Why Seattle Should Invest in Community-led Crime Prevention Programs

By: Stew Bowerman


Trigger warning: Gun violence 


Note: This article discusses the cost of gun violence from an economic perspective. That doesn’t mean we don’t recognize the traumatic effects of gun violence. We acknowledge that every loss of life due to gun violence causes immense suffering, and that there are no words to convey the depth of pain, loss and trauma that a family and community undergoes when a beloved individual dies before their time. It’s a tragedy and a grave injustice that we are committed to ending.


Ever notice the events on Friday nights around Rainier Beach that look like mini street fairs? Those are A Beautiful Safe Place for Youth’s community activation events, and they’re nothing short of extraordinary. Stop by some time. You’ll be welcomed by a friendly neighborhood face, and there will be food, information and activities available for you. Here’s what makes these activation events so incredible though – they are undoubtedly making the neighborhood safer.


The most notable community activation event, called the “Community Healing Space,” happens each Friday night in the Safeway parking lot. One statistic says it all – In the year leading up to the Community Healing Space’s inception in June 2020, the Seattle Police Department reported 12 shots fired incidents in the Safeway parking lot, and the tragic loss of two lives. Since the Community Healing Space began, there has not been a single shot fired. It’s remarkable! 


Let’s consider this statistic from a financial perspective, which is often neglected when discussing gun violence…


The cost of gun violence is staggering. In his 2019 book Bleeding Out, Thomas Abt (Senior Fellow, Council on Criminal Justice) suggests that the cost of gun violence in the US costs every American between $531 and $1,020 each year, paid out in forms of higher taxes, higher insurance premiums, and lower property values. With every incident there is a police response; a paramedic response; a criminal investigation; a search for suspects; a trial; holding suspects in jail pre-trial; a prison sentence; and heaven forbid, a coroner’s office investigation; and bereavement paid to families – Each step costs thousands and thousands of dollars. When considered collectively, the costs are enormous. A recent study by the Urban Institute and the National Institute for Criminal Justice Reform, conducted in Washington DC last year, estimated that each shooting cost the city’s taxpayers at least $1.53 million dollars


By absurdly conservative estimates, last year the Community Healing Space in the Safeway parking lot alone saved the City of Seattle more than $2 million dollars in policing, prosecution, hospital and judicial costs. 


Are the community activation events making a difference? YES! Should the City of Seattle make greater investments in community-led, place-based crime prevention efforts like the Community Healing Space? YES! Would the City of Seattle save money if it made those investments? YES! Should we expand our efforts in Rainier Beach? YES, and WE ARE!


Beginning next month, we will be activating four different Rainier Beach locations four nights per week! And we could use some help! We’re looking for volunteers to help in a myriad of ways as we expand our efforts to make the neighborhood safer! Signup at rbactioncoaltion.org/volunteer/