Open Letter to Seattle Mayor and Chief of Police to Increase Public Safety in CID
By Teresita Batayola
President and CEO of CISH
Dear Mayor Bruce Harrell and Chief Adrian Diaz,
On Sunday, October 9, at around 3:50 a.m., gunshots occurred outside the entrance to Legacy House, an assisted living facility located at 803 South Lane Street following altercations between groups of individuals. Approximately seven shots hit the car of an International Community Health Services (ICHS) staff member parked outside Legacy House, and two shots hit the Legacy House building.
At this time, we know neither the nature nor the circumstances of the shooting. We are extremely relieved that no staff or residents were injured in the shooting. However, as you can imagine, our staff are reeling from the anxiety and trauma of random acts of violence.
Disturbingly, when CISH management filed a police report and asked how we could cooperate with a police investigation, we were advised that no case would be opened as no one was injured in the shooting. Clearly, from a staff member’s perspective, the dispatcher informed us that this was a low priority for them.
ICHS is deeply concerned about the rampant gun violence and violent crime in the Chinatown-International District (CID) that threatens the health and well-being of our patients, staff and elderly residents.
The ICHS International District’s flagship medical and dental clinic is located at International Village Square at 8th Avenue South and South Lane Street, along with our vision clinic and assisted living facility, Legacy House, which also houses our senior services program, an adult day center, and senior meal service.
This is not an isolated case. The CID is a regular victim of gun violence and other violent crimes. We recognize that the October 9, 2022 shooting occurs within a broader context of two conditions that result in public safety concerns.
1) High rates of violent crime due to recurring cycles of drug trafficking, gang violence and other illegal activities.
2) Delayed response by the Seattle Police Department (SPD) to 911 calls or no action at all, leading to a cycle of longstanding distrust and skepticism of the city’s commitment to public safety at CID.
All of this leads to a view entrenched in the CID that the police will fail to follow up on a crime and a series of years of deteriorating public safety conditions.
Our staff repeatedly shares with us their concerns about their own safety and well-being. Automobile vandalism and burglaries often occur in the area near our clinic. Just one example, in November 2021, in the middle of the day, an individual broke the windows of at least three vehicles on 8th Avenue South, just in front of the ICHS clinic. The smash and grab comes up regularly in the CID.
CISH staff said they were followed when he returned to his car alone. Staff at Legacy House, our 24/7 assisted living facility, who work nights to care for our seniors, have particularly expressed fear of walking to their car at night. Again, these are recurring incidents.
Public safety concerns are also heightened by the wave of anti-Asian hate crimes. During the pandemic, healthcare workers across the country have faced a surge in anti-Asian sentiment and actions. Asian CID companies were targeted. Asian seniors continue to be harassed on the streets. Verbal and physical attacks are common.
In August of this year, ICHS staff at Clinic ID called 911 for a patient who was in crisis and had expressed intent to harm himself. After two hours, there was no response from the SPD. After calling 911 again, the dispatcher said there were too many life-threatening emergencies and SPD was too busy to respond, although the patient confirmed suicidal ideation. The patient’s treatment team had to move forward with an alternative safety plan to the team’s and ICHS’s risks.
The lack of response from the DPS poses a serious risk to the safety of patients and others facing a mental health emergency. Unfortunately, this is not the first time that the CISH has encountered a lack of response from the SPD. On another occasion, the SPD failed to respond to an outreach request for a suicidal patient, resulting in a provider having to bring the patient to the hospital himself. This posed a significant risk to the provider as well as the patient.
In another incident involving a person on the sidewalk outside the clinic, ICHS called 911 and requested assistance from the Mobile Crisis Team. The SPD responded instead and declined to provide any intervention.
Currently, ICHS staff report that they do not find it helpful to call 911. And where the SPD has been involved, staff report that these were not positive experiences. The lack of police response or action in an emergency is an ingrained challenge to public safety and to all who live, work, do business or visit CID.
The call for more police presence in the CID is not new. Donnie Chin’s legacy as a dedicated protector of our neighborhood is built on a history of City neglect and delayed or no response to emergencies in the CID. And Donnie Chin lost his life in the effort. For decades, community leaders like the late Uncle Bob Santos called the Seattle Police Department directly. The SPD needs to have a greater community presence in the CID, and the city needs to consider the area’s public safety on par with other Seattle neighborhoods.
We call on the City of Seattle to do more to ensure the public safety of our staff and the more than 8,000 patients we serve at ID Clinic. We also call on the SPD to make a committed effort to be part of the CID district. They need to explore ways to be more empathetic and sensitive to different populations and create a culture where members of our community feel more supported when interacting with the police.