People feel safer after Seattle police flood 2 downtown neighborhoods, but a question arises: will it last?


Brian Culpepper sat Thursday surrounded by tubes of paint and colored markers at his usual spot on the south side of Pine Street, his works – inspired by comic books, Japanese anime and graffiti – displayed on the side of the building behind him .

He said it broke his heart and made his stomach ache to see the city center overrun with drug addicts and other people bent on lawlessness. Guys offered to sell him handguns for $100 and chased a man last week who had set up a tarp to peddle what Culpepper assumed were stolen goods.

But in the week since the Seattle Police Department flooded Third Avenue between Pike and Pine streets with officers following two fatal shootings and other incidents of street violence, Culpepper and those who frequent the area said they already felt safer.

The big question on everyone’s mind, however, is how long the relative peace will last and how long will the police be able to maintain the kind of uniformed presence that seems to deter drug trafficking in outdoors that has long plagued the area known as The Blade.

Business owners and residents of the international district of Little Saigon, 1½ miles southeast of downtown, said they have also seen big changes to 12th Avenue South and South Jackson Street since then. that the police dismantled an open-air drug market. But they also wondered if the cleaned up streetscape would stay that way.

“I mean good job,” said Selas Asrat, a Little Saigon resident in her 60s, of the police operation in the neighborhood as she was on her way to buy bread. “It wasn’t safe. I’m glad they cleared that area.

sergeant. Randy Huserik, spokesman for Seattle Police, said undercover operations were underway at both locations in the weeks before uniformed officers were dispatched to provide a visual presence.

“It’s not like those are the only two places in town where crime is happening,” he said. “Just because you don’t see a uniformed presence doesn’t mean it’s not being addressed.”

Criminal charges filed Wednesday against a 23-year-old Seattle man document how a Seattle police officer – dressed in street clothes and equipped with binoculars – observed melee drug dealings of fentanyl pills in the 1500 block of Third Avenue on February 17. and sent an arrest team. The officer’s report, written on March 5, notes more recent violence in the area:

“This specific area has been the subject of multiple complaints regarding drug use/dealing. This area is a crime area notorious for including shootings, stabbings and robberies,” the officer wrote in the charging documents “In the past two weeks, there have been two homicides and one person shot in the face, on this block.”

KV Bui, who with husband Nick owns Dong Thap Noodles on 12th Avenue just north of Jackson, said officers used their restaurant and a nearby building to conduct surveillance during the undercover investigation. at the intersection.

“It’s amazing how they do it – they monitor the activities for two months and then start dismantling them,” she said.

A few hundred people used to hang out at the southeast corner of 12th and Jackson to smoke fentanyl, but there was no one hanging out outside The Seattle Herbs & Grocery store Thursday afternoon. Handwritten signs, asking people not to stand or smoke outside doors, were still displayed in the windows facing Jackson.

“I feel pretty good right now. I don’t know how long they can keep it like this,” store worker Reggie Lu said of the police, who still have a mobile neighborhood, a dark blue van with police markings, parked in the mall across the street and is a regular sight. patrolling the neighborhood in police SUVs.

Another mobile quarter was still parked on Third Avenue across from International Cigar and Tobacco, the smokehouse that Amir Yousuf has owned for 25 years. He said people had started using the bus stop outside his door again, instead of walking to a stop two blocks north, and that the McDonald’s restaurant around the corner had reopened this week after temporarily closing following the fatal shooting of 15-year-old Michael. Del Bianco on March 2.

A water fountain on the west side of Third – near where Del Bianco collapsed after being shot – had been transformed into a sidewalk memorial, draped in balloons and surrounded by candles and flowers. Family photos affixed to white poster paper hung on the façade outside Prestige Copy & Print. “Rest in peace, Mikey. I love you,” read one.

“Has anyone been shot?” asked a delivery man, lugging crates of drinks, to one of Yousuf’s employees.

“Where were you?” she replied, laughing.

Yousuf said he was grateful for the increased police presence and said that while drug activity outside of his business has died down, “a lot of this activity starts after dark.”

“So that changed. For how long?” He asked.

Huserik, the police spokesman, said uniformed officers deployed to the two sites are working in increasingly large circles around these central areas, checking where people may congregate and taking action. coercive when encountering illegal activities. Police chiefs, he said, are constantly assessing what is working well and what is not working as well as staffing levels, as the number of available officers fluctuates as people leave. on leave or returning to work.

So far, police don’t see “the main clusters or that kind of big center of activity that we had seen in both places,” Huserik said.

Around the corner from Yousuf’s tobacco shop, Culpepper left the trunk and driver’s door of his SUV open as he set up art supplies on his sidewalk stand – something that would have been unthinkable a short time ago. week or two due to fears of theft.

But Culpepper, who was commissioned to paint the mural that now adorns a wall between the McDonald’s and the Westlake station entrance, wasn’t worried. He said he saw officers move in to stop drug addicts from smoking in the alcove, where an elevator leads to the station.

“I have seen this city grow. I’m so proud of what SPD has done recently. It was a nightmare here, with the tin foil and the violence,” he said, a reference to drug addicts who heat fentanyl pills on pieces of tin foil and inhale the smoke through straws. “It must have been too much, even for me, and I’ve been coming to town since I was 7. I haven’t smelled tin foil for two days.”

But for KV Bui, the owner of the noodle shop in the Little Saigon International District, the police are too little too late. Her restaurant has been robbed four times in the past year and she said insurers will no longer cover the business. Before the police crackdown, she regularly chased drug addicts who entered the restaurant, offering to sell her everything from steaks to toilet paper.

By the end of the year, Bui and her husband plan to move their restaurant to Southcenter, where there is better parking and fewer security issues.

“I am Vietnamese and I want to stay in the community. It used to be really family oriented,” she said of 12th and Jackson. “It’s sad to see it go down like this. It’s not safe, nobody wants to be here.

Bui said police assured him they had the resources to keep up the pressure to ensure those displaced by the recent operation did not return.

“I’m always in the middle,” she said. “I don’t know what to believe. I hope it will last.”


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