SEATTLE — Businesses owners and residents gathered in Seattle’s Greenwood neighborhood to discuss public safety.
Politicians and police fielded their questions at the event organized by the Taproot Theatre Company.
“I think tonight is about listening more than anything. It’s about hearing why it is that this problem exists, why it takes so long to deal with it and how we can deal with it safely,” said event organizer and Taproot Theatre employee Karen Lund.
Monday’s event was billed as a public meeting and drew a capacity crowd but at the last moment, media cameras were not allowed in and the press was asked to exit the theater. That media blackout lasted for 48 minutes, where at that point, reporters were allowed to listen in but not record until the meeting ended at 7:30 p.m.
Inside the town hall, a Seattle Police Department (SPD) lieutenant, Seattle Council Member Dan Strauss, Representative Noel Frame and a representative from the Low Income Housing Institute fielded questions and listened to concerns.
Resident after resident voiced concern over what’s technically considered “petty crime” in the area. That includes trash 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 getting circles,” said Sheri Young a mother of a 3-year-old boy. “They’re prioritizing homeless people taking over our parks more than children.”
Rob Pickering owns Snapdoodle Toys in Greenwood.
“On a daily basis they are smoking fentanyl, on three sides of the toy store and Bartels and the police will not come out unless there is someone with a gun or an assault,” he said.
There was no one solution for these complaints. Councilmember Strauss pointed to the work of the city’s Unified Care team – a group which does outreach and helps clean homeless encampments.
“It is hard in two minutes to be able to say ‘every week I bring together every department that touches this issue’,” Strauss said.
Strauss said he needs actionable information from residents so he can make an impact.
“That’s what has started here, it clearly did not start soon enough and it’s going to continue until we address the safety issues appearing in this community,” he said.
SPD data does show an overall increase in violent crime in the Greenwood neighborhood every month in 2022 compared to 2021. January is the only exception.