Seattle Downtown Businesses Urge City Council to Improve Security, Tackle ‘Rampant’ Crime

The Downtown Seattle Association wants elected officials to invest more in public safety and mental health services to help downtown businesses.

SEATTLE – As Seattle City Council develops next year’s budget, a group of downtown businesses and organizations are urging elected officials to invest more in public safety and mental health services.

“Certain areas at the heart of the retail trade and the artistic and cultural core have been taken over for shoplifting and drug trafficking operations. Retail theft is rampant and organized shutdowns cost retailers millions of dollars in stolen goods and additional expense for increased security, ”the Downtown Seattle Association (DSA) wrote in a letter to City Council. Seattle and King County Council.

“Put simply, the current systems, programs, responses and interventions are inadequate and ineffective to address these problems,” the letter’s signatories wrote.

They call on city council to support Mayor Jenny Durkan’s investments in public safety and housing in the proposed budget for 2022, including increasing police personnel, building new housing, expanding the Health One program. and increasing the number of community service workers.

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The DSA is also asking the city council to establish a subsidy program to help businesses and sites pay for private security.

“An arts organization that I know of spends an extra $ 30,000 a month on security, and that’s money that isn’t going to their staff or to promoting and marketing events to attract clients,” said Jon Scholes, President and CEO of DSA.

The city council is in the process of drafting the budget for next year.

“My Council colleagues and I will propose a significant and strategic increase in behavioral health crisis response beyond what the mayor has proposed to create an emergency crisis response for the whole city – including the center – city, “said Council member Dan Strauss, responding to the letter.

“With the King County Regional Homelessness Authority beginning its intensive work in the heart of our city in the short term, I have no doubts that we will see a significant change downtown.

“At the same time, until we have people working in the city center, I am not sure of the success of retail businesses, because the economic activity of the city center is based on people working in offices, because the heart of the city lacks residential towers, ”said Strauss.

Council member Andrew Lewis, who represents downtown and Pioneer Square, also responded.

“I want to express my gratitude to these leaders for presenting thoughtful recommendations for dealing with the public safety crisis in downtown Seattle,” Lewis said. “There is a significant overlap between the Council’s 2021 budget priorities and the goals of this letter, including a fully funded police recruiting course and investment in the innovative JustCARE program. This fall we must consider building on these investments in the 2022 budget, and these elements deserve our full consideration. ”

Jeanne Kohl-Welles, who sits on King County Council, said the city has primary jurisdiction over public safety in downtown Seattle.

Kohl-Welles is sponsoring legislation so that the council can potentially acquire and oversee the security of the City Hall grounds, which is adjacent to the county offices and the courthouse.

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