King County commissioners get updates on attacks on jurors, employees near courthouse

King County commissioners got an update Tuesday morning on violence and security outside the county courthouse.

Last July, KIRO 7 first reported about the about the growing number of assaults on jurors and courthouse staff, especially on Third Avenue.

King County Sheriff Mitzi Johanknecht and Seattle police leaders briefed county commissioners on the safety situation after October’s initial meeting.

RELATED: King County examines growing attacks on jurors, employees near courthouse

The issue heated up when a number of people, including judges, called the violence an urgent and escalating problem.

In addition to a juror who was brutally attacked last May, another juror was assaulted outside the courthouse last June. She said she was coming back from lunch when a man pushed her against a wall, hit her in the chest, broke her coffee cup, then stood over her before running away.

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"We've have people at the courthouse retire early because they've been assaulted on the streets outside here," said King Council Councilmember Pete von Reichbauer.

Tents populate the area under the Yesler Bridge in downtown Seattle, less than a block away from the King County Courthouse.

Superior Court Judge Laura Inveen said while riding a bus downtown, she saw how a coworker avoids confrontations with the people living in them.

"I was perplexed that he didn't get off at the same time. Later he told me, 'Oh, I never get off at that bus stop. You have to walk through all the tents that are blocking the sidewalks,'" said Inveen.

Seattle police said as temperatures heat up, they will be performing more emphasis patrols on Third and Fourth avenues, corners they say are among the highest or second highest response areas in the entire city.

Homeless tents are already regularly cleared out in the nearby City Hall Park, power washing of sidewalks where people are urinating and defecating happens two to three times a week, and police say by making themselves more visible, they are getting a slowdown in assault numbers.

But all agencies at the meeting agreed, the problem is complex with solutions that take time to implement.

At one point, KIRO 7 was told that assaults outside the courthouse were so common that staff had simply stopped reporting the harassment.

Court safety and facility operators say they're also encouraging jurors and court staff to report every incident of harassment that happens to better inform police.

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