SEATTLE - It's being called the perfect storm. Crime and violence have plagued City Hall Park in downtown Seattle, leading a county councilmember to spearhead an effort to condemn the property over safety concerns.
Murder, assaults and drug trafficking in an adjacent park threatens the safety of people working inside the King County Courthouse, says councilmember Reagan Dunn.
"The reality is that it’s turned into a war zone," Dunn said.
What is supposed to be a place where victims find justice has turned into a hotbed of crime, said Dunn.
"The courthouse is the people’s courthouse, not the thug’s courthouse," he added.
Dunn says the county recorded an 86 percent increase in the murder rate, plus one person was stabbed to death just days ago inside City Hall Park.
The park is directly south of the county seat. Once the state fully opens, so does the courthouse meaning even more people will have to navigate around potential danger.
"People are going to start using the courthouse again," said Dunn. "According to our elected prosecutor, we have 2-5 assaults per week outside the courthouse."
"She’d cuddle up and wrap her arms around my neck," said John Hickey, sharing photos of his late pet dog.
Pictures and memories are all he has left of his best buddy Alice. She was killed when a walk turned into an attempted robbery. Q13 News first shared their heartbreaking story near the beginning of June. Alice was attacked by the stranger and John held her in his arms when she took her last breath.
City Hall Park is owned by the city and patrolled by Seattle Police officers. Condemning it could allow the county to take control of the property and patrol it with deputies.
Adding to the crisis, says Dunn, is a drastic reduction of law enforcement officers on the beat in both the city and county. What’s at stake is the safety of the rest of King County’s population who needs to conduct business in downtown Seattle.
Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan’s office said the city has worked with county officials for years to improve safety at City Hall Park. Plus, $7.5 million was approved by Seattle City Council this week to help address homelessness in the park through the next year.
Durkan’s office said it would follow Dunn’s legislation as it works its way through the county council.
Durkan's full response follows below:
The City of Seattle has been working with the County for a number of years to address issues present at the park by the courthouse. Due to its close proximity to the County Courthouse, the City has been engaging regularly with the County to find collaborative ways to improve public safety at this park, and supported additional resources in public safety at the Courthouse.
As passed by City Council yesterday, the City has committed $7.5 million for a total of $15 million to King County to allow for sufficient resources to addressing homelessness at City Hall Park and Pioneer Square over the next year. These funds will be implemented in the weeks to come through King County.
Over the past several years, the City, County, and Courts has taken measures to address public safety at this park and will be increasing those efforts as additional funding for the courts and homelessness is available, including:
- Efforts to address the criminal legal system;
- Efforts in both 2018 and 2019 to improve safety by adding lighting, trimming trees, and investing in park activities; and,
- Emphasis patrols in and around the area.
Also, Since March 25, the HOPE Team, in partnership with outreach providers such as REACH, JustCARE, UGM, Seattle Indian Center, and the DESC/PHSKC Street Medicine Team, have made 17 referrals to shelter from the Park and general vicinity. This includes 12 referrals to new hotel-based enhanced shelter resources.
Finally, as the County Council is likely aware, Initiative 42 places restrictions on giving away Seattle park property. The City will continue to watch this legislation as it makes its way through County Council.
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