200+ frustrated businesses, neighbors sign letter calling for downtown Seattle safety reform

SEATTLE — More than 200 downtown businesses, organizations and neighbors signed a letter that was sent to Seattle and King County leadership Tuesday, expressing frustration about crime and calling for reforms to “permanently take back Third Avenue from the open drug market,” following last month’s deadly shooting that claimed the life of a woman and injured seven others, including a child.

The letter, which called the shooting “avoidable,” said Third Avenue has been taken over by criminal activity. Separately, a private vigil was held Tuesday evening at Plymouth Housing, where shooting victim Tanya Jackson lived, the same day two of the shooting suspects appeared in a Las Vegas courtroom awaiting extradition.

“We urge you to immediately develop an aggressive safety strategy for downtown,” the letter states. “We call on you to reform current practices and policies.”

Greg Smith, who lives downtown and owns a business here, said he signed the letter and has recently voiced his concerns to city leadership publicly, along with other downtown business owners.

“It’s like the city and the county have said the streets are the jail,” said Smith. “You don’t want to be able to walk outside and worry about your family.”

Smith said he’s seen firsthand how criminals downtown don’t respect law enforcement or fear the consequences of breaking the law.

“It’s past a tipping point and I think you’re going to see decisions made by businesses and residents who say I’ve had it and some people are going to leave,” said Smith. “And some people are going to stand up and fight for their rights and I think that’s what you’re seeing now with this letter.”

The Downtown Seattle Association told KIRO 7 the initial letter was signed by 175 people and additional names were added throughout the day Tuesday, as more people wanted to voice their concerns about downtown safety.

“The site of the shooting two weeks ago really is the worst kept secret in Seattle,” said Downtown Seattle Association President and CEO Jon Scholes. “It’s been an active drug market for decades; it fuels violent crime, shoplifting, assault, and we need to shut it down. Enough is enough.”

Smith said he’s now exploring what can be done legally to force action from the city and county in dealing with downtown crime.

“Talk is what we’ve done,” said Smith. “Talk is cheap.”

The letter lists the King County Prosecutor, King County Executive, Seattle City Council, King County Council, Seattle Mayor, Seattle City Attorney, Seattle Police Chief and King County Sheriff as recipients.

KIRO 7 reached out to all of them for a response to the letter.

A spokesperson for Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan released the following statement:

“Mayor Durkan, Chief Best, DSA, downtown businesses, and residents share the same goal, we all want residents, workers, and visitors to feel safe in every neighborhood where they live, work, and spend time with their families. The Mayor and Chief Best want the individuals who committed these crimes to be held fully accountable. They have also met with stakeholders to take additional steps to make long-term progress in this area.

The Mayor, SPD, and the City have made significant investments to address the ongoing public safety needs of the Pike/Pine corridor, including community-based emphasis patrols, increased SPD presence, and the addition of an SPD Mobile Precinct. Mayor Durkan is committed to finding additional evidence-based solutions to ensure the safety of our downtown communities and all of Seattle, and SPD will continue its enhanced enforcement efforts. SPD and the City have had recent conversations with DSA, downtown businesses, and residents and will continue to implement a range of new initiatives to address the specific public safety needs of Third Avenue. We look forward to continued conversations as we work together to find solutions and resources to address the public safety challenges in downtown.”

Seattle City Councilmember Andrew Lewis, who represents District 7, released the following statement:

“Like the co-signers of Mr. Blakeney’s letter, I too am a concerned citizen who frequents the downtown area. As the representative for the district where the shootings occurred, I’m similarly frustrated and saddened.

Public safety in downtown Seattle has long been a priority for me. In the wake of last month’s shootings my staff and I have redoubled our efforts: we announced our intentions around a community store front, advocated for an expansion of the community service officer program, participated in public safety walks with the Mayor, and provided opportunities for our neighbors and constituents to meet with us during office hours.

Some of my first days in office were spent meeting with Mr. Blakeney, service providers, and other downtown stakeholders, so I am keenly aware of their concerns. While the change we all want won’t happen overnight, it WILL happen with continued conversation partnership driving solutions.”

The King County Prosecuting Attorney's Office released the following statement:

“We also work downtown and love our city, so we continue to work hard with the Seattle Mayor and Seattle Police Chief on all aspects of public safety including gun violence.”