An Extraordinary Time » How We Got to Where We Are and How We Are Shaping Our Future

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National Night Out

At Rainier Avenue South and South Garden Street, a shrine was erected for James Monroe, 28, shot and killed by Kent police on July 23 after trying to speed away from a traffic stop. A block away, a neighborhood that prides itself on its diversity is struggling to shed its crime-tainted reputation.

National Night Out, an annual effort to help neighbors get to know each other and fight crime, resulted in 790 block parties across the city. The 98118 ZIP code, which includes Brighton and other neighborhoods in Southeast Seattle, is among the most diverse in Washington, according to state and city data.

 

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Brighton resident Matt Hendel, 36
We’re trying to improve our neighborhood. We’re trying to do it through knowing our neighbors, going on neighborhood walks . . . trying to improve especially (the) Rainier and Othello area. There’s been a lot of problems down there – a lot of crime, drug dealing. We’re trying as a group of neighbors and as ROSA (Rainier Othello Safety Association) to make it a nicer place to live. . . . “The first day we had a ROSA meeting and I came home from a trip and there was a car flipped over in my front yard. Some guys had stolen a car, there was a high-speed chase in my neighborhood, and it landed in my front yard. That was really a wake-up call. Like, wow! We gottado something! None ofmy kids were out playing in the yard, thankfully. “When we do our biweekly walks, the police officers always come with us. It’s a fairly diverse group of neighbors. It’s an Orthodox Jewish neighborhood. I’m not Jewish but there’s a variety of different people here from different climes.

Sgt. Cindy Granard, 44, a Seattle police officer with the South Precinct Community Police Team
We did this (National Night Out) last year. It was the first year, and everybody was amazed that there were so many children because people sequester themselves away in their houses because of some of the stuff that’s been going on. And this gives them power to come out, block off the streets, get to know each other, talk about issues, and start looking at ways to resolve them. What we’re seeing is more families with young children coming into the area, buying affordable housing. It’s a very diverse and attractive area culturally. You see everything from different cultures, religions, ethnic backgrounds, age groups, longtime residents and then new ones that are moving in as well. “They want to establish a sense of community identity and pride and that’s what they came up with. ‘ROSA, curbing crime one street at a time.’ Crime prevention through environmental design. We talk about beautification, looking at things and designing them so positive . . . groups come into the area instead of negative ones. How do we bring kids, how do we bring people into this area and make it attractive for them but not so much for the drug dealers and the criminals and the prostitutes?

Brighton resident Jeremy Valenta , 36
A subject was involved in an incident with another police agency and was shot and killed and so some of the local gang members erected a street shrine and there was real concern about gang activity, any escalation of violence, and concern that we don’t want our dear community friends being background to shots fired or at the wrong place at the wrong time being an innocent bystander. So we were very cautious and postponed an initial neighborhood cleanup. That to cleanup around the street shrine might be construed …some of the gang members have taken exception to that because it was a police involved shooting. Justified or not, they don’t care. That’s kind of where we are.

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