SITE OVERVIEW ♦ SEATTLE | WASHINGTON
Located in Southeast Seattle, Rainier Beach is home to an extraordinarily diverse population of about 5,000 people, who speak nearly 170 languages and are civically active. Rainier Beach has historically been challenged by violence and community concerns about public safety, with high unemployment rates, a lack of social programs, a strong drug economy, availability and proliferation of weapons, and consistent presence of gangs. The target area also experiences high levels of youth-involved violent crimes. For example, youth aged 13 to 25 were involved in a significant proportion of the more than 600 incidents of street robbery, aggravated assault, and simple assault that occurred in the target area between 2009 and 2012 - 59 percent of the street robberies, 62 percent of the aggravated assaults, and 42 percent of the simple assaults.
Launched in 2012, the BCJI effort aimed to identify and holistically address the place-based causes of youth victimization and crime at five hot spots in Rainier Beach through non-arrest interventions. The initiative built on the 2012 Rainier Beach Neighborhood Plan Update that identified public safety as one of its top priorities. BCJI enabled local leaders to focus on hot spots and expand the Seattle Youth Violence Prevention Initiative, which oversees youth violence prevention/intervention networks in Southeast, Southwest, and Central Seattle, into a community-based problem solving effort called Rainier Beach: A Beautiful Safe Place for Youth (ABSPY). Project coordination was led by Seattle Neighborhood Group, a non-profit with an expertise in community engagement, crime prevention, and project management. Key community partners included Rainier Beach Action Coailition, Seattle Police Department, Seattle Parks and Recreation, the Boys and Girls Club of King County, and SouthEast Effective Development (SEED), among others.
Seattle is one of the first cities in the U.S. to use a community, rather than police, driven place-based approach to address crime at youth hot spots. Instead of targeting an entire neighborhood, or a specific demographic, the effort – guided by researchers at George Mason University – focused on the physical environment of small places to see how design and activity patterns contribute to more crime occurring at these locations than at others in the same neighborhood.
Over the course of nine months in 2013, BCJI leaders including researchers from George Mason University engaged in detailed analysis of hot spots that informed intense community-based problem-solving. The work resulted in the formation of a Community Task Force of over 100 community members, who reflect the diversity of the Rainier Beach neighborhood. Partners also devoted time to building the capacity for data-driven problem solving, utilizing a public-health model to train the Task Force on the problem-solving process. Once fully trained, community problems solving teams took charge of the development and implementation of hot spot-specific strategies for crime reduction.
The Seattle BCJI strategies focus on non–arrest solutions to violent crime, recognizing that traditional policing tactics may not be appropriate for high-risk youth, and instead emphasizing community informal social controls. Strategies included a variety of programs and environmental changes prioritized by residents. For example, the Safe Passage pilot project, sponsored by the Boys and Girls Clubs of King County, launched in March 2015 responded to a risk factor identified by the Community Task Force: a large youth presence on and around school campuses after school, without capable guardians, otherwise known as “place managers,” to help manage aggressive behavior and conflicts. The Rainier Beach Action Coalition hired and trained youth from the community to stage "Corner Greeters" events. These pop-up style events rotate weekly betweet five hotpot locations and feature creative, fun activities designed to bring postitive activities to places where crime occured and engage passers by to foster connections and build community.
Another community solution to increase youth safety included changing the release time of the South Shore K-8 School. This release time modification took effect at the beginning of the 2014-2015 academic year, with staff from both the school and the Rainier Beach Community Center noting positive impacts right away. Other Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) strategies such as signage and landscaping helped to discourage congregating in areas without guardians to help prevent negative activity. Another non-arrest strategy involved engaging important but previously overlooked place-managers - small business owners -through multi-lingual/cultural outreach to provide crime prevention education and resources, enhancing the ability of these family and minority-owned businesses to participate in crime prevention activities and community-building events.
The Rainier Beach neighborhood has experienced a drop in juvenile crime since the inception of BCJI. The ABSPY initiative is continuing with support from the City of Seattle as the BCJI project term wraps up in 2016.
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