Seattle police, city leaders looking to curb crime on 3rd Ave.

Seattle police, city leaders looking to curb crime on 3rd Ave. »Play Video
SEATTLE -- At the corner of Third Avenue and Pine Street also sits the intersection of charm and crime - that is, if you ask the city's new public safety chairman.

"You will see open-air drug dealing. You'll see panhandling that's way too aggressive," said City Councilmember Bruce Harrell. "It's just not a pleasant place to be - and it should be."

Harrell, who heads up the city council's Public Safety, Civil Rights and Technology Committee, is critical of plans to help clean up this troubled stretch of road.

On Tuesday, city leaders met with members of the Seattle Police Department to address public safety issues along Third Avenue, from drug dealing and street disorder to other low-level crimes.

The department proposes reinstating two programs, including the High Impact Offender Program, which targets the "small group of individuals responsible for a disproportionate number of calls … and frequent arrests." The department also wants to bring back the Stay Out of Drug Areas program, which allows police to ban drug dealers from known crime hot spots.

In September, the city identifiedabout 50 people who police say are responsible for 2,500 arrests in and around Belltown.

Despite the good intentions of the proposals, Harrell believes they don't go far enough to address the crime and quality of life issues on the Third Avenue corridor.

"What I want is some new ideas for some of the strategies that work," Harrell said. "I'm critical because these strategies are good strategies, but there's nothing new in that. Hot policing - hot spot policing - is not a new concept. We've been employing that for quite some time."

Other strategies proposed by the committee - which includes local business owners - include better lighting, better signage, and even more flowers.

"It will make the business better than now - much better - because people they will like to walk in this area and see flowers and landscaping," said small business owner Lucie Behman.

Behman's restaurant, Lucy's Corner, looks out onto the intersection of Third and Bell ,where Behman and her husband planted flowers to brighten up the sidewalk.

"(When we first moved in) at the beginning, it was a bit scary. We couldn't stay late," Behman said. "We used to close at 3 pm. We couldn't stay longer than that because we found lot of homeless people here, even when we open in the morning. We'd have to wake them up to go inside (the doorway)."

"It's much, much better than before," she added.

Harrell is hoping for more innovative ideas as the committee prepares to meet again next Wednesday.

"I'm looking for something new," he said. "We need to take back the streets. Make them safe. Make them pleasant to be around."