The King County Courthouse must be kept safe and clean so jurors aren’t afraid to come downtown.

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The downtown King County Courthouse has an image problem. Some jurors say they are afraid to go there and are asking to be assigned instead to the Kent courthouse.

King County must assure the safety of its jurors, courthouse employees and others visiting this public facility. Seattle Police should step up patrols in the area, even if the perception of crime is worse than the reality of the problem.

Our jury system won’t work if people refuse to come downtown because they consider the area unsafe.

Judges testified before the Metropolitan King County Council last week to ask for help in keeping the courthouse safe and welcoming after two jurors were assaulted this past spring outside the Third Avenue entrance. A half dozen employees also have reported being spit at, roughed up, even punched.

Seattle Police Capt. Mike Teeter, commander of the West Precinct, said police patrol the area heavily and acknowledged that the number of homeless people in the area may make visitors feel uncomfortable, even at times when they are not unsafe.

Unfortunately, reassurances about the area’s relatively low crime statistics are not enough to convince nervous jurors that it’s OK to come to the courthouse, where they may also find themselves walking through an area that smells like urine and excrement.

Washing the sidewalks and emptying garbage cans more often won’t solve the underlying problems of too many struggling people living on the streets of Seattle. But it might help ease the problem of attracting qualified jurors.

Issues at the courthouse, steps away from a number of homeless shelters, are just one more item on the list of reasons the city of Seattle and King County need to remain focused on real solutions to homelessness in the region.

The courthouse is just a symptom, but the solution to the courthouse problems seems easy compared to the real issue of homelessness in our community.