By Emily Inlow-Hood
Deputy Mark Hayden remembers the Seattle Police officer who had patrolled his neighborhood on foot in Ballard when he was growing up.
“He’d go to the local dime store, he’d go out to eat,” said Dep. Hayden. “He was a visible presence in uniform. Everybody had a connection at that time with the business district. And it was an extremely important relationship that he had built with the business district and I always thought that was pretty cool.”
Dep. Hayden joined the King County Sheriff’s Office in 1999. He is also a long-time Burien resident, having lived in the Boulevard Park area for many years, and is now living in south Burien.
About two years ago, he began advocating for a new storefront officer position.
“In my regular duties and contacts that I had with [Burien’s] business district, I thought it would be a great idea to try and introduce something like that here,” said Dep. Hayden.
He heard increasing support for the idea from local businesses, and Burien Police Department Chief Ted Boe agreed.
“Dep. Hayden has been a long-time advocate for this service,” said Chief Boe. “And we’ve heard over and over from our downtown community that they want to see a more visible police presence.”
In 2021, the police department secured a grant to pay for Dep. Hayden to be focused one day a week in the downtown area conducting emphasis patrols. As a result, every Thursday for the past year Dep. Hayden has connected with businesses, focusing on issues in the downtown Burien corridor with additional emphasis on the area around Town Square Park and the Burien Farmers Market.
“It’s a win-win,” said Chief Boe. “The visible presence helps our community feel safe, businesses feel safe, and visitors to the market and local restaurants and businesses feel safe.”
Kathy Johnson, owner of Glass Expressions on SW 152nd St, said that they enjoy it when Dep. Hayden stops by.
“He’s a very nice addition to our day. He touches base and we can talk to him about anything that happens, as it’s happening.”
Thanks to an investment in downtown public safety approved by the Burien City Council in 2021, Dep. Hayden will be able to transition into being a full-time storefront resource officer in downtown Burien. Discover Burien, a local nonprofit that supports Burien’s business community, is donating a portion of their office space on SW 152nd St to host a storefront resource center staffed by Dep. Hayden.
While emergency calls will still need to go through the communications center to get a police response, the resource center will be a place where businesses and community members can ask questions and get in touch easily with the police when non-emergency issues arise.
“I give my business card out like candy,” said Dep. Hayden. “Downtown business owners can call or email me directly instead of going through 911.”
Storefront resource centers are based on a community policing model which, in communities where they have been built, has resulted in both real and perceived increases in community safety.
“This could not have been possible without the cooperation and creativity of our economic development and human services partners and city staff,” said Chief Boe.
If community members do call 911 for a situation in the downtown area, Dep. Hayden will often be the first to respond. He monitors the 911 system to see if there are calls he can take in order to reduce patrol officers’ workload so they can more quickly respond to other calls. He also works with the Burien Police Department’s Crime Reduction Unit, LEAD, REACH, Navos, and other behavioral health resources and organizations.
“The issues in the downtown corridor are kind of a peak and valley,” said Dep. Hayden. “I’ve been here long enough that I know most of those folks that are struggling. I coordinate with others in our department and other services to hopefully get them off the street and ultimately get them some additional help.”
About the Downtown Safety Program
Dep. Hayden’s work is just one part of a bigger network of resources and investments in downtown Burien. On July 19, 2021, the Burien City Council approved a $450,000 boost to Burien’s collaborative approach to public safety. The new funding pays for a business improvement area (BIA) outreach care coordinator, storefront resource center in downtown Burien, and community response team. We’ll be featuring these new programs in future issues of Burien Magazine.