A community meeting drew several hundred people. The focus: drug and property crimes associated with homelessness.
Hundreds of residents packed a meeting hall Thursday night to demand better policing in Seattle, primarily in the neighborhoods of Magnolia, Queen Anne and Ballard.
It was the second such meeting where angry residents argued that some homeless people, specifically those living on the streets in RVs and other vehicles, are perpetuating illegal drug use and property-related crime near their homes and businesses. Residents have been rallying in public forums and on social media lately to improve surveillance and cleanup.
“We feel unsafe,” said North Queen Anne resident Subhadeep Chatterjee. “We see people blatantly breaking the law, and we’re wondering why are we held to a different law than someone who is in an RV?”
Seattle Mayor Ed Murray announced a plan this month to dedicate two “safe lots,” one in Ballard and one in Delridge, for homeless people living in vehicles. The sites will together accommodate as many as 50 vehicles, each with sanitation and garbage service, as well as case-management assistance.
Several hundred residents attended Thursday’s meeting at Seattle Pacific University. Some said that the parking-lot plan does not go far enough to fight crime, and that there should be a citywide moratorium on such parking. The Neighborhood Safety Alliance (NSA), a group that formed last month in light of the new concerns, hosted the forum.
“We can’t have them [people living in RVs] just dump trash all over our city,” said Magnolia resident Harley Lever of the NSA. “We can’t just let them sit down in the park, shooting up. It’s a death sentence.”
Police and city officials say they are working vigorously to address the concerns, and North Seattle neighborhoods are not alone. The homelessness issue is deep-rooted and runs citywide, they say, and the residents will need patience.
“I want to assure people that if there is criminal activity taking place, we will absolutely enforce” the laws, Seattle Police Chief Kathleen O’ Toole told reporters Wednesday in the aftermath of the shooting. “But we have to be thoughtful about it.”
Police point to several recent investigations involving RVs, one of which uncovered 2 pounds of heroin and meth, as well as $65,000 in cash.