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Community, Police Discuss ID Safety Issue

State Rep. Sharon Tomiko Santos and Seattle Police Chief Kathleen O'Toole join the community safety meeting at Nagomi Tea House last Thursday. Photos by Shihou Sasaki/ The North American Post

By Chinami Daima

The North American Post

A community meeting about public safety in the International District (ID) was held at the Nagomi Tea House on June 23. State Representative Sharon Tomiko Santos organized the meeting, joined by Seattle Police Chief Kathleen O’Toole, Seattle City Councilmember Bruce Harrell, King County Councilmember Joe McDermott and about 80 community attendees.

On July 23 last year the director of the International District Emergency Center, Donnie Chin was shot in the crossfire between two gangs near 8th Avenue South and South Lane Street, according to the police. The homicide case has not been solved yet, and his death has left a big hole for the ID community as a whole. In spite of the participants’ hopes for the development of the investigation, Chief O’Toole said that the case is still on a working theory and has asked the community to have patience.

In the meeting, one of the participants said he had not seen much in the way of police presence in the area and that he suspects that criminal activities are allowed and overlooked more so compared to other highly profiled areas. Another said that this area has changed so much and become terrible, especially at night.

Teresita Batayola of International Community Health Services showed her frustration, saying, “I have people telling me that they cannot continue to work for us if they do not feel safe.”

Chief O’Toole has promised to increase the number to police officers, but added, “We need to take time,” when she was questioned about the effective date of this promise.

After the meeting, about 20 community members walked around South King Street from Sixth Avenue South to the community parking lot under the I-5 overpass to South Jackson Street, joined by Santos, O’Toole and State Senator Bob Hasegawa upon a request from the residents. In the parking lot, some homeless jeered at the group.

Chief O’Toole said, “Homelessness issue itself is not a crime. We need to particularly find the people who are committing the crimes like drug dealers.” She expressed her intention to attend and organize future community meetings for ID residents.