Ballard hires private security to guard shuttered businesses

SEATTLE — One of the most vibrant neighborhoods in Seattle –— both night and day –— is currently a ghost-town because of COVID-19 closures.

As a result, Ballard business owners are concerned their stores, restaurants, and bars are more vulnerable to crime.

Curtis Steiner’s watch and jewelry store on Ballard Avenue Northwest was burglarized shortly after he closed-up shop, one week before Governor Inslee announced his “stay at home” mandate.

“Two men backed up to the store, in a car, masked and gloved, busted the door down, ran in and ransacked whatever they could find,” Steiner told KIRO 7 Wednesday.

The suspects are still at large.

Since Steiner’s store was already closed because business had declined so severely since the COVID-19 outbreak, he had locked his most valuable items in his safe. But the burglary made him and his neighbors on the historical street in the heart of old Ballard aware of how vulnerable they are when the streets aren’t full of people.

“Right now, we just don’t have the protections that we had,” Steiner explained. “Now, it’s empty. I think it really does embolden people that might rob you to feel like they don’t have anyone watching.”

Since Steiner’s break-in, other Ballard businesses have also been targeted by vandals and thieves.

In response, many business owners have covered their exterior windows with plywood. Signs warning “no cash and no booze” have been posted.

The neighborhood’s local chamber of commerce has also hired private security.

“The Ballard Alliance thought it would be important to take some proactive steps,” Executive Director Mike Stewart explained. “We decided to hire paid private security for right now. It is a service that will be offered within our district, seven days a week.”

Lauren Storbeck, owner of Kick It Boutique, said she’s “thrilled” private security will also be patrolling her store on Northwest Market Street. The Ballard Watch Group administrator has also asked neighbors on their daily walks to report anything unusual or potentially criminal, “to keep an eye out on the building.”

Tim Baker, owner of San Fermo and Percy’s and Company, has been in the restaurant and consulting businesses in Seattle for decades and has seen economic downturns before, but nothing like the crisis that has led to his restaurants being closed for business indefinitely. “It’s just a ghost town,” he said of the usually-busy street on which both his Ballard restaurants are located.

“We’re just really concerned with property damage and burglary.”

Baker, and the other business owners who spoke with KIRO 7, said they’re also concerned for their financial futures, and the futures of all the many restaurant, bar and shop workers who are no longer earning a paycheck.