Business owners hope Seattle’s $1.6 million investment in police will bring much-needed safety

SEATTLE -- Seattle mayor Jenny Durkan announced plans on Tuesday to pour in $1.6 million into recruiting and retaining officers and building community-based safety programs.

The mayor says 911 calls are down since emphasis patrols started, but it’s still a taxing job for the men and women who wear a badge in Seattle who’ve responded to about 350,000 calls for service this year alone.

“Our city is growing exponentially, and our police force is not growing along with it,” said Erin Goodman, executive director of SODO Business Improvement Area.

Goodman says SODO leads the city in commercial property crime.

“We have businesses that get broken into two, three times a week,” she said.

But over the last few months, she’s noticed a decrease in crime following emphasis patrols and community-based policing initiatives.

“We need to, as Chief Best said, hold strong accountability regime while also acknowledging the hard work and good work that’s been going on to date,” Goodman explained.

Durkan announced 2020 budget plans to pour in $1.6 million to recruiting and retaining qualified candidates to its force.

“Last year, the Seattle Police Department ended the year with fewer officers than we started with and we simply cannot have that,” Police Chief Carmen Best said.

The police chief says the department will speed up its hiring process and add benefits that make wearing a uniform in Seattle attractive.

“One thing the team heard loud and clear is that this city and its elected officials need to make it better known that we support the men and women of the Seattle Police Department,” Best said.

The department will soon roll out its community officer program. The new budget calls for a total of 15 community service officers to be available seven days a week.

And emphasis patrols will continue, meaning officers on foot and on bikes in seven neighborhoods like SODO.

“We need more officers,” Goodman said. “We need officers not stretched thin not going from call to call to call but actually able to respond in a quick manner.”

The department wants to hire just over 100 officers to its force.

While staffing levels are a major concern, the mayor’s office says crime is down about 8% city-wide compared to this time last year.