Is a ‘chop shop’ operating in plain sight beneath First Ave. Bridge?

Car theft victims want to know who is responsible for what they’re calling a “chop shop” operating in plain sight beneath Seattle’s First Avenue Bridge.

According to King County property records, the parcels of land right next to the Duwamish River, overrun by trash and dozens of stripped cars, are jointly owned by both the state and the city of Seattle.

Jamie Housen, spokesperson for Mayor Bruce Harrell’s office, confirmed to KIRO 7, that they’ve received complaints about the property.

“Over the last several months, the city has received complaints regarding a variety of issues in this area,” said Housen, “including encampment obstructions, trash build-up, environmental impact and public safety.”

According to Housen, the Seattle Police Department is responsible for addressing any illegal activity in the area.

Jim Fuda, Director of Crime Stoppers Puget Sound, says due to the SPD staffing shortage, law enforcement is limited in what they can do. Auto theft investigations aren’t a main priority these days.

“You can only do so much, with so many officers,” said Fuda. “Auto theft has been lumped into general investigations unit with fraud, theft, those kind of property crimes.”

Detective Patrick Michaud with the Seattle Police Department confirms officers have responded to incidents there in the past, however they are unable to talk about any on-going investigations.

“The mayor’s office, with the assistance of the Unified Care Team, would be responsible for outreach or any further actions that are not law enforcement-related,” said Michaud.

KIRO 7′s Lauren Donovan spoke with a man who works next to the sprawling encampment. Fearing for his safety and job, he will not go on camera or give his full name.

The man tells KIRO 7 he’s seen two people get shot there and has watched people on the property carry rifles. The witness also says, multiple times a week, the lot becomes so full, stripped cars are hauled out into the middle of the street, leaving the city to pick them up.