Here’s our recap of the Burien City Council Special Meeting held on Monday night, Feb. 12, 2024:

Council voted last week to hold a special meeting focused on safety issues in Burien. This meeting included a public comments period, followed by a Public Safety presentation by Chief Ted Boe, and then a roundtable discussion.

Councilmember Hugo Garcia was not in attendance, and Councilmember Sarah Moore was able to join via Zoom during the roundtable session.

Public Comments

Fourteen people signed up to speak, but several commenters were not present when their names were called. The top concern for one speaker was pedestrian safety. She described kids crossing at uncontrolled intersections on their walks to school. She said these side streets would just be getting busier with the growing population. 

Both the President and Vice President of the Burien Community Support Coalition – Cydney Moore and Daniel Martin respectively – spoke about the work they did running Sunnydale Village, the sanctioned temporary homeless camp at Oasis Home Church. Martin said the camp had 65 full time residents at the time of its Feb. 3, 2024 closing, and he felt the organization was able to make a tangible difference in their lives. He said police services comprise more than half of the city budget, but police response to homelessness is not effective. 

Both Martin and Moore asked the city to support a new sanctioned encampment. For her part, Moore said the city never asked her for specific information on who her organization was helping, or how they were being served. This is in contrast to statements made by City Manager Adolfo Bailon in previous meetings, that Moore’s organization would not respond to information requests. Now, she said, those campers are dispersed throughout the city again and far from services that can help them in a meaningful way.

One speaker said that rather than inflating the crime problem, the Sunnydale Village camp actually made it easier for police to solve a recent violent crime, since witnesses and suspects were all camped there. It was also said that Council decisions have only made it more dangerous to be homeless in Burien.

Another speaker said that King County is dumping programs for the homeless on Burien, with no regard to public safety. They said this creates a conflict of interest since our police force is contracted with the King County Sheriff’s Office. The solution to this conflict of interest, it was said, is to create an independent police force.

A member of the Burien Town Square condo association brought a graph of incidents of monthly crimes at the condo over recent years. He explained that they jumped from an average of three incidents per month to 25 per month when the homeless camp was downtown. The graph dropped back down to three each month for a period of eight months while the homeless were not living downtown, and now they are back on track to having 19 incidents this month. He said they regularly report incidents of trespassing to the police, with no response for hours, and no action taken when they do respond.

Public Safety Report by Police Chief Ted Boe

Chief Boe first gave some details on a Feb. 2 stabbing near Safeway on SW 148th, which was part of the impetus for holding this meeting. While the case is under active investigation, he could not give details about the perpetrator. The victim was a 40-year-old male who suffered a deep cut to the abdomen. He has since come through surgery and is in stable condition. The police are actively interviewing witnesses, collecting video surveillance footage, and analyzing evidence. 

Chief Boe also described how the city’s contract with King County Sheriff’s Office (KCSO) works through an Interlocal Agreement (ILA). This ILA combines shared resources with greater King County including a major crimes detective, communications center, and office staff. Each member of the ILA pays for their share of usage of these services. The main structure of the Burien Police Department is made up of dedicated full time officers, including patrol officers, detectives, and the chief.

KCSO currently has 79 vacancies, reflected in a shortage of nearly six full-time officers in Burien. This is down from October 2023, when officer shortage was at an all-time high. He showed that Burien has the lowest number of officers per capita, with 0.88 officers per 1,000 residents, while every other city has 1.1 or more. He said that Burien’s officers are definitely the busiest in the county, responding to more calls per officer than other cities. 

Later, City Manager Bailon mentioned that he had recently resolved an issue with KCSO and successfully increased police staffing numbers in Burien. Boe added that the King County Sheriff is actively recruiting female officers, with the goal of “30 by 30” (30% of the force made up of female officers by 2030).

Boe showed a graph comparing crimes per 1,000 residents, as well as the number of officers per 1.000 residents, of various cities throughout the county.  He pointed out that Burien falls in basically the center of the per capita crime rate, with only a couple of cities (Des Moines and Normandy Park) having a lower crime rate, and most a bit higher. 

Boe briefly reported on crime trends in 2023, showing that both assaults and kidnapping were down significantly. Weapons offenses dropped by 37%. Even crimes against property were down by 7% overall including both private and commercial properties. He pointed out that auto theft was the only exception, with numbers on the rise everywhere.

Another area where numbers have risen is drug offenses, which went up by 65%, but Boe said that is due to changes in policies and enforcement, rather than an increase in use. His department confiscated 155 lbs of meth, 49.2 lbs of fentanyl, 19.3 lbs of heroin, and 16.5 lbs of cocaine in 2023. They made 24 arrests related to these drug offenses.

Regarding incidents of trespass at the Town Square condos, Boe said trespass and blocking a fire egress is clearly actionable, but that the condo owns a foot of property adjacent to the sidewalk, a unique situation which his officers can’t be expected to know. He said that private property owners can do more to enhance security on their grounds, such as hiring private security. He added that Burien Police have a good working relationship with the condos.

Chief Boe invited the public to apply for Community Police Academy, a free program for residents of Burien and SeaTac. It runs on Thursday evenings from March 14 to May 9, 2024. During this program, participants can learn about all aspects of policing, and even do a ride-along. Several of the councilmembers also enthusiastically recommended the program, having recently participated. More information and applications are available here.

Roundtable Discussion

Mayor Kevin Schilling got support for directing the city manager to begin exploration on ways to improve the ILA with KCSO. Rather than hiring a paid consultant to perform a lengthy review, there may be ways city staff can examine the reviews other cities have conducted and learn from that.

Councilmember Linda Akey would like to see outcome data from paid service providers like the REACH program. She said she was told by staff that they were unable to obtain data from REACH, and she is leery of continuing a contract without that information. The city spends $130,000 annually for the services of REACH. Councilmember Alex Andrade said that, as a downtown core business owner, she has never seen REACH workers in her area. There will be a discussion and presentation about REACH and other providers at a coming regular meeting.

Councilmember Jimmy Matta spoke about his concerns with youth and gang violence, and graffiti. He would like to know what the city can do to have a more rapid response to graffiti removal, as well as prevention. 

Matta also addressed problems with residential and commercial buildings left vacant, which inevitably become a magnet for crime. Mayor Schilling agreed that buildings left vacant for years does not constitute “optimal use”. He mentioned that there are tools cities can use as incentives to avoid buildings being left vacant, including instituting a “vacancy tax”. This will be explored in a future meeting.

Councilmember Sarah Mooore addressed pedestrian safety. She wants to see the numbers, to know exactly where pedestrian-related traffic incidents have been occuring, and also to have a conversation on the utilization of speed bumps to deter dangerous driving. This will be on a future agenda.


Watch full video of this council meeting here.

Mellow DeTray is a Seattle native who has spent the last 16 years raising her family in Burien. She has volunteered at many local establishments over the years, including the Burien Library, Burien Actors...