Public safety leaders to discuss crime affecting business in southwest King County

Crime in western Washington is causing some business owners to close up shop while others that remain open are left to deal with the dangers of the uptick in criminal activity.

The Seattle Southside Chamber of Commerce is working to address the concerns by bringing area public safety leaders and community members to the table to discuss the issues affecting business and potential resources to resolve them.

"Obviously, public safety is an issue that’s top of mind for our members. And this event is intended to make those introductions, provide those resources and connect our community with the public safety departments that are serving our region," said Annie McGrath, president and CEO of Seattle Southside Chamber of Commerce.

The chamber represents businesses in Burien, Des Moines, Normandy Park, SeaTac and Tukwila. On Oct. 19, the group will host its first regional Public Safety Roundtable with leaders from each city in hopes of finding new solutions to the shared problems they are facing.

"Public safety is economic development. And in order to enhance our region, enrich our communities we need to cultivate a safe space for businesses to thrive just for the economic vitality of our communities," said Sammie Le, executive vice president of the Seattle Southside Chamber of Commerce. "We want to bring everybody to the table and talk about shared trends, and how each city is approaching each trend and resources that the business community can use."

Todd Morrell, Burien Police Department’s acting chief, will be one of the participants in the public safety roundtable. He said he hopes community members listening to the discussion will learn the importance of filing a report.

"People are frustrated. Businesses are frustrated and that sometimes manifests into underreporting. And frustration is valid. ‘Why call the police? Nothing is going to happen? They aren’t going to do anything anyway.’ That underreporting actually has downstream effects. It affects how I deploy my resources, it affects the crime stats," said Morrell. "It furthers victimization because if we don’t know when and where something is happening, it’s very hard to mount a strategic approach to rectify those issues."


South King County mayors blast county, state officials over recent crime surge

The mayors of several South King County cities penned a letter decrying the recent surge in crime, urging county and state officials to do something about it.

Tyler Steed, a technician at Meineke in Des Moines, said the auto shop is going through a tough time due to growing issues of homelessness and open drug use.

"Last year if you would have asked me how we were doing here, I could have told you that we were a million-dollar store because we were at that point. Now it’s gone really downhill," said Steed. 

The shop is located on Pacific Highway South, a growing hub for criminal activity. At one point, Des Moines Police Department launched emphasis patrols on the highway in an effort to reduce crime.

Steed said that pen drug use occurs regularly, sometimes in front of customers. 

"I’ve seen people hitting the foil just standing in the middle of our parking lot. Needs to be changed. That needs to go away," said Steed. "Probably every other day I’m chasing somebody out of our dumpster. Not even just being in the dumpster diving, they’re just behind the dumpster doing drugs. And everyone can see it, they can smell it."

The business community in southwest King County is dealing with similar public safety challenges. It’s also happening across western Washington and the state.

"We know that the individual cities that we serve are not alone in the challenges and opportunities that they face. So, providing this platform for everyone to have this dialogue is something that we’re uniquely positioned to be able to do," said McGrath.

"We’re not alone in this. We all experience this and we’re all proactively working hard to keep our communities safe," said Le.

The Seattle Southside Chamber of Commerce’s Public Safety Roundtable is from 7-8:30 p.m. Wednesday, October 19 on Zoom and is free to participate. Registration is available on the chamber’s website.