2020 Seattle Public Safety Survey Released

Annual research project conducted by Criminal Justice faculty and students

The Seattle University Crime & Justice Research Center began working with the Seattle Police Department (SPD) in 2014 to conduct the annual Seattle Public Safety Survey to support the department’s Micro-Community Policing Plans (MCPP). “These plans play a critical role in the Department’s community engagement strategy and in directing resources and services at the micro-community level,” says Dr. Jacqueline Helfgott, Director of the SU Crime & Justice Research Center and Professor, Criminal Justice. “The SPD MCPP recognizes that no two Seattle neighborhoods are alike and that resident perceptions of crime and public safety at the micro-community level matter.” The goal of the MCPP – to increase capacity for police-community engagement at the micro-community (neighborhood level) – helps to increase dialogue between the community and the police to increase public safety in Seattle.

The results of the 2020 Seattle Public Safety Survey are now available here.

Now in its sixth year, the Seattle Public Safety Survey engages people who live and/or work in the city of Seattle, using a non-probability survey designed to solicit perceptions about public safety, police, and quality of life at the citywide, precinct, and neighborhood levels. That non-probability survey design was used to ensure that all who live and/or work in Seattle have the opportunity to take the survey. To address issues of representation and generalizability, survey responses are statistically weighted at the citywide level by demographics based on Seattle census data.

The research team conducted extensive outreach, between October 15 and November 30, 2020, recording 11,410 completed surveys. Administered online and on paper, the team made the survey available in 11 languages -- Amharic, Arabic, Chinese, English, Korean, Oromo, Somali, Spanish, Tagalog, Tigrinya, and Vietnamese. They reached out at the neighborhood level through multiple channels, including administration through Seattle City Parks & Recreation Community Centers, Seattle Police advisory councils, Seattle Department of Neighborhoods, Seattle Mayor’s and City Council offices, Seattle Public Libraries, Seattle Public Housing, SHAG senior housing, King County Public Health, Seattle Public Schools, Downtown Emergency Service Center (downtown and in West Seattle), El Centro De La Raza, Angeline’s Day Center, Seattle Public Schools, crime prevention councils, and public areas with intent to target underrepresented communities.

Other channels included contact with business associations, condo associations, food banks, markets, dog parks, pet food stores, coffee shops, grocery stores, colleges and universities, parks, community businesses, neighborhood newspapers, mental health counseling and referral services, social service agencies, learning centers, community groups, retirement communities, places of worship from community religious organizations (mosques, churches, synagogues, and other places of worship), banks, medical and dental centers, museums, artist communities, bicycle shops, tattoo parlors, gyms and recreation centers, restaurants and bars, marijuana dispensaries, and through email lists, social media, (via website, Twitter, and the SPD Blotter), and Nextdoor.com.

Student involvement is integral to the success of this collaboration. Over the course of six years, five undergraduate students and 23 graduate students served as paid SPD MCPP research analysts. The students work in a dual role, as SPD research analysts on community-police engagement and with Dr. Helfgott and Dr. William Parkin, SU Criminal Justice faculty, to administer the Seattle Public Safety Survey, analyze the results, and produce the annual reports. The research analysts also facilitate community focus groups. This year, the research team will hold virtual community-police dialogues.

Many of the student research analysts have gone on to careers in sworn and civilian law enforcement roles and to work as research analysts and other areas of criminal justice, private security, and global risk management.

Undergraduate student Jane Park, who plans to graduate with a BA in Criminal Justice in 2021, has worked as a research analyst for nearly two years and finds the experience very insightful. “Everyone is passionate about their position on the team and in working with the community. I feel as though I have grown a lot, not only in my abilities as a researcher, but as a student majoring in criminal justice. I am walking away with a lot of knowledge and new skills to prepare me for the future.”

Joseph Singer, Criminal Justice and Humanities for Leadership, BA, ’17, is now an officer with the Renton Police Department. “Working with the Seattle Police and Dr. Helfgott on the Micro-Community Policing Plans helped me become integrated into the world of policing and research. I was able to experience what was happening behind the scenes of a police department and better prepare myself for a future in law enforcement. Without this opportunity, I would not be where I am today.”

Master of Arts in Criminal Justice students and alumni also find their work as research analysts was an important element in their education. Rachel Deckard, who will graduate this spring said, “Working as a research analyst for the MCPP has been a very beneficial experience for me personally. This experience has not only helped me better understand the needs of community members in Seattle in terms of public safety, but also has assisted me in being able to help create a dialogue between community members and the Seattle Police Department in order to address these needs.”

 “I very much enjoyed working on the Micro Community Policing Plan project, as a graduate student,” said Jennifer Danner, MACJ ’17, Crime Prevention Coordinator, Southwest Precinct, Seattle Police Department. “This internship not only assisted me in getting my current role with the Seattle Police Department, but it also helped inform my understanding of policing and of community outreach. I think the MCPP is an integral part of reimagining policing in Seattle, and is a program that truly allows for productive and positive community-police interactions.”

"As a 2020 alum of Seattle University’s Criminal Justice Graduate Program, I am thankful to have been given the opportunity to be a part of the Micro Community Policing Plans initiative, said Taylor Lowry. “Being a part of the MCPP team had many benefits that allowed me to grow professionally, academically, and personally. This experience gave me the chance to apply an academic passion of mine and incorporate it into a professional setting, which allowed me to work hand and hand with law enforcement to create a better understanding of different communities’ crime and public safety concerns. Since the MCPP initiative relies heavily on community engagement, crime data and police services, I was able to further my skills and knowledge in those areas, which I feel not only helped as a student, but professionally. I was able to apply what I was learning from working in a precinct, with law enforcement and community members, in an academic setting, which was invaluable. I have also found that the skills and knowledge I developed during my time as a research assistant, are very applicable in any professional setting. One of my favorite experiences about working on the MCPP, was the opportunity to engage with the community through neighborhood meetings, focus groups and survey distribution. I enjoyed being able to talk to the community and learn from them and their experiences, it allowed me to gain so much first-hand knowledge about the impact of community policing. Overall, being a part of the MCPP team was a great experience and one I will never forget.”

“Being a part of the Micro-Community Policing Plan project was my first hands-on research experience,” said Susan Nembhard, MACJ, Victimology Specialization, ’18 and Research Analyst for the Urban Institute. “The project opened my eyes to how I could connect my interest in community engagement and criminal justice. MCCP provides a good framework for how cities can use community input to better address safety needs. I built several skills that I have carried with me into my current research role, and it helped me define what I want my body of work to look like in the future.”

Community/Police Virtual Dialogues

The Seattle University MCPP Research team will conduct virtual community-police dialogues via Zoom from mid-May through August, 2021, which will offer the opportunity for community members to discuss the 2020 Seattle Public Safety Survey findings as well as current concerns about public safety and security at the precinct-level. The research team has begun outreach using the channels described above and those interested in participating can sign up here.

Written by Karen L. Bystrom

Tuesday, May 4, 2021