Recently we covered remarks make by state legislators in response to last week's shooting downtown. Lawmakers were discussing possible policy responses to the shooting. Many of the policies focused on the availability of weapons, including one measure which would give Washington State Patrol the ability to destroy seized weapons, and calls for stricter gun laws. Some legislators were focused more on the root of these issues and called for increased services in the areas of behavioral health and addiction.
Now members of the Seattle City Council are weighing in on the matter. Representative Andrew Lewis, who represents District 7 (which includes Seattle's downtown core up to Magnolia) has put forth a proposal to target gun violence. His proposal is a two-prong strategy that involves increasing law enforcement presence downtown while also increasing access to social services.
The city has already increased police presence downtown. In 2019, the Seattle Police Department established “emphasis patrols” that included increased police presence along the Pike/Pine corridor, near Third Avenue and in Westlake Park (all within blocks of last week's shooting).
Lewis proposes the creation of a “Community Storefront.” The Storefront would be open 24 hours a day and staffed by Seattle police officers, community service officers, and social workers. In a press release, Lewis stated: “A 24-hour Community Storefront staffed by Community Service Officers (CSOs) will send a message that violence will not be tolerated in Seattle's core. It will also serve as a visible center for people seeking information, whether they are tourists experiencing Seattle for the first time, or residents who need help navigating our system of social services.”
An announcement came last fall that Seattle would be rebooting the Community Service Officer program. The city had implemented the program in the past, but it was cut around 20 years ago due to budget constraints. A CSO is a non-commissioned officer who does not carry a weapon. A CSO acts as a liaison to the public for non-criminal calls for service and public safety community outreach. CSOs receive training in mediating non-violent disputes. Seattle is currently on track to hire and train 18 CSOs by the end of the year. Councilperson Lewis pointed to the success of Community Storefronts in other local towns, including Auburn, Kent, and Tukwila.
Seattle Criminal Defense
Seattle has served as an example for the country when it comes to targeting the root causes of criminalized behavior, such as addiction and mental health. Hopefully, our state and local lawmakers will continue to focus on progressive policy changes rather than increasing punishments or other punitive measures. If you've been charged with a weapons-related criminal offense or any other crime, contact the law office of former King County prosecutor Steve Karimi today by calling our office at 206-621-8777 or reach out to us online.