Enough is enough! Downtown Seattle is out of control
March 2, 2022
Anyone who thinks downtown Seattle doesn’t have a crime problem hasn’t talked to small business owners Olga Sagan. The owner of Piroshky Piroshky bakery, her business is one of many that have either fled downtown Seattle or, in her case, temporarily closed due to the lack of basic public safety.
Sagan’s plight is well described in a Seattle Times article earlier this week:
Last week someone was shot and injured near the bakery’s location near Third Avenue and Pike Street, Sagan said. When she tried to open the store Saturday, she found people using drugs at the entrance who refused to move. Private security couldn’t get them to relocate. She called police, she said, but no one responded. The store, which serves traditional Russian pastries, remained closed.
On Sunday afternoon, a man was shot to death around the block from the bakery. That’s when Sagan told employees she was closing the bakery and will try to find jobs for them at other locations, adding that she hopes to reopen when it is safe.
“How many shootings do we need to have to realize this is an active emergency in downtown Seattle?” she said in an interview.
If you’re asking the same question yourself, you should direct it at Councilmember Andrew Lewis, who represents downtown Seattle. Lewis was among the councilmembers to tout a controversial “Defund the Police” proposal in 2020 that would have slashed police funding by half. Prior to that, he initially advocated hiring more police officers, only to vote to shift millions of dollars that could have been used to hire more officers toward “technology projects.”
Maybe if he had voted to spend more money on police, there would have been the manpower need to respond to Olga’s pleas for help.
Councilmember Lewis needs to be told he was right the first time around.
Tell Councilmember Lewis We Need Action Now!
Contact Councilmember Lewis and demand he push for hiring more police officers!
Sagan’s tale isn’t a mere anecdote. KOMO recently reported that violent crime in Seattle increased by 20 percent between 2020-2021, and property crimes increased by nine percent.
Anti-policing rhetoric and actions taken by City Hall in recent years has demoralized officers and emboldened criminals. The consequences are felt by residents and small business owners who live and work in a community. We’ve written before about the devastating effects of petty crime. Violent crime such as murder and assault are even more destructive.
No one should fear getting shot as part of their daily routine or to the point where a business owner feels their employees are in danger. The top priority of any government must be promoting and maintaining public safety. However, Councilmember Lewis’ consideration of a proposal to gut the Seattle Police Department’s budget by half sent the exact opposite message to both criminals and law-abiding citizens.
Lewis also voted in favor of a council decision to redistribute funds from the departure of 200 police officer into other programs. According to an article by Governing, Lewis also opposed a proposal allowing the SPD to offer hiring and retention bonuses.
Police officers “undoubtedly prevent gun violence” by taking firearms off the streets and away from dangerous people, “but there are limits to what police alone can achieve,” Lewis said.
Lewis should try telling that to Sagan and others who have to deal with continual violence in downtown. Cops can’t always prevent crime, but their presence is a deterrent. More officers also means they can response faster and in greater numbers.
Mayor Bruce Harrell seems to get it, as he has called for hiring more SPD officers so they’ll have 1,400 compared to just 1,000 now.
Seattle is at a crisis point that will only worsen unless there is a serious effort to curb criminal activity. Business will leave, storefronts will remain boarded up and empty, and people will shop elsewhere. Meanwhile, illicit activities will flourish instead of economic prosperity.
Small business owners like Sagan deserve proper public safety measures from their local and state governments, and when they don’t get it they vote with their feet by moving to places that still maintain it.
One of the issues contributing to his public safety crisis is that the police department is and has been chronically understaffed. That means fewer or small patrols, longer response times to incidents, and an overall decline in officer morale.
This needs to change, now. No more fiscal shenanigans with the police budget or meaningless rhetoric, i.e. “we’re looking into.” The time for a plan and to act was well before yesterday.
Councilmember Lewis needs to make a plan to fully staff the Seattle Police Department. They must be given the flexibility to perform their job and reassurance that they will be supported when unjustly criticized or attacked.
The Seattle business community has been betrayed once by the City Council when it comes to public safety. People like Sagan deserve better than a second betrayal.
Contact Councilmember Lewis and demand he fight to fully staff the Seattle Police Department!