On a typical night on the corner of Maynard and King, while a swarm of twenty individuals in dark hoodies and soiled jeans aimlessly stumble back and forth along dirty sidewalks, an arguing couple ducks into an empty doorway to light up a glass pipe, exhaling odorless smoke, and exchanging kisses and sips from cans of malt liquor. Every afternoon, drug pushers, drug users, prostitutes, and transients descend upon my neighborhood, littering the streets until the late hours of the evening. Everyday I see the same individuals. Everyday I see the same stained jackets. Everyday I hear the same threats. And everyday I fear it only gets worse. Seattle's Chinatown neighborhood primarily consists of an elderly immigrant population, of which very few speak English, and whose culture has taught them to look away and keep to themselves. As a result, these activities are allowed to continue unchallenged, and even emboldens these individuals to display this behavior in plain sight. For two years, Richard Huie, the Neighborhood Safety Coordinator at the SCIDpda (Seattle Chinatown International District Preservation and Development Authority) has fought to combat this phenomenon that is largely unique to the neighborhood. This past August, Huie began the Chinatown Neighborhood Watch that aims to empower the community by watching out for one another, and educating the many residents and business owners to call the police. Unlike other Seattle neighborhoods composed of single-family houses, Chinatown's sixteen square blocks are dominated by large apartment buildings that often span an entire block. In reaction to these conditions, Huie modified the national Neighborhood Watch model by creating Block Watch. Now, every Tuesday and Thurday evening a group of 20 to 30 volunteers, mostly elderly, congregate at Hing Hay Park. During these 60 minutes, two groups of residents patrol the streets in a slow walk through darkened alleyways and along main streets armed with nothing more than a megaphone and blue vests announcing their presence. though occasionally met with hostility, Huie engages the transient population through friendly dialogue, with an amplified greeting, and an invitation to join the walk.
Huie's efforts have gained success, and much-needed momentum to improve the public safety situation facing the neighborhood. Inspired by the positive energy generated by Block Watch, Huie tackles these challenging issues with help from a determined community now united in a common goal: to take back their streets.
Whether a resident of Chinatown or not, I encourage you, and challenge you to participate in Block Watch at least once to help make the change that Richard Huie has accomplished as just one person. If you walk, I'll walk with you. Here is the schedule:
Where: Hing Hay Park Maynard Avenue S. & King Street S.
When: Tuesday and Thursdays 6:30-7:30 pm
This image was taken on a Canon EOS 5D and a Canon 24-105mm f/4.0L lens.
Check back again next week Wednesday for the 52/52 picture of the week!