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Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design

Downtown Alliance and Community Members Meet to Discuss Downtown Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design

On Friday, October 25, the Olympia Downtown Alliance hosted its monthly Downtown Academy. The meeting brought together downtown business owners, Alliance members and representatives from the City of Olympia and the Olympia Police Department to discuss recent downtown lighting enhancements, tips and techniques to prevent crimes, and continued ways to support a safe, clean and comfortable downtown. 

The Olympia Downtown Alliance is currently working in partnership with property owners to create a Downtown Improvement District (DID), an effort that would be complimentary of the CPTED program. A DID is a private sector funding mechanism designed to improve the downtown environment with new services financed by a self-imposed and self-governed assessment. For more information, follow this link.

Anna Schlecht, Housing Program Manager for the City of Olympia, shared some updates on ways the City is utilizing Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds to support downtown businesses and the community as a whole. The CDBG Program provides federal funds to develop viable communities by providing decent housing, a suitable living environment and opportunities to expand economic opportunities, principally for low and moderate-income persons.

“We’ve been working with the ODA for about 6 years to collaborate on ways to make downtown safe and welcoming,” said Schlecht. “Recently, we’ve been looking at lighting. We’re continuing to focus on making downtown more welcoming after dark by examining lighting, working with both downtown businesses and private property owners to add lighting to their properties. We’re also analyzing existing lighting at public facilities downtown.”

“Since we started working on this initiative, in the first two years we worked on illuminating and improving 10 public alleys downtown,” said Schlecht. “We identified TJ Potter alley by adding a named archway and focused on artwork on walls and other esthetics to make alleys more welcoming after dark. We’ve added additional lighting to the parking lot at State & Washington, the parking lot adjacent to The Brotherhood Lounge, The Washington Center for the Performing Arts and Olympia Film Society block, the Drees block by Thompson Apartments and next will be looking at The Olympia Center.”  Schlecht continues to work with businesses, private property owners and community and municipal organizations to improve lighting downtown. 

 Her suggestions for the continued success of this project included:   

•             An ODA “Light Brigade,” volunteers from the community to walk around downtown looking for defunct bulbs, etc. (This volunteer effort would have no impact on any funds)

•             Encourage business owners to keep lights on at night (does not need to be full lighting, just some partial lighting to help deter potential crime)

•             Encourage electrical upgrades to both public and private properties

•             Continue to look at the lighting of streets, parking projects and public facilities

•             Submit a Request to Puget Sound Energy (PSE) to install more street lights on their light poles downtown

•             Submit a request to InterCity Transit to provide lighting for bus shelters downtown

•             Work with Olympia Public Works to replace bulbs in all dead street and pedestrian lights

 Rebekah Ziesemer, Community Programs Officer with the Olympia Police Department, also shared some tips and suggestions for improving measures to deter crime. “Properties with fences, artwork, nice landscaping and an overall pleasing esthetic give the message: “This property is cared for.” This establishes guardianship and can be a major deterrent to potential crime,” said Ziesemer.

Ziesemer encourages people in the community to get out and participate in downtown events. “Events like Third Thursday and Friends Night Outs give downtown visibility which promotes a sense of safety and security,” said Ziesemer.  She also recommended:

•             Leave some lights on at your business or property after business hours

•            “Layer” locking devices - the more measures in place - the better

•             Alarms and/or cameras and notification to the public that those systems are in place

•             Make sure you have visibility into your windows and any accessible public entrance

•             Celebrate entrances and designate public vs. private areas

•             Keep any cash or valuables locked up or in a location not in proximity to the entrance

•             Offer a friendly greeting and welcome to anyone who enters your business

“The old standby: ‘If you see something, say something,’ is still very valuable advice as well,” said Ziesemer. Ziesemer or a member of the Community Programs Division of the Olympia Police Department are available to consult with you and offer recommendations for your business for added security recommendations and tips. You can contact her at

We are so thankful to all those who participated in the meeting and those who continue to help with our initiative of providing a safe, clean and welcoming downtown. To keep up with what’s happening downtown, visit:


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