Below is a letter from a local resident and business owner, concerned about the increase in violent crime in the neighborhood. Please read through the email and add your voice of support to the neighborhood.
Friends and Neighbors,
Pioneer Square has been fortunate over this past year to see a great many new businesses and exciting changes happening in our beautiful neighborhood. Most of these changes have come as a result of hard work by many people all working together towards the goal of making this neighborhood something special. Unfortunately, I am not writing this letter to celebrate those accomplishments but rather to make a call yet again to each and every one of you to please help one more time.
Many of you may already know that I sit on the West Precinct Advisory Committee (WESTPAC). For those of you who do not know, it is a Citizens Advisory Committee that connects with the Seattle Police Department (SPD) to make them aware of neighborhood issues. I am contacting all of you to make a plea for you each to make a commitment to call 911 each and every time you see or hear anything out of the ordinary. SPD uses a great deal of data driven programs and algorithms that are all based on 911 calls.
Recently there have been a lot of police arrests in the International District in an effort to deal with the wide spread gang problems they are facing. It would be pure speculation on my part but I fear those gangs may start to become even more active in our neighborhood. Pioneer Square has a disproportionately smaller number of residents compared to other parts of the city. We all need to act as 10 citizens in order to get the response we need from SPD. Even if the incident you witness is over, call 911 to report what you saw and give as much details as possible.
These past months have seen a starling rise in violent crimes within Pioneer Square, specifically gun and gang related violence. This most recent double shooting in Occidental Park comes on the heels of a violent group fight that also resulted in a man being shot in that same park and is only 5 weeks from the shooting at Union Gospel Mission.
All of this does not include many unreported and/or under reported violent incidents within Pioneer Square in recent weeks. Underreported? An example of that would be an incident that I witnessed just hours before the violent group fight mentioned above.
I was walking my dogs along 1st Ave S and as I turned onto S. Jackson I heard 3 clear gunshots from a vehicle. The vehicle was firing upon another vehicle as they both turned on Occidental from S. Jackson. I did not see a gun nor could I identify the vehicles as it happened so unexpectedly. I did get my dogs to cover (yes dogs first). I did however smell the gun smoke and have enough experience with small firearms to know it was gunshots. The police responded rather quickly but without sirens or lights as the 911 call only reported a “disturbance” and mentioned nothing about guns.
I found myself standing on the corner of Occidental and Jackson with my dogs, another neighbor who had made the call, and another business owner. We talked with the police about what happened. Less than two hours later, a fight and shooting happened not 2 blocks away. This incident involved a music promoter that was working at Club Volume.
As a small business owner and someone who has worked as a bartender in many clubs, I do not make a habit of calling the head of a business. However, Club Volume has been under the Liquor Control Board and City “probation” for some time now. For those of you living near Club Volume this call to duty is especially needed. The choices those business owners have made to work with promoters that have reputations for attracting gang elements has put them on that list and now those decisions are putting us at risk. It is especially important that citizens in that area of Pioneer Square call 911 no matter how trivial the issue may seem. It is the best chance we have to change or close Club Volume.
My next WESTPAC meeting is this coming Wed 12/11. I would appreciate if those of you that have witnessed criminal activity or simply wish to make your voice heard would take the time to write a letter. I will bring your letters with me to the meeting to be given to Captain Dermody. I have included my email address so you can send your letters directly to me. We all need to be vigilant and work together as I am very concerned by the recent trend of criminal activity. I am sure you all are as well.
If you want to email Mike with your concerns/thoughts, you can reach him at MikeK@gcrestaurants.com
From Seattle PD:
One man was seriously wounded in a shooting inside the Union Gospel Mission today. Shortly before 11:45 AM, police received reports of a shooting at the Mission, near 2nd Avenue and Washington St.
The gunman, a man believed to be in his 70s, shot the victim twice before he was arrested at the scene. The victim, believed to be in his 40s, was taken to Harborview with life-threatening injuries.
In the wake of last week’s stabbing, the Seattle Police Department has posted a good list of safety tips:
- When out and about, walk alertly, confidently and pay attention to your surroundings; avoid “automatic pilot” and electronic distractions.
- Trust your instincts: pay attention to the uncomfortable feelings that often warn you of potential danger.
- Use common sense; plan your route to avoid dark places and alleyways. Stick to well-lit areas.
- Develop a plan before you see trouble. Crossing a street or entering a store may get you out of a potentially bad situation.
- Carry your purse very close to you preferable with the strap over your shoulder and the purse to the front of your body. Don’t dangle it from your arm.
- If you see anything suspicious or something that is potential or actual criminal activity, call 911 and be a good witness from a safe distance.
- Don’t compromise your personal safety.
Last April, after Nicole Westbrook was senselessly shot and killed in Pioneer Square, I was interviewed about whether or not I still felt safe in my neighborhood. My answer was that it didn’t really change my level of safety in Pioneer Square (and in downtown in general). I felt that there were inherent risks you took when living in a downtown city.
