last option tool and only used when indicated for public health and safety reasons. Additionally, sweeps should only be performed with reasonable advance notification and be attached to housing first initiatives and wraparound services.

  • Increase role of suburban cities: Continue to advocate for other cities to increase commitment to reducing homelessness. The Seattle Times recently reported that the City of Seattle spends $118 million dollars on services for homeless people vs a combined $7 million contributed by 39 other cities in King County.

Youth Mental Health

Youth need and deserve to feel safe and cared for, and a key element of this is access to mental health services. There is an urgent need to increase access to these services for young people, as the prevalence of mental health needs and substance abuse has been growing, accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Improving access to mental health and substance use services for Seattle’s youth will be a focus for me if I am elected to City Council. Some initiatives that could help include:

  • Working with the state to speed up implementation of our 988 crisis line within the city to create real pathways for alternative responses. This not only applies to a mental health or suicide crisis but this line can be specialized to apply to youth needs that 911 often wouldn’t consider an emergency.

  • Activating mobile response teams that respond with specialized mental health services that can assist youth in crisis.

  • Ensuring more capacity for and access to treatment options in emergency departments, at crisis care centers, and in-home services.

  • Advocating for and finding funding for a counselor in every school.

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