Through the administrations of several Seattle mayors and a lineup of City Council members, the open-air drug market around Third Avenue and Pine Street in downtown Seattle has been allowed to flourish with limited interference from municipal authorities. This permissive approach seems to be borne from a progressive mindset that says the war on drugs has been more harmful than helpful, that addicts need treatment, not jail time, and that incarceration too often weighs most heavily on minority communities.

Those are worthy concerns, but there is another equally important concern: Every citizen has the right to feel safe on city streets, and criminals have no right to claim a corner or a block or a neighborhood for themselves. The tolerance of the Third and Pine drug scene has now resulted in a frightening shooting that left seven people wounded and one dead – a formerly homeless woman who had managed to get her life together only to have it ended by a gunfight between drug dealers.

The tolerance of criminality has to end. The mayor and city council need to take robust and effective action now to break up the drug market in the heart of downtown. If they do not, there will be blood on their hands.

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