TUKWILA, Wash. — One South Sound city is taking a wrecking ball to four motels they say were so ridden with crime they were seized by the federal government.
When the owners went to prison, the city of Tukwila bought the properties that have been boarded up since 2013, and now they’re finally being demolished.
Tito Thacker is a contractor so he's done hundreds of demolitions like the ones on International Boulevard in Tukwila. Only these demolitions aren’t just professional -- they’re personal.
"It really just is kind of an honor, you know what I mean,” the site supervisor told.
Tito grew up in Tukwila where he learned always to avoid the stretch of International Boulevard he is now helping tear down.
"It definitely was a bad area, you didn't hang out around here,” he explained.
Police Chief Mike Villa can corroborate that. Before he was chief he worked that section of the city.
"On a daily basis we were coming up to one of these motels for some sort of fight, robbery, drug dispute, prostitution call,” the chief told us.
Safety around International Boulevard was even more of an issue because of what is right nearby; around the corner from the motels there's a public library and also a high school.
“You would get approached -- people would want to sell you drugs and get you on that path,” Tito remembers.
In 2013 -- with help from federal agents -- Tukwila police raided three hotels and arrested the owners, a pair of brothers-in-law.
The three motels were then seized and the city bought them -- along with a fourth next to them -- for a clean start.
“It's so nice, this whole environment has changed,” Chief Villa said.
Even before anything new is developed, the chief says the crime statistics show closing the motels was the right move; violent crime in this area immediately dropped 40 percent.
"This last year in 2015 we had our lowest year in 15 years for robberies,” he explained.
Tito didn't know the facts; he just knows the feelings -- a place people once feared will be something they're proud of.
"Everybody's excited to see it happen,” he concluded, regarding the demolition.
The city hasn't made any decisions about what to put in place of the motels, but the demolition and reconstruction of the area with grass in place of pavement will be complete by spring.
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Cox Media Group