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Originally published June 6, 2011 at 7:25 PM | Page modified June 7, 2011 at 9:58 AM

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Seattle police to step up patrols on summer weekend nights

Starting Friday, uniformed Seattle police officers will be on the streets until 4 a.m. every Friday and Saturday until sometime in September, providing a visible police presence in neighborhoods where people tend to congregate on hot summer nights.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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For the second consecutive summer, uniformed Seattle police will be patrolling into the wee hours on Fridays and Saturdays in areas of the city where people congregate, according to Seattle's mayor and police chief.

Mayor Mike McGinn and Police Chief John Diaz announced on Monday that the "Citywide Late Night Public Safety Emphasis" will kick off Friday and continue each weekend until sometime in September.

Last summer, the late-night emphasis was created in response to a series of early-morning shootings in Belltown, most of which occurred after patrons of the neighborhood's bars and taverns spilled onto the streets after closing time.

But violent incidents aren't the impetus for this year's emphasis, said Diaz, pointing out that the city is enjoying historically low crime rates.

Last summer's emphasis was "a success in the reduction we've seen in the number of shootings" and helped create "a sense of a safer city," he said. Still, even as crime rates go down, "people's fear of crime is going up" and one way to counter that fear is to have a highly visible police presence, the chief said.

"People feel safer when they see uniformed officers," McGinn said. Responsible club and restaurant owners have created a vibrant nightlife for residents and visitors alike, while irresponsible owners have been threatened with citations or even shutdown, he said.

While last summer's late-night patrols focused on Belltown, the downtown core and Pioneer Square — with some smaller patrols on Capitol Hill and in Fremont — this summer, police will target 12 districts in the city, including a couple that aren't readily considered nightlife hot spots. West Seattle's High Point neighborhood, for instance, may not be a bastion of nightclubs and restaurants, but it is a place where large numbers of people tend to congregate at night, McGinn said.

At a news conference at West Seattle's Don Armeni Park, which is named for a King County sheriff's deputy who was fatally shot in September 1954, McGinn and Diaz emphasized that the late-night patrols, which will have 15 to 25 officers on duty until 4 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, won't deplete resources from one area of the city in favor of another or impact officers responding to 911 calls.

The officers participating in the emphasis will be drawn from the department's Anti-Crime Teams and SWAT and traffic-safety units.

At the start of each Friday and Saturday night, a lieutenant will decide how to disperse the late-night patrol officers through the city — perhaps concentrating them in one or two neighborhoods, or deploying them more evenly in the 12 districts identified by the department's precinct commanders.

"This is pretty dynamic," Diaz said, explaining that a neighborhood's history of problems will play a role in determining where and when officers are deployed.

Diaz said officers involved in the emphasis can be readily moved "if things are heating up in another part of the city."

Information from Seattle Times archives is included in this report.

Sara Jean Green: 206-515-5654 or sgreen@seattletimes.com

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