Citing safety concerns, Amazon allows employees to relocate out of downtown Seattle office

SEATTLE — Crime concerns downtown have become so severe that Amazon is getting its employees out of its 3rd and Pine offices at the old Macy’s building.

While employees still have the option to work there, Amazon said it is now providing alternative office space for all 1,800 employees assigned to work at 300 Pine Street.

A spokesperson said in an email, “Given recent incidents near 3rd and Pine, we’re providing employees currently at that location with alternative office space elsewhere.”

Those recent incidents include a rash of homicides, shootings, carjackings, and burglaries. The surge in crime led to a multi-jurisdiction crime crackdown between Seattle and federal law enforcement. For more than a week now, Seattle police have patrolled the streets in this neighborhood, as the city works to improve safety in the area.

But people say there’s a bigger problem fueling the crime — the drug, fentanyl. Prosecutors agree that the drug is playing a big role.

“We are seeing the vast majority of the cases we take as federal prosecutors that involve drugs, involve fentanyl. When I was here previously eight years ago, I don’t think we had a single fentanyl case,” said U.S. Attorney Nick Brown of the Western District of Washington.

The neighborhood near 3rd Ave and Pine Street in Seattle has been a trouble spot for decades. But ask people what brought the latest downward spiral and you’ll find a common thread.

“Fentanyl, that fentanyl is crazy,” said Daniel Jules, who lives in Seattle. His bus route takes him to 3rd and Pine daily.

“I used to hang down here all the time like a couple of years ago but when the blues hit it just got hella sketchy,” said Savannah Earley, another Seattle resident.

“The blues” references the round, blue, counterfeit M30 pills that are laced with fentanyl.

“It’s so easy to get it though, it’s everywhere. It’s so easy to get it. On the bus they smoke it. Every bus they’re smoking that fentanyl,” Jules said.

Since the arrival of a police mobile precinct and heavy law enforcement presence, businesses say safety in the neighborhood has dramatically improved. “It’s night and day difference,” said Amir Yousuf, owner of International Cigar and Tobacco, whom KIRO7 spoke with earlier this week.

But people say they believe drug dealers will return.

“Once the cops leave. They’re going to come back. They’re watching, they watching right now,” Jules said. “The feds should be on their a**,” he said.

“They’re still going to be getting high and selling around here,” Earley said.

In fact, the U.S. Attorney’s Office, working with law enforcement, says fentanyl dealers and the players leading drug operations are precisely who they’re targeting.

“The presence of cartels is not new. But the presence of cartels dealing fentanyl is certainly new. And the other big difference is we’re seeing more and more violence associated with dealers,” Brown said.

Recently filed federal cases out of Seattle all accuse suspects of dealing fentanyl and illegally possessing firearms.

“We used to very infrequently see the mid-level dealer or trafficker with firearms, but now we see almost everyone that we encounter has a firearm. The presence of firearms and illegal activity is going to lead to violence and that’s a real focus for us,” Brown said.

In a recent case of someone arrested from 3rd and Pine and charged with distribution, investigators found 187 “blue round M30 pills” on the suspect. He was arrested after selling to undercover police.

“Stopping the people that are actually in charge and making decisions. That usually includes dealing with some mid-level dealers. But I’m really focused on people at the top,” Brown said. “Many of whom never step foot in Washington State but are leading from Mexico or other jurisdictions, and just operating up and down the I-5 corridor into Canada,” Brown said.

Since the crackdown in the neighborhood, Brown, who uses the 3rd and Pine bus stop daily, says he feels the change too.

“I’d see people smoking fentanyl and meth literally almost every day,” Brown said. “It certainly feels safer and more sustainable right now,” he said.

But Brown adds there is another piece of the puzzle beyond law enforcement.

“We are not going to prosecute our way out of this,” Brown said. “You need law enforcement and you need services on the other side. You need community organizations working with people that are high at risk,” he said.

Amazon says employees still have the option to continue working at its 300 Pine Street office. A spokesperson said in an email, “We are hopeful conditions will improve and that we will be able to bring employees back to this location when it is safe to do so.”