Seattle Mayor Ed Murray’s call to clean up downtown disorder.

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IN an overlooked speech this week to business leaders, Seattle Mayor Ed Murray acknowledged the corrosive sense of disorder in the downtown core. He described hearing angst from vulnerable downtown residents who have to wade daily through open-air drug markets, and described receiving caustic letters from out-of-town visitors who say they won’t be coming back.

Rallying the crowd to action, Murray said, “I need your help so Seattle can get its act together.”

The endemic problems of downtown Seattle have been tolerated for too long, as efforts to emphasize civility were cast as attacks on the homeless.

The daily disorder has reached a tipping point because the problems are worse, and because the heart of Seattle is pumping so strong.

The city center is now home to 49 percent of the city’s employment — surging to a population of 260,000 every workday — and 10 percent of the city’s residents. The fleet of tower cranes dotting the core is emblematic of the 25 new jobs added daily and the 24 new residents added weekly, according to a new report by the Downtown Seattle Association.

Seattle can’t take this growth for granted. Tourists and convention planners routinely say they’re reluctant to return because of the state of downtown. Since 2011, reports of major crimes downtown spiked by at least one-third.

“I don’t think anyone else would allow what’s happening in the downtown neighborhood to happen in their neighborhood,” said Greg Smith, a downtown resident and prominent developer.

These are old problems, but they’ve continued in Murray’s first year. He now owns the problem. He must lead.

The fix should include, but not stop with, police. Seattle police already have an innovative model, called LEAD (Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion), diverting people arrested for low-level drug and prostitution crimes into social services. But the program is small in scale, and not widely adopted; to avoid arresting our way out of this problem, it should be.

The urban features of downtown add to a sense of disorder, particularly in Westlake Park. On a recent evening rush hour, the bulky art installations in the park’s southern edge became cafe counters for visible drug deals, as customers stepped around piles of trash, clothes and a random office chair.

Is this what City Hall views as wise management of the city’s living room?

No one has an interest in criminalizing homelessness or addiction. But the criminal justice system must differentiate predators from their prey. King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg and Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes, whose jobs are to go after the predators, must be integral in addressing downtown disorder.

So must the business community and property owners. The Eitel building at Second Avenue and Pike Street, for example, is a blight squarely in the tourist district — mostly vacant for decades, structurally unsound, seedy. How about a new policy? Step up, fix the eyesores, or face condemnation.

In his speech, Murray urged action to lobby the Legislature and Congress to finally provide a coherent response to mental illness and drug addiction. About time. Both are urgently needed, in downtown Seattle and elsewhere.

For too long the city has waited for other parties to restitch the social safety net, and allowed disorder to reign. Seattle needs to get its act together.

Information in this editorial, originally published Feb. 28, 2015, was corrected March 2, 2015. A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that 24 news jobs are added daily to the downtown area. Twenty-four new jobs are added weekly.

Information in this editorial, originally published Feb. 28, 2015, was corrected March 2, 2015. A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that 24 news jobs are added daily to the downtown area. Twenty-four new jobs are added weekly.