Police arrested 10 people in connection with drugs rings in two Seattle homeless encampments that appeared to operate out of nearby residences, including a home in Beacon Hill and an apartment in the International District.
Investigators do not believe the two drug networks — one related to a row of tents in the 200 block of Washington Street in Pioneer Square, the other connected to a large encampment at 10th Avenue South and South Dearborn — are connected to each other.
Six people were arrested in connection with the Pioneer Square site and four related to Dearborn, and police seized about $20,000, firearms, a sword and stolen goods. Investigators believe the main suppliers for the narcotics were actually outside the camps.
Police traced at least some of the drug supply at the Pioneer Square site to an apartment in the 600 block of Washington Street, rented by Liobany Serrano Luna, 42, among those arrested Wednesday. Police found several cakes of crack cocaine as well as a scale and other items related to drug distribution.
“The apartment is the base, and the drugs are flowing from the apartment, supplying the tent and the tent is supplying it to people who were addicted,” said Seattle Police Department Sgt. Sean Whitcomb.
A King County District Court judge on Thursday held Serrano Luna on $15,000 bail for two counts of violation of the uniform controlled substance act for delivery of cocaine.
The situation was similar at the Dearborn tent encampment, although fewer details were available Thursday about that operation. Investigators have connected a home in the 3000 block of Beacon Avenue South to that site.
The encampment at Dearborn is well known to homeless service providers and law enforcement, and is home to 20 to 60 people at any given time, said Will Lemke, spokesman for the city’s Navigation Team, which does outreach and removals of encampments.
Lemke and Whitcomb emphasized that most people living in the camps are not engaging in criminal activity. They are more likely to be victims of crime.
“There are a lot of people extremely vulnerable living in there,” Lemke said.
The city plans to shut down and clear the Dearborn encampment, possibly as early as next week, Lemke said. Camp residents will be given at least 72 hours notice and will be offered shelter; two residents already accepted offers of shelter following the arrests, Lemke said.
The city immediately cleared the tents on Washington Street following Wednesday’s arrests. The city considered the site an obstruction or a hazard, so the city can remove the tents immediately, without giving people the chance to accept shelter.
The city has significantly increased the number of obstruction and hazard cleanups last year. According to a report sent to the Seattle City Council on Thursday about Navigation Team activity in the first quarter of 2018, 58 of the 71 team’s cleanups were obstructions or hazards, thus not requiring that notice be given to campers.
Lemke also noted the Navigation Team plans to regularly visit the Dearborn and Washington sites to ensure the encampments don’t again appear.