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Thursday, June 30, 2011

How the Safe Streets Campaign Impacts Lives in Tacoma

Citizens protest crime.    Photo courtesy of the Safe Streets Campaign
As much as I love the City of Destiny, I realize that my impression of life inTacoma might not be so positive if I had a different address. My neighborhood is nothing fancy, but it feels safe to me, and I hope it stays that way. But if problems with crime arose, I'm glad to know about the Safe Streets Campaign and the dedicated people who work with this organization.

I recently interviewed several of these good folks, including Deputy Director Steve Jewell, Officer Daniel Hensley, who has been a vital part of the "community policing" aspect of the effort, and Community Activation Specialist Kathy Martin. Before she officially became an employee of Safe Streets, Martin was a deeply involved activist in the fight to make her own neighborhood a safer, more pleasant place to live. She and all the others like her deserve the respect and gratitude of everyone in the city.

Martin didn't start out planning to become an activist. Here is how her story began, excerpted from my article recently published on Neighborhood Life, an online neighborhood improvement journal.

from Neighborhood Life - Summer 2011 issue

by Candace Brown

Kathy Martin knew five years ago, that her Larchmont neighborhood in Tacoma, Washington, had its problems, but she didn’t know how much they would impact her life. In the beginning, this mother of several children never expected to join a march, or carry a protest sign, or stand before a group of men who had been arrested for prostitution, look into their eyes, and speak to them “with a Mom’s heart,” she said. Yet she has done all those things, and more.

Likewise, Martin never expected to end up being hired by a non-profit organization called the Safe Streets Campaign, but that recently happened too. Now, Community Activation Specialist Martin thinks about how the family tragedies she hopes to prevent through her job could easily have been her own.

“I was taking my son to middle school,” Martin said, “and I started noticing that the middle school students who were walking to school were being approached by drug dealers and prostitutes.”
And that wasn’t all. Two men in a car approached her thirteen-year-old daughter and a friend. In another incident, her daughter was going to the neighborhood store just three houses down and around the corner, with her four-year-old sister along.

“There was a guy in a brown truck watching some kids, and he spoke to her, wanting her phone number,” Martin said. “When I heard about it, I asked her why she didn’t call me. I could have been there in a minute and gotten a license number. And she said she just didn’t think of it.” The potential for tragedy ate at Martin.

She began to ask other people what they were seeing. Prostitutes did their work right in people’s yards and left the filthy evidence behind. Drug dealers and pimps interfered with local stores and other businesses. One prostitute started yelling inside a restaurant filled with people, and then took off her shirt. Another assaulted a restaurant owner after being asked to leave the parking lot. Something had to be done. To read the full article, please click here:

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