Letter to city, county leaders fromnew business coalition calls for
a clear plan on public safety
Citing the escalating crime rates, long response times and a lack of trained public safety personnel, a new coalition of Seattle businesses is calling on city and county officials to develop a clear plan to address public safety in Seattle.
In a Sept. 7 letter to elected leaders in the City of Seattle and King County, the newly formed Seattle Safety Alliance appealed to local government for help in addressing basic public safety issues.
“The City of Seattle’s policy decisions have eroded public safety and we are all feeling the impact of it. The Seattle Police Department is understaffed, and alternative policing methods have not yet been fully implemented. As a result, crimes like theft, assault and vandalism are often going unchecked,” noted the coalition letter.
“Businesses in Seattle rely on a baseline of public safety to protect our staff so that we can serve our communities. The current environment in the city is getting worse, and something must be done immediately to correct it. A clear plan is needed to address the city’s public safety needs.”
The coalition of 27 businesses, employer groups and trade associations represent thousands of employees who work in the city and have grown increasingly fearful of unsafe conditions in and around their stores.
“It is time to stand up for the citizens who live in, work in and visit this city and to create the kind of conditions that return Seattle to the vibrant, welcoming city it once was,” said Seattle Safety Alliance co-chair Chris Huckins of Dunn Lumber.
“Businesses want to help solve this problem – we want to be a partof an effort that restores a basic level of public safety for our employees, our customers and all who live and work in Seattle. But our concerns also need to be heard by city and county leaders, and right now, they are not listening to us,” he said. “We need City Hall to hear us, and to support us in finding a solution to the crime and vandalism that is destroying our city.”
In the letter, employers reiterated their call for a plan to ensure prompt, reasonable response times when violent incidents occur. Regrettably, the City Council’s own report shows it can take Seattle Police more than an hour to respond to certain crimes – largely due to staffing shortages. The lack of due process also fuels a cycle of repeat offenders due to current policies for prosecuting criminals.
The letter goes on to note: “The city must do a better job of addressing this glaring problem within the city attorney’s office and work in conjunction with the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office.”
The alliance also called for more community resources to be earmarked to help people in crisis. Businesses are the center of local communities, the letter notes, and often encounter those either in crisis or needing some form of mental health support.
“We are at a precarious time in the history of this city, one where mental health needs are increasing and the resources needed to address them are insufficient,” said Brody Kesler-Mauch, regional manager for Jacksons Food Stores. “Unfortunately, businesses often become the setting for these episodes, and we need to find a better way to support people in crisis so that it doesn’t fall on businesses or the community at large,” he said.
“What we’re doing right now is not working. In fact, things are getting worse. We need a plan, and businesses want to be a part of that plan in a constructive way.”
Tammie Hetrick, president and CEO of the Washington Food Industry Association, said independent grocers in the city are struggling to defend against repeat criminals and other violent acts that threaten store and customer safety.
“Without a doubt, we want our businesses to be safe and welcoming forall. We support community policing and deploying trained mental health experts,but we also need law enforcement to respond to violent crime. Right now, it’s on businesses, like our independent grocers, to defend against criminal acts and that’s not OK,” said Hetrick.
“Our members want to stay open and provide fresh food and essential products, but the unchecked criminal activity – property crime, repeated thefts, vandalism — is really taking a toll. There’s a level of basic safety that’s not there in Seattle right now. We need a clear plan designed to restore those levels, and businesses want to be a part of finding that solution.”
Read the full text of the letter here.