SEATTLE – Business owners and residents gathered in Seattle’s Greenwood neighborhood to discuss public safety.
Politicians and police answered their questions at the event organized by the Taproot Theater Company.
“I think tonight is about listening more than anything. It’s about hearing why this problem exists, why it’s taking so long to deal with it and how we can deal with it safely,” said the event organizer and Taproot Theater employee Karen Lund.
Monday’s event was billed as a public meeting and drew a capacity crowd, but at the last minute media cameras were not allowed in and the press were asked to leave the theater. The media blackout lasted 48 minutes, during which time reporters were allowed to listen but not record until the meeting ended at 7:30 p.m.
Inside the town hall, a lieutenant from the Seattle Police Department (SPD), Seattle Council Member Dan Strauss, Representative Noel Frame and a representative from the Low Income Housing Institute answered questions and listened to concerns
Resident after resident expressed concern about what is technically considered “minor crime” in the area. This includes littering on the sidewalk, tents on public property and what they describe as rampant drug use in public.
“I think a lot of people are saying the same thing. We want answers to public concerns and instead we’re just going around in circles,” said Sheri Young, mother of a 3-year-old boy. “They’re prioritizing homeless people taking over our parks over kids.”
Rob Pickering owns Snapdoodle Toys in Greenwood.
“They’re smoking fentanyl on a daily basis, on three sides of the toy store and Bartels and the police won’t come out unless there’s somebody with a gun or an assault,” he said.
There was no one-size-fits-all solution to these complaints. Councilman Strauss pointed to the work of the city’s Unified Care Team, a group that does outreach and helps clean up homeless encampments.
“It’s difficult in two minutes to be able to say ‘every week I bring together all the departments that touch on this issue,'” Strauss said.
Strauss said he needs actionable input from residents so he can make an impact.
“This is what has started here, it clearly didn’t start soon enough and it will continue until we address the safety issues that are coming up in this community,” he said.
SPD data shows an overall increase in violent crime in the Greenwood neighborhood each month in 2022 compared to 2021. January is the only exception.