Downtown Seattle group spends $564,000 on private security, more to come for 3rd Avenue

In response to staffing shortages reported by the Seattle Police Department (SPD), the Downtown Seattle Association (DSA), through a community levy called the Business Improvement Area (BIA), hired a private security company, Iron and Oak, to provide public safety support to Third Avenue between Stewart and Union.

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The Metropolitan Improvement District (MID), one of Seattle’s nine BIAs, spent $564,000 on private security for downtown in the previous fiscal year, between June 2020 and August 2021.

A total of $314,000 was allocated for private security at Westlake Park and Occidental Square – parks run by MID.

“We’ve hired SPD officers for accent patrols for years, but dwindling numbers meant the SPD couldn’t fill the slots we needed,” a DSA representative told MyNorthwest. “And we know that sections of Third Avenue need help. A contract with a private security company allows us to provide a constant presence along Third, extra pairs of eyes that can react quickly and coordinate with the SPD, should public safety needs arise.

An additional $250,000 was spent on SPD “accentuation patrols”, a process by which BIAs are authorized to hire SPD officers through overtime pay.

“The contract allows us to fund additional SPD shifts, typically through shift extensions,” a DSA statement read. “Officers are on duty and working extended or additional Seattle Police patrols or downtown bike shifts. The MID or DSA does not direct the specific work of agents on these shifts, and the agents do not work for the MID or DSA. They continue to report and respond to their chain of command during these shifts. The contract is a funding mechanism to provide additional SPD patrols downtown, if and when they are available.

The SPD reports 948 active officers as of January 10, citing the need for 1,500 to 1,600 in total to be considered fully staffed.

Iron and Oak has been hired in the fall of 2021 for Westlake and Occidental parks. Since last December, they have been contracted for additional security services along Third Avenue in downtown Seattle.

The security company is separate from the other means by which the MID provides services to the city centre. Called “safety ambassadors”, they help “provide direction to out-of-towners, help the unprotected inner-city population, [and keeping] safe, welcoming and livable downtown,” according to the DSA website.

Other Community Ambassadors provide sanitation services or specialize in outreach to the homeless.

Launched in 2013, the latter meets “unsheltered people where they are” and offers case management “to connect them with services, housing, treatment and employment options”. In the past fiscal year, the DSA reports connecting 34 people to permanent housing, distributing 1,209 hygiene kits and enrolling 193 people in case management services. The DSA hails the launch of the now-failed Compassion Seattle ballot initiative in its Annual Report.

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Established in 1999, the MID is funded by landowner assessments in the six neighborhoods it comprises – Belltown, Denny Triangle, Pioneer Square, Retail Core, Waterfront and West Edge – an area of ​​285 square blocks in total.