Some Seattle business owners are at their breaking point over crime
SEATTLE - Pioneer Square business owner Hamza Albadan is at his breaking point and not mincing words.
"They are a bunch of idiots running this gorgeous city," Hamza Albadan said.
He immigrated to Seattle to live out his American dream that now sits near South Main and 2nd Ave Ext.
"I think we got to be out of business soon," Albadan said.
He’s on the cusp of possibly shutting down Main Street Gyros after 17 years. Albadan said it’s not over the pandemic, but Seattle city politics and its handling of crime and homelessness.
"They are like prostituting in it, in front of everyone, with people waiting in line," Albadan said.
The restaurant owner said for many months, he witnessed not just prostitution but drug deals going on at some of the tents just across the street.
Hamza Albadan (Q13 News photo)
On Tuesday, Q13 News was at the same spot following along as a wheelchair-dependent woman showed us how hard it was to get around the tents sitting on sidewalks near South Main.
But for business owners, the problem has been way more than access issues.
"We have wonderful homeless, but this is not homeless. This is criminal people; they are mixing the homeless with criminal people," Albadan said.
Now there is finally evidence captured by Seattle police backing what Albadan has been witnessing.
On Tuesday, Seattle police arrested three men for running a criminal enterprise under the covers of the tents.They seized various narcotics including cocaine, heroin and nearly 140 grams of meth.
Cash and weapons were also confiscated.
"I can’t run a business with a bunch of tents in front of your store, it's impossible," Daniel Carrillo said.
Carrillo owns Gallery Frames. He says criminals are now exploiting the city’s leniency on homeless tents that are allowed to pop up and stay anywhere.
Business owners say this problem is a reoccurring nightmare and they want long-term solutions from city leaders, including Seattle City Council member Andrew Lewis, who represents Pioneer Square.
"You will have to talk to the police department or the mayor on what the long-term strategy is going to be in that corridor but what I would really like to see is that we make sure that Just Care, the Just Care program is renewed and expanded because currently it’s on hiatus," Lewis said.
Lewis is pushing for Just Care, a new program to engage and help the homeless.
"That system has been really effective. There are 124 people that have mostly been removed from Pioneer Square and put into wrap-around services that Just Care provides," Lewis said.
Lewis says he understands the frustration over the decline of Pioneer Square and he is consistently talking to business owners.
Seattle City Councilman Andrew Lewis (Q13 News photo)
"There are these tents that are being used for shelter, a lot of them call them enterprise tents, they are concealing criminal enterprise," Lewis said.
"You see illegal activity, deal with it then. Don’t let it get to the point where you have to have a huge bust," Carrillo said.
Hamza says it’s infuriating that it took so long to remove the tents from the sidewalk even with all the criminal activity going on.
"They city is tying the police’s hands. They cannot do anything about it," Albadan said.
On Wednesday, the tents were gone and people from the Pioneer Square community came out to paint over the graffiti where the tents used to be.
But it may not be enough to appease some business owners who say they are looking to leave Pioneer Square.
Both Carrillo and Albadan say the tents will be back and so will the crime. They’ve been dealing with the cycle since way before the pandemic started.
"When you have been having this business for 17 years and you lose it because of a couple of people who run the city and they don’t know what they are talking about it, of course we are going to be so angry," Albadan said.
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Although the raid happened outside his business, Albadan says crime is a growing problem all over Pioneer Square.
He says it’s become so bad that many delivery drivers are now telling him they won’t pick up food at his place because of safety concerns.
"Come 6 p.m. here people are scared to walk," Albadan said.
Beneath all the anger, there is a lot of sadness for Albadan, who says Seattle to him used to be the most beautiful city.