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Posted on: March 9, 2017

Making Burien a Welcoming Space for All Residents

Response to Rally for Public Safety on March 6, 2017

Protecting public safety and maintaining a clean environment throughout our city is one of the top priorities for the City of Burien and City Council. Everyone should feel welcome and safe using our parks, going to the library, and shopping in Downtown Burien. 

Like other cities in our region and across the country, we are trying to strike a balance between public safety and protecting the civil rights of our most vulnerable neighbors and residents. Burien is an urban area with similar issues that other cities face. Like other communities in the region, we are experiencing an increase in criminal activity. This is a troubling trend and the Burien Police Department and the City of Burien are taking steps to stop crime in our community. 

Adding Resources to the Burien Police Department
The City of Burien contracts with King County Sherriff’s Department for police services. Police, jail and court services consume 52% of our General Fund budget. The City Council approved funding in fall 2016 to add two new members to the Burien Police Department’s Proactive Team by this summer.

This team already has two detectives assigned to it who work closely with our civilian community police officer. Unlike reactive patrol officers whose primary duty is to respond to 911 calls, the Proactive Team is able to spend more time and effort in examining the root issue of repeated 911 calls and seek to reduce or eliminate the cause. 

Some of the duties the new officers will be performing include bicycle patrol, foot patrol, attendance at community meetings, and working with our social service providers to provide outreach to our most vulnerable residents. They will also focus on our business community, ensuring shoppers feel safe when visiting area businesses. For the past few months, in response to a request from the City, the Burien Police Department is also using more overtime resources to address illegal activity in Downtown Burien.

Cooperation between City, Police, and King County Library System

KCLS and the City are working together to address criminal activity and other hazardous situations around the City Hall/Library building by closing the area surrounding the building during non-business hours, just as parks are closed after dusk. By doing this, we intend to discourage people from coming to the area to sell and buy drugs and engage in other illicit activities. We also hope to reduce the number of crimes related to drug activity, including thefts and assaults. And finally, we intend to reduce the number of biohazard incidents that are creating a public health hazard. 

There is also ongoing cooperation between City Hall, the library and police department to clarify rules around the shared City Hall/Library building so that the police department can better address behavior such as public intoxication, use of drugs in public spaces, littering (including improper disposal of sharps in our parks and public spaces), and aggressive panhandling.

The City of Burien and KCLS employ off-duty police officers inside the building during business hours. The officers also walk around the building and patrol the garage. 

Maintaining Clean Streets and Parks

The City of Burien is working with partners to maintain clean and safe streets and parks. The City of Burien has a contract with Discover Burien to fund pickup of garbage and litter on sidewalks in the downtown area. KCLS sends maintenance staff out every day to clean sidewalks surrounding the library. The Parks, Recreation, and Cultural Services Department have both contracted and City staff that perform routine parks maintenance tasks. These workers also respond to vandalism and other destructive acts. 

We encourage citizens to let us know when they see something to call the Parks Department (206-988-3700) so we can address issues in a timely manner. Landscaping in Town Square Park is also being maintained in such a way to make it more difficult for people to engage in illegal behavior and hide from public view.

Supporting Human Services
Often, a discussion of public safety overlaps with discussions about how to best address the needs of the homeless or those suffering from mental health conditions or addiction. Not everyone who is committing crimes in Burien is homeless or has a mental illness. In fact, people experiencing homelessness and people experiencing mental illness or addiction are often the victims of criminal activity. 

The City of Burien currently supports several organizations within our community that are working to help people experiencing homelessness, addiction or mental illness. For those interested in what the City will be doing to address homelessness in our community, we encourage you to attend our March 20th City Council meeting where potential strategies and solutions will be discussed.

Fostering Trust between Residents, Business Owners, and Police
For several years now, the Burien Police Department has worked with local business owners to create a Business Watch. The purpose of the Business Watch is to 1) provide business owners a way to speak directly with the police on public safety issues and 2) provide education to business owners about ways they can help make Burien a safer place.

To foster trust between immigrant communities and the government, the King County Sherriff’s Department and City of Burien have adopted a policy that states law enforcement and City personnel will not ask about a person’s immigration status. The policy is designed to make people feel comfortable and willing to interact with police to help solve crimes. The policy does not allow or encourage undocumented individuals to commit crimes without punishment. The ordinance ensures our local police force and city staff can focus on their jobs, instead of handling immigration matters best left to federal immigration officers. 

Stopping Crime Requires Community-Wide Effort

Crime is an issue in every community across the country. There is not one root cause, and therefore there can’t be just one solution. Stopping crime requires a community-wide effort. The City is doing what we can to address public safety issues in our community. We value the role that our residents, parents, schools, and local business community play in creating a safe Burien. 

Response to Statements Made during Public Comment of City Council Meeting, March 6, 2017
Thank you to the residents who took time out of their busy lives to voice their concerns about public safety. Engaged citizens make government work better. We would like to offer corrections and clarifications to some of the statements were made during the public comments period:

Hit and runs are a gang initiation ritual. According to the King County Sherriff’s Department gang experts, this is false.

There has been an eight percent increase in gang activity. Crime stats for 2016 are still being analyzed. They will be presented to Council in late April or May.

The Council discussed reducing the Police Department staff. The draft 2017-2018 budget proposed adding two new officers to the existing Burien Police Department staff. City Council had a policy discussion about whether adding two new police officers or adding human services staff would be the best way to address the public safety concerns in Downtown Burien. The Council ultimately voted to fund two new additional police officers.

Parks Department is no longer holding day camps at Dottie Harper Park. Day camps are still being held at Dottie Harper Park. Over the past few years, the Parks Department has increased the amount of cleanup patrols and other maintenance levels to ensure a safe and clean camp environment. The Parks Department has increased security in Dottie Harper Park and the neighboring skate park during the summer months. The playground at the park has been completely renovated and it is regularly used by local families and daycare centers.
The day camps we provide are extremely popular and fill up quickly every season. There is always a waiting list. Historically, 76 percent of campers return the next year, which is a high return rate considering the camps serve grades 1 through 5 and kids in that age group will age out of the program. 

Last updated March 9, 2017.
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400 SW 152nd St, Suite 300  /  Burien, WA 98166  /  Ph: (206) 241-4647  /  Fax: (206) 248-5539
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