SEATTLE — While not on campus grounds, University Way Northeast is very much considered part of the University of Washington (UW).
"All the students are back, they're here to learn and have fun and make friends, the restaurants want to thrive, and so we need to make sure safety is a priority," said Seattle City Councilmember Alex Pedersen.
Safety is now top of mind after a violent first weekend back for most students. On Saturday morning, a 21-year-old man was struck and killed by a driver fleeing a shooting. On Sunday, three 20-year-old men and a 19-year-old woman were shot outside of a local bar on Brooklyn Avenue Northeast.
"Public safety needs to be the number one priority of the city government, and we are working with the University of Washington Police Department as well," said Pedersen, who represents Seattle’s University District.
Funding for public safety is a solution Pedersen said will make a difference. He said City Council is currently debating the budget, and as it stands, there is increased funding for public safety.
"We'll do an analysis of the immediate problem, see what solutions need to be put in place, again I'll work with the university to figure it out, but I do not know if there will be immediate changes,” said Seattle Mayor and UW alum Bruce Harrell.
Harrell said the city needs to invest in community organizations, hire more police officers and utilize technology.
“From the governor down to our state Legislature, they need to understand the needs like Seattle, the largest city, to have the freedom to put in laws to protect ourselves," Harrell said.
When asked if Seattle police will increase patrols, North Precinct Captain Kevin Grossman said in a statement they have been attempting to provide emphasis patrols, but resource constraints are a constant challenge.
In an email sent to students, staff and faculty, the UW Police Department released a suspect description and asked witnesses to call the Seattle Police Department's tip line.
"The chief of police here for Seattle is talking with the University of Washington Police, and I expect them to have a plan this week for what they can do short term," said Pedersen.
UW’s interim Vice President for Campus Safety Sally Clark released the following statement:
"This is our community. It’s the place so many of our students, staff and faculty call home. While we have been focused on providing support to the students who were directly involved in last weekend's incidents, we have also been in frequent communication with City Hall, Seattle PD and the U District Partnership to ensure safety in the neighborhood and long-term work to prevent violence. While the urgency has increased in the past 36 hours, we have long been in regular contact with these partners.
"We all take the issue of safety in the U District very seriously. Seattle PD will be assigning emphasis patrols in the area at some designated times. Seattle police investigations into both of these incidents are ongoing, but the UW is also supporting an urgent convening of bar owners in the area to address safety concerns and how they can help. In addition, we continue to urge students to make use of other safety resources that are available to them, including our Husky NightWalk and NightRide safety escort services that are available from 6:30 p.m. to 2 a.m. every day."
Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell and City Councilmember Sara Nelson both also spoke during a Tuesday press conference about the recent spike in violence the University District has experienced.
"When we talk about protecting our student population and our neighborhoods, we have to acknowledge that our charter responsibility is to keep people safe," Harrell said at a press conference inside Cedars in the University District, a restaurant that has been in the area for decades.