One of the benefits of living in Pioneer Square is the close proximity to the stadiums. It’s an easy commute to the game, but it also makes our apartment a post-game gathering place to re-watch highlights from the Sounders game, or mourn a Mariners loss together. Last Friday, after the game, we hosted such a gathering, which was interrupted after reports that two people had been stabbed one block from our apartment. We spent the next hour, watching for updates on twitter to see if we could get more details – had they been at the game, or was it a drug deal gone wrong; did anyone survive; was the suspect arrested, etc.
Intrigue in the incident quickly turned to sadness when we learned that they had indeed been at the Sounders game and were just making their way through the neighborhood. The male victim, a local college professor, died of the injuries sustained after trying to intervene when the suspect began stabbing his companion. Any stabbing or shooting is awful, but it feels much worse when there appears to be no motive, and when you can put yourself in the shoes of the victims. We had just been at the game. We had just walked down that street to get home. It could have been us.
I started this blog over four years ago in an effort to dispel the negative perceptions that seem to constantly linger in this neighborhood. When people ask me about the struggles that we face in Pioneer Square, my reaction is always to try and let them know about the many amazing things in this neighborhood – the amazing architecture, the small neighborhood feel, the proximity to transit, the inexpensive rent. I try to look at these struggles as small bumps in the road to this neighborhood reaching its full potential.
But I have to be honest – this latest incident has really shaken me. I walk this neighborhood every day with my husband and 1 year old daughter. We visit friends, go to restaurants, walk in the park. But I don’t feel as comfortable out on the street anymore. I still feel that this neighborhood has tremendous potential. We have so much going for us – new restaurants, new residential buildings, new energy.
But something needs to change.
The City and police need to work together with the City Attorney to make the tough decisions that enable residents to feel safe in their own neighborhood. Areas like Occidental Square Park are now taken over by groups that camp out there all day and night. Kids that used to play around the firemen statues are too nervous to because of the loitering that takes place there. This park is no longer a park for everyone.
Let this be the wake-up call the City needs to make some real changes. The residents of downtown Seattle deserve to see that the City is willing to take a hard line on the issues that lead to public safety concerns. Local businesses need to be shown that the City is making a commitment to Downtown neighborhoods; that they will do whatever needs to be done to support them and the members of our community who choose to shop, work, and live in Pioneer Square.
Because right now, I don’t feel safe in the place that I am usually proud to call home.
I saw a crowd gathered on the corner of 2nd and Washington this morning, so curiosity got the best of me and I peered around the corner to see lights flashing.
People were saying that someone had been shot, which was confirmed by a quick twitter search. Seattle Times reports:
A man was shot in the face this morning in Pioneer Square and the shooter has not been caught, according to a tweet from the Seattle Police Department just after 6 a.m.
The victim was alert and conscious, police said, and taken to Harborview Medical Center.
The shooting took place just outside of the Union Gospel Mission at the corner of 3rd and Washington. The area is roped off and police are still on sight.
EVENT: Safe Communities Meeting – West Precinct
DATE: October 18th from 7 – 9 PM
LOCATION: Belltown Community Center — 415 Bell Street
You are invited to participate in a community conversation hosted by the West Precinct regarding your safety concerns.
Per The Mayor’s Website:
The Mayor’s Office and the Seattle Police Department are working together on the Safe Communities Outreach Mission. Part of the SPD 20/20 Plan, Safe Communities seeks to ensure the City is meeting our goal of reducing crime and creating the safest possible neighborhoods. We will do that by bringing residents and officers together in living rooms, cafes, barber shops and community centers across Seattle to develop a list of priorities to address community concerns. Those priorities will then guide the actions the City, SPD, and the neighborhoods will take together to protect public safety. We are committed to building safe communities.
We’re looking forward to hearing your ideas and developing an action plan with you.
You may register by visiting: http://www.seattle.gov/safe
Kicking Off Safe Communities:http://mayormcginn.seattle.gov/kicking-off-safe-communities
Two fellow residents of recent Pioneer Square shooting victim Nicole Westbrook are organizing are candle light vigil for her this Saturday at 8pm outside of the Quintessa apartments.
Although she was a member of the neighborhood and the Quintessa apartments for only a short time, they want to bring everyone together as a community and have a moment of silence in her memory.
As posted on the SPD Blotter:
The Seattle Police Department needs the public’s help in finding the person who indiscriminately opened fire in Pioneer Square Sunday morning, seriously wounding 21-year-old Nicole Westbrook.
Westbrook and her boyfriend were walking home from a comedy club after 2 am on April 22, when a white car rolled past them on 2nd Avenue and Yesler Way. Someone in the car fired several shots out into the street, striking Westbrook in her neck. Patrol officers arrived on scene within 20 seconds and gave Westbrook CPR until medics arrived a short time later. She is currently in critical condition at Harborview.
