Jan 20, 2008

Shannon Harps murder; Social Services on Capitol Hill

Several relevant articles in Friday's Seattle Times.

First the good news: Seattle crime at 39-year low

The latest Seattle Times article about the Shannon Harps murder is all about "the man investigators are focusing on in the New Year's Eve slaying of a Capitol Hill woman". The article noted:

But when he was arrested for probation violations on Jan. 4, he was living in a squalid housing complex on Summit Avenue East where recovering addicts, mental-health patients and recently released convicts share common bathrooms and sit outside on milk crates to smoke.
Another article on the same page (2 more boarding homes for mentally ill to close) dealt at length with the problems at boarding houses on Capitol Hill, and gave the addresses of several of them in that immediate area. It's possible that the suspect was indeed staying at "Summit House" on December 31st.

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This reminded me of a long-ago Capitol Hill Community Council concern about the high concentration of social services in that immediate area. As I recall, concerns about the number of social service agencies located in the Central Area resulted in an exclusion zone to prevent any more locating there. This resulted, apparently, in the large number we have just north of Madison (the northern boundary of the the exclusion zone). I recall that a Community Council member mapped and documented them all: I'll try and find the data.

I have no reason to believe that the culprit (if it is indeed he) is anything other than one "bad apple" , but do note that the Times article mentioned " finding various failures in the way the needs of residents are assessed and monitored and in the upkeep of the homes" as the problems DSHS had noted.

A long term resident recently wrote to me:
One of my concerns about the neighborhood in question continues to be about why this neighborhood is prone to such violent crime. And it has been over many decades. There are undoubtedly burglaries, robberies, and speeding cars. Drug use is endemic (though why it is outside baffles me.) But, frankly, serious assault and murder are much too common in this area of town. (Say, about 15th to about 20th, both north and south of Madison by a few blocks.)

I don't understand it. We have too many social service institutions in the area, of course, but social service institutions of themselves may or may not be the attraction. I've always wondered about SMHI's clientele. I don't know much about Union Gospel Mission's clientele. Jewish Social Services seems unlikely to attract severely unstable people. There are senior centers, but most neighborhoods have senior centers. It doesn't seem to be racial conflict, although there may be some of that as well. Madison Market, bless them, has had their staff reduced quite seriously since they've moved to 16th and Madison. And they are a grocery store and a co-op.

Is my perception shared by others? Does any one have any idea how we might figure out what attracts such serious violence to the area? We're hardly snobs. Most folk around here are quite tolerant in fact. Also vigilant.

I offer this as something to ruminate about as we try to cope with yet another violent death.


Seadevi said...

I read both articles and thought it strange that no one at the ST thought to address whether the "person of interest" did indeed come from the Summit home that will be closing.

Wesa said...

I am curious if there are any stats on the people committing the crimes. Perhaps if we could compare those who commit the crimes (residents vs nonresidents, young vs old, sober vs high) we might find what is attracting that type of character. Then again, this could lead to stereotyping, which is not productive.