Waning police presence downtown? Not so, says Seattle Police

SEATTLE — Fewer police in downtown Seattle, specifically along Third Avenue near Pine and Pike streets, is being noticed by some residents and businesses. With that, they say trouble is coming back.

On Wednesday, there was still a police mobile precinct outside the McDonald’s on Pine Street. In fact, there has been a near-constant police presence since several murders and other violent crimes occurred in the area in February and March.

People in the neighborhood said they have seen fewer officers around over the last few weeks, and now they are noticing problems return.

Between Pike and Pine, a SPD vehicle was parked where a navy blue mobile precinct used to be.

“And that (police vehicle) is not even all the time. Out of 24 hours it’s maybe four hours, five hours,” said Amir Yousuf, owner of International Cigar and Tobacco. “Some days they are not here, and that’s when things happen.”

Several others said they have noticed fewer officers.

“I was really appreciative of it, but right now I’m kind of seeing some slacking,” said Robby Watts who works downtown. “There will be a huge drug presence down here, especially around twilight.”

People said the neighborhood is still significantly better than before the police crackdown.

“I’m glad they cleaned it up myself because it makes it hard for people who want to shop like me,” said Monica Triplet, who was shopping downtown on Wednesday, but some say they are noticing the crime creeping back up.

Yousuf showed KIRO7 multiple surveillance videos of trouble that happens when he said police are not in the neighborhood.

“The other day, this guy punched (an employee), grabbed the stuff, and ran away,” Yousuf said. In another incident, he said a man tried to use a credit card that did not belong to him. When Yousuf would not accept the card, the man smashed the glass at the counter, took the products and ran away.

“As soon as police move, trouble starts, so that’s my worry,” Yousuf said. “If they move out completely, the things will go back. So whatever work they’ve done, it will reverse, go to zero.”

KIRO7 asked SPD why there were fewer officers in the neighborhood, and if it was related to staffing and overtime challenges.

Sgt. Patrick Michaud said in an email, “the number of officers has not changed,” and “the mobile precinct is still dedicated to addressing crime in and around 3rd Avenue.”

In fact, SPD said it is in the process of adding a second mobile precinct to the area and plans to “use crime data to rotate the two vehicles through areas in the downtown core as needed.”

People said they hope Seattle police will keep their attention on the Pike/Pine core.

“This neighborhood needs laser attention, because everybody knows this is famous—not one day, two days, but many, many years,” Yousuf said. “Every time clean up for a few weeks, a few months, and they leave. Then everything comes back, so I’m very afraid.”

Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell’s office said, “Mayor Harrell is committed to ensuring 3rd Avenue—and our entire downtown corridor—is safe and welcoming to all neighbors. He’s continuing to work with SPD and community partners on immediate and long-term steps to improve downtown safety and vibrancy.”

Despite the reported trouble in the neighborhood, the Downtown Seattle Association (DSA) said foot traffic is returning downtown in a big way.

The latest report shows that over a week in June, foot traffic was 76% of pre-pandemic levels, and there were 2.8 million people in downtown Seattle (including residents) during the week of June 5.