Go to the SPD blotter to see the surveillance video and to see photos of the suspects.
If you witnessed Sunday’s shooting or have information about the vehicle or suspects involved the incident, please contact the Seattle Police Department’s violent crimes hotline at (206) 233-5000.
Pioneer Square’s community police officer, Officer Chad McLaughlin, emailed me to say that it doesn’t matter how trivial the information seems, but that if anyone has heard even rumors about what happened, that it would be useful to reach out to them.
Here is Officer McLaughlin’s info:
What needs to happen for Fortson Square to finally become a safe, welcoming place to be?
On New Year’s Day, two Pioneer Square residents were brutally attacked after confronting drug dealers blocking the entrance to their apartment building adjacent to Fortson Square (2nd Ave + Yesler). Multiple calls to police regarding the drug activity were unanswered, which, unfortunately, is understandable, given that it was New Year’s Eve and — what’s new? There’s always drug deals happening in Fortson Square.
Regardless, what happened in the square that morning, and what basically what happens every single day, is not acceptable. I live next door to where the attack happened, in an apartment building above the Chief Seattle Club (CSC) and the Lazarus Day Center. Although we have never had problems with the CSC, we routinely have problems with the men who utilize the services of the Lazarus Day Center, and the drug dealers who prey on them.
There is a Seattle PI article from three years ago that talked about the very problems caused by the Lazarus Day Center and the men who loiter on the corner of 2nd & Yesler. The sad part is that everything in that article is still true today:
He thought the brand new studio apartment a couple of floors up was a bargain for $900 a month, but it’s no longer worth dodging the drug sellers and buyers outside the front door each time he goes to walk his dog.
“It’s the same people on the same corner every day,” he said, standing inside the building’s glass entry watching drug deals made and crack pipes passed around right outside the window.
And don’t forget about the article in 2006 where Harbor Loft residents put up a banner facing Fortson Square, welcoming people to the local open-air drug market:
A group of residents is meeting with the mayor’s office this week to talk about the issues faced in Fortson Square in particular. They have also set up an internal website to share information and resources with one another and are determined to make a difference. In a letter to the Mayor by one of the residents who was attacked, he stated:
This is not how anyone should have to live and I am sick of being told it is our fault for living in a bad neighborhood! Pioneer Square could be a great neighborhood with vision, leadership and support. There are lots of great people working really hard down here to make this place a wonderful place to live and work, but I don’t think we are getting the support we need from the city. I fear for Pioneer Square as rising unemployment brings more people of need at higher risk into the missions, in a neighborhood already ripe with increasing storefront closures. We could see a larger pool of poor and underemployed people becoming victimized by the drug dealers whom act with impunity on our streets.
We know that the police get it — they’re constantly watching that corner, and even made 27 significant arrests of the most problematic drug dealers. But what more can they do? You take one off the street, and two more pop up in their place.
And now, after years and years of drug dealers on this corner, two residents were actually attacked. Is this what it takes for change to happen? What will it take for other residents to get involved? Or for the Mayor’s office to finally listen?
Due to Halloween festivities, I didn’t come home to Pioneer Square until around 8pm, at which point, huge areas on 2nd and 3rd were cordoned off with police tape, and filled with police officers and SWAT vehicles:
According to SPD Blotter:
On October 31st at approximately 5:08 p.m. the Seattle Police Communications Center received 911 calls reporting shots fired in the area of 3rd Avenue and Yesler Way. Officers on patrol were already in the area and heard the shots but were unable to determine where they came from. Officers then located a female victim in the 500 block of 3rd Avenue who had sustained a gunshot wound to the leg.
The victim, a woman in her 50′s, was transported to an area hospital for treatment of her non-life-threatening injuries.
While responding officers gathered information and searched for suspect(s) the SWAT team was called to the scene. Initial information indicated that the shots may have come from an apartment complex in the 200 block of Yesler Way. Officers surrounded the building and the SWAT team made entry.
While SWAT officers conducted their search of the building they interviewed several residents who heard the shots. The residents told officers that they believed the shots came from outside the building. One possible person of interest, a 56-year-old male, was interviewed and released. Upon completion of the building search, no suspects and no firearms were located.
The suspect(s) remain at large.
Approximately 30 minutes prior to this incident officers responded to the same area for reports of shots fired. Responding officers were unable to locate any suspects or victims and did not hear any shots while patrolling the area.
While investigating the second incident it was discovered that a bullet had been shot through a window on a building in the 400 block of 5th Avenue. Nobody was injured in that incident, nor has it been determined from where the shot was fired.
Anyone with information about any of these incidents or who may know the identities or whereabouts of the suspect(s) is asked to call 911 or Seattle Police immediately and refer to these incidents. Anonymous tips are welcome.
This remains an active and on-going investigation.