By the Central / Downtown District Business Coalition
Data can be a good thing. Everyone likes to have real, reliable numbers on hand to justify an argument. Unfortunately, statistics don’t always tell the whole story. Case in point: A recent report indicated that Spokane was losing its reputation as a “city of property crime”. According to data from the Spokane Police Department, property crime reports in almost all categories have declined this year.
When downtown businesses collectively shell out over $ 1 million a year for private security, you could forgive us for not joining in the celebrations just yet.
To say that the last two or three years have been a challenge is an understatement. The continuing effects of the pandemic coupled with the growing dilemma of national homelessness have left local businesses battered and bruised. Too many calls for help have gone unanswered. Many business owners have lost confidence in any answer and have stopped trying to get one.
Instead, many companies are now paying astronomical bills for security. We install cameras and security systems to deter criminals and provide our employees with personal protection devices. We hire private security personnel to respond to persistent acts of vandalism, harassment, trespassing, open drug use, and theft, among others. We have a responsibility to our employees, customers and service providers to maintain a safe environment.
Maintaining safety is a responsibility we take seriously, and it is a responsibility that is becoming more and more frustrating by the day. While statistics may show crime is declining, many downtown residents are seeing it increasing. We see tenants leaving and empty storefronts. We clean up broken windows, graffiti and drug paraphernalia. We lock down everything that could be pulled out, from dumpsters to HVAC units and electrical boxes. We sympathize with the staff and clients who are overwhelmed by disturbing and heartbreaking scenes. We have lost count in all respects.
The strategies chosen by local politicians may work through the lens of orderly statistics, but the true state of downtown Spokane tells a much different story. Now is not the time to stop and congratulate someone on a job well done. Now is the time to stop looking at the numbers and take a closer look at the condition of our neighborhoods.
As business owners, we have a habit of putting concerns aside and being told that we just don’t like the appearance of homelessness. We admit it – we don’t. No one should; everyone deserves a home. It is time to recognize that the emperor does not wear clothes. Homeless settlements are not a suitable place for human habitation. They represent a danger to the health of the vulnerable people who inhabit them. And, yes, businesses located near campsites are feeling the side effects that tend to follow their expansion: increased property crime and less foot traffic as customers and community members turn away. We owe it to our entire community to create solutions that help everyone.
Businesses are about numbers; after all, that’s often how we measure our performance and the number of jobs we create. But we would be remiss if we didn’t question our own data and examine whether it matches what we hear from our customers. If we miss a big disparity, we are putting our business at risk. If the leaders of Spokane want to believe that the city is headed in the right direction based on recent statistics, then they are missing out on a great disparity and endangering the future of our community.
Politicians and the police alone cannot solve the problems we have on the streets today.
They are far too complex and too numerous. We need to create real solutions that help people get off the streets while ensuring the economic vitality of our community. It will take a Herculean effort from all of us – government, public safety, businesses, nonprofits and more – but it has to happen now.
The time to talk is over, it is time to act.
Chris Batten, President / Managing Broker, RenCorpRealty. Tom Clemson, Owner, Cutting Tower. Craig T. Crowley, Director / COO and Mark Aden, Director, DCI Engineers. Susan Horton, CEO and President, Wheatland Bank. Kelly Risse, CEO, Physical Therapy Associates. David Coombs, President, DMC Properties. Chris Patterson, President, BreakThrough Inc. Jerry Dicker, President, GVD Properties (Montvale, Steam Plant, Ruby Suites, Ruby Hotel, Bing Crosby Theater). Gordon Hester, President and CEO, Kiemle & Hagood. Dave Black, CEO, NAI BLACK Black Realty Management Inc. Chud Wendle, Managing Member, Northtown Square. Kevin Roberts, Partner, Roberts Freebourn PLLC. Betsy Cowles, President, River Park Square. Lawrence B. Stone, President, Stone Group of Companies. Sheldon Jackson, President, Selkirk Properties and Revamp Properties. Rick Welliver, Owner, Spokane Boxing. Terry J. Goebel, Owner, TS Development and BHT Properties. Peter F. Stanton, President and CEO, Washington Trust Bank. Jack Heath, owner: The Buffalo Building, City Ramp Garage, Fire House Number 1 / B & H Enterprises and Cracker Building.