Seattle Neighborhood Group Story
In the mid 1980's, Central and South Seattle experienced new stresses that many communities all over the U.S. were encountering — increasing gang activity, easily available weapons, and the onset of a devastatingly potent and inexpensive form of cocaine, “crack”, being distributed through our neighborhoods. Some neighborhoods in Seattle began to look as if they were under seige — bars went up on windows to prevent “smash & grab” burglaries, people stayed indoors afraid of robbery and assault. In some places, neighborhood business districts were populated with open-air drug markets and 24-hr prostitution, legitimate businesses suffered.
Contemporary policing methods did not involve working closely with community members at the time, and police were unequipped to cope with the increase in criminal activity and the quickly changing methods used by the gangs and drug dealers in the area. Community members felt increased frustration at the level of service from law enforcement.
Community leaders realized that the situation called for a new kind of solution and organized a group in 1988 that could communicate specific concerns to law enforcement, and develop a basic kind of partnership between residents, businesses, and law enforcement. After proven success in “community policing” in Southeast and Central Seattle, SNG was formed and sought funding from the Seattle City Council to cover the expenses, and with many volunteer hours, staff expertise, and a lot of work, people came together to start “Crime Prevention Coalitions” throughout Seattle.
Soon after the creation of the Crime Prevention Coalitions, Seattle Neighborhood Group began offering Landlord Workshops, Take Action, State Legislative Updates on Public Safety Issues and No Trespass community education projects in the 80's, and saw clear benefits from them. At the same time, SNG began to convene groups to discuss and respond to policy every few years.
Other local crime prevention efforts began, the federal Weed & Seed program started in the Central Area and SNG stepped into a coordinating role to bridge the gap between law enforcement, service providers, and community members. Seattle Housing Authority contracted with SNG to provided crime prevention organizing in their communities modeled on SNG succeess working with larger community groups.
The change brought by over two decades of work and thousands of volunteer hours is clearly visible, and remarkable! We are extremely proud of all the effort and dedication that volunteers and staff have given, and continue to give as challenges arise, and the work of making our neighborhoods safer continues. Today we are focused more than ever on addressing the public safety issues in our communities and have several ongoing projects geared toward specific community needs.
An article from the National Institute of Justice about Community Policing in Seattle (PDF; 4.7 megs; August 1992).
An article by Jim Diers about the community role in addressing Street Level Social Issues in Seattle. SNG is discussed in section 3.1, in the context of community activation and engagement around removing unwanted activities from the streets. (October 2008)