McGinn unveils new plan to end Belltown violence

McGinn unveils new plan to end Belltown violence »Play Video
SEATTLE -- After a string of violent crimes, Seattle's mayor and the interim police chief unveiled a new plan to put an end to fights and shootings near nightclubs after hours.

The plan will kick-off on Friday and it's simple: flood Downtown Seattle with cops.

"We're going to have a group of 20-plus officers that will be working the downtown corridor and they will be working at least 2-hours past the time the bars are going to be closing," said interim police chief John Diaz.

Seattle's new nighttime task force will include more than 20 officers. They'll come from SWAT, anti-crime and DUI teams. To begin, they'll work downtown, but over time, they'll spread the task force to other neighborhoods.

They hope the show of force will make criminals think twice, but their plan doesn't stop there.

McGinn says he'll soon introduce another plan to go after so-called "trouble nightclubs," the ones where neighbors complain cause most of the problems.

"We'll be coming forward with a vibrant night time scene," McGinn said.

The Downtown Seattle Association said the increase in police patrols in encouraging.

"This is a step in the right direction, which acknowledges the concerns of Downtown residents, small business owners, employees and human service providers about the level of safety in our neighborhoods," said Kate Joncas, the President of the Downtown Seattle Association. "When it comes to safety on our streets, the status quo is unacceptable. We look forward to seeing the details and learning more about the proposal."

Last month, Steve Sok was killed outside a Belltown nightclub on 2nd Avenue after neighbors started a petition to shut it down. Before Sunday's shooting, police say the shooters and victim confronted each other inside a bar in lower Queen Anne. The victim was shot later on 5th and Wall in Belltown.

It's not the first time a Seattle mayor has introduced a plan to go after troubled night clubs. Former mayor Greg Nickels and former city attorney Tom Carr introduced a similar plan in 2007, but not a single case from that operation ended up in jail time.

Residents skeptical of city's new plan

Some residents are already doubting the new plan, even though it hasn't yet taken effect.

"I don't know if it's necessarily going to make that much of an impact," said Antonie Pin, a Belltown resident. "The police is down there a lot; they're already down there. I think it's just basically the community pulling together."

Hundreds of neighbors, families and business owners desperate to take back their streets gathered on Tuesday night to voice their concerns.

Many Belltown residents say a select group of nightclubs help foster and encourage bad behavior. They say only a tight-knit community can push back against an environment in which crime appears to thrive.

"It sure can," said Julie Gardner, a Belltown resident. "But it's going to take more than just people showing up for a meeting. It's going to take us to work together and do some of the things that they were suggesting tonight."

Suggested measures include reporting all crimes, forming strong neighborhood watch programs and reporting businesses that are behaving badly.

But another eye opener came from top judges, who say looming county budget cuts could make prosecuting non-violent crimes, such as drug dealing, much more difficult.