‘Night and day’: downtown business owners hope Seattle police mobile precinct will stay

SEATTLE — People say they’re feeling the changes in downtown Seattle.

“More safe, more safe,” said Daniel Jules, whose bus stop is at Third Street and Pine Avenue. “Every day I’ll be here on the E Line and thank God I didn’t get shot,” Jules said.

KIRO7 cameras saw nearly a dozen officers on patrol in the block, including police on bikes, foot, and in vehicles.

“It’s night and day difference. I would say thank you to the mayor for his efforts and thank you to Police Chief Diaz,” said Amir Yousuf, owner of International Cigar and Tobacco. His shop has been around Third and Pine for 25 years.

The mobile precinct has been in the neighborhood for nearly a week. Police descended on the block after two murders.

“It was like a flea market. You walk there in the middle, and they have stolen stuff right and left, they set up the booths, selling anything you name. Drugs, selling, buying, everything,” Yousuf said.

In one of the recent downtown shootings where a man was shot in the face, a bullet shattered Yousuf’s window, landing inside the store. Work crews replacing the window just found the shell casing on Wednesday.

“We found it like half an hour ago,” Yousuf said.

While most of the businesses that recently closed on the block — Moneytree, T-Mobile, Piroshky Piroshky — are still gone, the McDonald’s on the corner has since reopened with the arrival of police.

Now people in the neighborhood are worried about what the city’s plan is in the long term, and how long police will be sticking around.

“If the cops leave, it’s going to suck,” Jules said. “Once they leave I already know it’s going to come back to the same thing. It’s going to be probably worse,” he said.

Yousuf says at night, he is already starting to see groups of people gathering again on neighboring blocks.

“That scared me. As soon as this ends, they will come again,” Yousuf said. “We have to clear Third Avenue overall and we need to extend the operation to clean up all the blocks, the area from here to Pike Place, before offices open and tourists come in,” he said.

The City of Seattle also cleared out a homeless camp across from City Hall on Wednesday. Some who work downtown say it’s a welcome change.

“It doesn’t feel safe walking the sidewalks. I come in when it’s still dark. I would much prefer to see them cleared but it’s a tough situation,” said Jessie Wammock, who now sometimes works in person again downtown.

However, others believe the tactic is wrong.

“It is upsetting and I do think people have a right to stake their existence wherever they can,” said Bailey Zydek, who was downtown for a meeting on Wednesday. “If they’re being cleared it needs to be because they’re being diverted to housing and resources, not just to be clearing off sidewalks,” Zydek said.

The city says at least 22 people from the camp at Fourth Avenue and James Street have been referred to 24/7 shelters or tiny homes.

Yousuf says it feels like another step that Harrell is taking to bring changes to Seattle.

“Seattle people voted for him to clean up the city, to bring our city back. So I hope he’ll do exactly what the people want and what he promised,” Yousuf said.