By Christoffer Diaz, Ryan McNamee and Peter Sessum
Diane Horswill sits at her desk in the Seattle Police Department North Precinct. She is within arm’s reach of police officers and detectives, but she doesn’t wear a uniform. She is a Crime Prevention Coordinator (CPC). Horswill, along with other coordinators, acts as a liaison between the local community and the police.
The CPC program is in place to inform the community of ways to keep itself safe to prevent crime. After the police respond to a crime, the crime prevention coordinators visit the residents to follow up. Fifty five sex offenders live within two miles of 15th and Market Street. With such close access to law enforcement, the CPC will know when a new sex offender moves in and can keep the residents informed. Resident concerns can be more directly addressed with the CPC than stopping a police officer on the street. Through the coordinators, the community has a closer relationship with the police.
Police officers can attend community meetings, but events like the block watch and the annual Seattle night out block party are duties that are run exclusively by the Crime Prevention Coordinators. The night out block party as well as other neighborhood watch events are sustained by the same grant that covers the CPCs. Because they are coordinated by people who work closely with the police, night out and other events are supported by law enforcement.
“We are a liaison between the police department and the community,” Horswill said.
Without a coordinator directing it, night out may not happen next year. Right now, since there is a coordinator running the event, the police support the night out and allow the streets to be blocked off. But not for much longer. Due to budget cuts, the crime prevention program, that has been shrinking for the past few years, will completely go away. And it isn’t coming back. Without a community liaison in place, the police support of some neighborhood programs will also cease.
Five years ago the program was downsized, eliminating the support staff and leaving only the coordinators. Last October, the funding for the program changed from the police budget to a federally funded grant. On March 31 that grant will expire.
“It takes events like this to get people out,” said Ballard resident Peter Locke at the Ballard night out party on August 3. “We are trying to develop this whole street into a park boulevard, so we have community meetings to talk about that. We have a fair amount going on here, maybe more than your normal community.” Locke has a proposal to eliminate some parking spaces on 14th Ave and create a grassy community area. He believes that will encourage residents to be outside. With a larger community presence, criminals will not linger.
Horswill’s job is meant to complement the work of the police department. Having a CPC attend community meetings frees up police officers to stay on the streets.
“We still need the officers be out there doing the job they do and not spend their time attending community meetings which can be two hours,” Horswill said.
One of the benefits Horswill sees in her position is her proximity to law enforcement. Her desk in the north precinct sits among the police and detectives, giving her access community members do not have. This also gives the CPC access to statistical information that people outside the police station do not have. That is one concern that Horswill has if the community is forced to find a way to meet once the CPC funding ends.
“Once we are gone,” Horswill said, “we are not coming back.”
Produced by students in CLP-taught Multimedia Freelancing class, Summer 2010.
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