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Originally published August 15, 2013 at 8:33 PM | Page modified August 16, 2013 at 11:00 AM

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McGinn taps $400K to boost patrols in crime hot spots

Mayor Mike McGinn announces an additional $400,000 in funding for crime hot spots in the city through December. The City Council rips him for not acknowledging violence and street disorder downtown.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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Mayor Mike McGinn on Thursday allocated an additional $400,000 to extend summer police patrols through the end of the year in crime hot spots across the city.

The money will buy about 180 extra officer hours per month, largely through overtime, and comes from better-than-expected city revenues.

The mayor suggested that the funding would be available again next year to continue the patrols.

The city also expects to have enough money to add 30 new patrol officers next year, McGinn said in a news conference at City Hall.

He said precinct captains would identify problem areas through data and in response to neighborhood concerns.

The mayor did not reference concerns about chronic crime and street disorder downtown after Monday’s shooting of a Metro bus driver by a street criminal with a history of drug use and mental illness. Police fatally shot the assailant as he tried to commandeer a second bus.

“We know people want to feel safe and secure in all of our neighborhoods, not just downtown,” McGinn said.

Earlier in the day, three City Council members criticized the mayor, saying he was downplaying the crime problem around Westlake Park, Third Avenue and the corridor between the city’s downtown retail center and Pike Place Market. After Monday’s shooting, the mayor said the city was seeing a significant reduction in violent crime downtown.

In a blog post, City Council President Sally Clark and Councilmembers Tim Burgess and Bruce Harrell said the shooting “reinforced for many a belief that downtown street crime and disorder is out of control.” Burgess and Harrell were both candidates for mayor earlier this year.

City Council staff completed an analysis of crime over the past five years in five downtown police beats and concluded crime was up about 6.5 percent downtown with a spike in July in which “reported violent crime is at the highest level it has been since 2009.”

A Seattle Times examination of crime data in four beats containing the city’s retail and tourist center found violent-crime numbers to be essentially the same over the past five years, with spikes the past three summers.

The council members suggested three immediate steps McGinn should take: Acknowledge the problem, don’t deny it; embrace a continuum of response, including arrest and prosecution of those causing the most harm; and give police clear and consistent instructions.

“We fear that the message being received by our police officers, especially given the current Department of Justice consent decree, is that a hands-off approach is the safest approach while the city tries more social service-oriented responses,” the three council members wrote.

Neighborhood leaders from Pioneer Square, Chinatown/International District and Capitol Hill attended the mayor’s news conference.

They expressed appreciation that more police patrols would be added around the city but cautioned that crime in their neighborhoods was complex and required a coordinated response among police, city agencies, prosecutors and social-service providers.

Although McGinn did not address downtown crime specifically in his news conference, Kate Joncas, president of the Downtown Seattle Association, said later the $400,000 for additional t patrols is a start.

In a July 31 letter, the association called on the mayor and City Council to immediately address the problem and add additional police patrols.

“July was a tough month,” Joncas said. “At this point, we’re looking for a commitment and a partnership. We’ve seen that, now we need to sit down together and go forward.”

The mayor also announced a pilot project to keep Cal Anderson Park on Capitol Hill lighted at night to help prevent crime.

The city in June added two park rangers who divide their time between Cal Anderson and Occidental Park in Pioneer Square.

Lynn Thompson: lthompson@seattletimes.com or 206-464-8305. On Twitter @lthompsontimes

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