SEATTLE — Mayor Bruce Harrell was joined by a number of city and regional law enforcement officials Friday to discuss how Seattle and its partners are working to address surging crime downtown.
The news conference comes at the end of a violent and chaotic week at Third Avenue near Pike Street in the city’s retail core and just a couple of weeks after Seattle police launched a mobile precinct to address rising crime at 12th Avenue and Jackson Street.
On Friday, Harrell reiterated his vision of “One Seattle” and explained how the city is looking to not only arrest criminals in downtown but also help those dealing with drug addiction, homelessness and other issues.
“I know people out here that are unsafe. I know people here doing bad things. And it is my love for all people out here in our city to keep them safe,” Harrell said.
Harrell said the Seattle Police Department (SPD) is dedicating six officers to Third and Pike as well as a mobile precinct, which showed up after a man in his late teens to early 20s was killed in a shooting nearby.
Harrell also said that the city is partnering with the King County Sheriff’s Office to heighten safety around the bus stops throughout the corridor as well as community partners to enhance transit access and improve cleanliness at bus stops, which could lead to temporary bus stop closures in the area.
“I do not believe in a racialized or a militarized approach to anything that we do. But at the end of the day, everyone has to feel safe,” Harrell said.
SPD Interim Chief Adrian Diaz said Friday that the solutions needed along Third Avenue as well as the so-called Operation New Day 12th Avenue and Jackson Street require more than the department can provide.
“We know this work will not be accomplished immediately. It may take many months, but the one thing is certain. It cannot be done by SPD alone,” Diaz said. “We all have a lot of work to do. Let's do it right, and let's do it together.”
Arrests made on 12th Avenue and Jackson Street
Dozens of arrests have been made resulting from operations at 12th Avenue and Jackson Street and along Third Avenue, according to U.S. Attorney Nick Brown.
There have been 23 felony narcotics investigations and arrests, 25 commercial burglary arrests, seven felony gun violation arrests and 19 felony warrant arrests in the area of 12th and Jackson alone between Jan. 1 and March 3 according to data from the city.
The Special Agent in Charge for the Drug Enforcement Administration said fentanyl is driving criminal activity and commercial retail theft rings in Downtown Seattle.
Multiple suspects have been charged with distributing drugs, including fentanyl, and possessing firearms. One suspect was arrested for state charges at 12th Avenue and Jackson Street, but was released and then arrested and in possession of a firearm at Third Avenue and Pike Street a few days later.
Brown was also present at Friday’s press conference and said, “I love Seattle. Everyone here today loves this city. It is a vibrant community. It is a wonderful community. It is a community that I am raising my children in. I take the bus every day to work. I get off at Third and Pike. We can't abandon our city. We have to invest in it.”
Police Guilds, Downtown Association applaud actions by Harrell, SPD
The King County Police Officers Guild and the Seattle Police Officers Guild (SPOG) also held a press conference Friday and threw their support behind Harrell and the police department's mission.
"And that is to address our region's alarming public safety crisis that's impacting every one of us,” said SPOG President Mike Solan.
Last month, Solan wrote an open letter to Mayor Harrell saying “public safety is at a tipping point.” Today, he is applauding the Mayor for his commitment to hire more officers.
"Mayor Harrell is on the right path. He recognizes that we need more cops. We need to get back up to 1,400 cops. Right now we are under 900," said Solan.
In a statement, the Downtown Seattle Association (DSA) applauded the moves by Harrell and SPD.
“We appreciate our public leaders working together and taking action to improve safety downtown. These are important first steps. As Mayor Harrell said, it’s time to ‘reset the norms’ in parts of our downtown. The current situation is unacceptable for all who live, work and visit downtown and this threatens our continued recovery and renewal," a spokesperson said.
"What is taking place along Third Avenue should not be normalized. Organized retail theft and a deadly and highly organized drug trade are leading to violence and community harm. Community safety is the critical ingredient to downtown’s recovery," the statement read in part.