State's largest steel plant in West Seattle says break-ins, thefts and harassment are constant

Employees at the state's largest steel plant in West Seattle say it's hazardous doing their job, but the hazards have nothing to do with the mill itself.

The management team at Nucor Steel Seattle says they are beyond frustrated and concerned about the safety of their staff.  Some people living in an RV homeless encampment bordering their property have been terrorizing their staff and stealing from the mill, they say.

Nucor Steel’s security team is spending a lot of their time inspecting the fencing on the south side of the mill’s property.

For more than a year now, they say some people living at the encampment bordering their fence have been cutting hole after hole into the fence and breaking in.

Nucor says it has happened more than a dozen times.

"They’ve taken propane tanks, copper parts that can be sold," General Manager Matt Lyons said.

From theft to harassment, Lyons is constantly worried about the safety of the hundreds who work at the West Seattle plant.

"What’s occurring is not right, especially when it comes to the safety standpoint," Lyons said.

Things have gotten so out of control, Lyons says he and his security team received death threats from a homeless man who walked over one late morning. He says the man approached them angry and confrontational because the facility was too loud.

"We did call the police, the police arrived and had to deal with the issue," Lyons said. 

"These people have been throwing needles, feces, throwing cups of urine," a security officer said.

"We have heard from a number of our employees who literally are afraid to be working on this property," Manager Patrick Jablonski said.

Jablonski says they have reached out to the mayor’s office and council members, including Lisa Herbold who represents the area. Nucor says the response so far has been benign and disappointing. They are referred to SPD or the Find it, Fix it app.

"We feel like we’ve made every effort to contact the city," Jablonski said.

"It doesn’t seem very helpful," Lyons said.

They are looking for a long-term solution because in the short term, they’ve called SPD dozens of times. 

The ongoing problem is not just impacting Nucor but many other constituents nearby.

Jablonski say neighbors living and working in the area have come to Nucor asking if they can walk the fence along their property to see if they can spot their stolen items at the RV encampment.

The Mayor’s Office says the pandemic has led to an increased visibility of homelessness in every neighborhood. A spokesperson for Durkan released a statement and it reads in part: 

"With an estimated 4,000 people living outdoors, including in vehicles and RVs, the City of Seattle simply cannot solve this crisis alone. As we move forward with the ramp-up of the King County Regional Homelessness Authority, new programs and initiatives will be developed to help address these complex challenges as a region. Including Mayor’s 2022 proposed budget investments, the City of Seattle will have invested over $337 million over a two-year period on strategies to address homelessness and our investment only scratches the surface of the level of need. We need significant and continued investment from our partners across all levels of government to address this regional problem, that has substantial impacts on our city, at the scale and scope required. 

As part of the 2022 budget, Mayor Durkan has proposed ongoing funding to engage RV dwellers to solicit their voluntary compliance removing belongings, and debris from public rights-of-way, to facilitate trash removal around vehicles and if necessary, manage the storage of personal belongings. This is in addition to the ongoing work of the RV remediation and purple bag encampment trash removal programs, and wastewater disposal ongoing for more than a year at this site."

A spokesperson for the council got back to FOX 13 Wednesday night. 

They shared an email exchange between Herbold's office and a constituent who was concerned about the same RV encampment.

 In the email, the office explained that the 72 hour parking ordinance was suspended due to the pandemic. They say Herbold raised concerns with an SPD captain noting the reports of criminal activity that people have shared with her. 

In another part of the email, Herbold's office said this.

"Councilmember Herbold has long advocated for the City to establish RV safe lots, where RV owners may safely park their vehicles and access services. In June, Councilmember Herbold joined her colleagues in approving the Seattle Rescue Plan, which included $500,000 to establish a pilot safe lot program. CM Herbold sponsored a successful amendment that expands the use of that funding, so that the City can safely store RVs for owners who accept referrals into shelter or housing. Folks living in RVs may worry that their RV could be stolen, impounded or fall into disrepair if they accept a referral into shelter or housing that would require them to leave it behind. Storing their RV temporarily while they move indoors can help those who fear losing their biggest asset, which has also doubled as a safe and secure home. Unfortunately the Executive branch of city government hasn’t implemented this."

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