Pleas for help from frustrated business owners in downtown Seattle

SEATTLE — A cry for help from some Seattle business owners caught in the chaos downtown.

“Mayor, where are you, Mister Bruce Harrell?” asked one frustrated owner, Leyla Farange. “I need you here to see what’s going on!”

This is after a recent spate of violence on 3rd Avenue that left a man dead.

Some downtown Seattle business owners say they fear for their livelihoods and lives.

Just yesterday, a man was shot and killed at 3rd and Pine. A week ago and a block away, a 48-year-old was shot and critically wounded.

Now the owner of a popular downtown sandwich shop is closing until the area is secure.

Some owners say they are determined to stay. But this afternoon, KIRO 7 got a glimpse of what they say they deal with every single day.

Inside the Century Square building on 3rd Avenue, the longtime owner of Cafe Zum Zum confronted someone he says was trying to steal from his restaurant.

“Yeah, this is everyday story,” said Shaw Mahmood. “You know there are so many homeless people outside. They will come in and we are not watching, and they will grab the tape, they will steal money. They will steal anything they can grab of it. We are sick and tired of everyday story.”

That everyday story was brought into sharp focus over the last week.

A man was shot and killed Sunday afternoon, a half block away at 3rd and Pine. Last Monday, a man was shot and critically injured a half block in the other direction.

Now, the owner of this sandwich shop has closed her downtown location temporarily.

Those who are staying say they feel abandoned by the city’s leaders.

“So, I have to worry that somebody’s going to shoot me?” asked Leyla Farange, owner of Gyro’s Place. “What is this? Mayor? Where are you?”

“Well, I’ll respond to that,” said Mayor Bruce Harrell.

We took their concerns to the mayor.

“The level of crime, the lack of public safety, as mayor, is unacceptable to me,”  he said.

But Harrell says his efforts are hampered by an inadequate police force.

“I inherited 900 officers, which is 500 short of where I’d like to be,” he said. “But I am asking our officers to do the best with what they have right now as I recruit new officers.”

Meanwhile, this remains a reality in what was once a thriving downtown.

“I was 9-years-old when the war between Iran and Iraq started,” said Farange. “I survived that. But I don’t know if I can survive this!”

The business owners say their problems worsened after Little Saigon was cleaned up. They believe many who were there came here.

The mayor says he doesn’t have data to support that.

But he says he hears them.

And he and his staff are working to hold those breaking the law accountable.

But all of it, he says, will take time.