Why Thieves Love Seattle
Businesses describe how criminals operate with impunity.By The Wall Street Journal
Feb. 15, 2022 6:54 pm ET
Seattle Police investigate a shooting in Pioneer Square near Trinity nightclub where multiple people were shot early Sunday morning, July 25, 2021, in Seattle.Democrats elsewhere may be fleeing the defund the police movement, but it lives on in Seattle. Business owners told the City Council last week what the resulting breakdown in law and order means in daily life, and it deserves more attention. Wednesday’s hearing came days after the Seattle Police Department released its 2021 year-end crime report, which showed a 20% surge in violent crime to the highest levels in 14 years. Aggravated assaults rose 24% in 2021 from 2020, and robberies 18%.
The official statistics show a 9% increase in property crime, but business owners testified that the real numbers are much higher. Many victims no longer bother to call the cops. Responses to 911 calls can take hours, and criminals are released soon after they're arrested. Businesses say they fear their insurance costs will spike if they report what's really going.
Seattle’s soft-on-criminals policy predates 2020, but after the murder of George Floyd the City Council voted two years in a row to cut police funding. Since Jan. 1, 2020, some 357 cops have retired or quit. It’s nearly impossible to recruit officers to work in a city infamous for its hostility to the police.
The lawlessness now hampers Seattle’s economic recovery. “Major employers signal that it’s not the pandemic that’s keeping them away, but it is their ability to keep their employees safe," testified Lisa Howard, executive director of the nonprofit Alliance for Pioneer Square.
Tariqa Waters said crime has forced her to open her art gallery by appointment only. “My building has been broken into multiple times. My personal health and safety has been put on the line more times than I can count removing human waste and needles,” she said. “I’ve also been threatened with racial slurs and assault weapons.”
Dan Austin, owner of Peel and Press pizzeria, described two break-ins since May 2020 that cost his business $22,000. In one incident, the criminal was out on bail when he broke into Mr. Austin’s restaurant, was released again, and went on to burglarize others. “It’s just repetitive,” he testified. “Every time I watched another business get victimized, I felt re-victimized.” Mr. Austin said in an interview that he also discovered that someone was camping out under the wooden deck at Peel and Press. He called the police, but “they literally said, ‘No, we can’t handle it until you've told him to leave and he’s refused,’” Mr. Austin recalled.
Erin Goodman, executive director of the SODO Business Improvement Area, described how one local business has “been broken into more than 20 times in a single month.” The testimony revealed business desperation, but don’t expect help from Seattle’s politicians. In response to a business owner’s question about how to address gun violence, City Council President Debora Juarez said, “I don’t have an answer for you” about “what’s going to happen to stop people from getting a gun and coming into your store.”
She admitted that black Seattle residents want some assurance of safety. But she added that “to be frank with you, I don’t also believe that hiring way more police or addressing every issue with a gun and a badge works either. Because we know who gets affected the worst. It’s people of color. They get killed.”
In other words, as criminals terrorize Seattle, its leaders still think police are the problem. The lawlessness will persist until Seattle voters stage a revolt.