Photo by Jessica Keller: Interim Seattle Police Chief Adrian Diaz, right, listens to Queen Anne 711 owner Chaz Maroun during a tour of Queen Anne in late January. The tour was arranged by Queen Anne Community Council Public Safety Committee Chairman Bob Kettle so Diaz could hear from merchants about how they have been impacted by criminal activity. Concerns about crime and public safety at Queen Anne businesses has also prompted a collaboration among community stakeholders to address those issues.
Photo by Jessica Keller: Interim Seattle Police Chief Adrian Diaz, right, listens to Queen Anne 711 owner Chaz Maroun during a tour of Queen Anne in late January. The tour was arranged by Queen Anne Community Council Public Safety Committee Chairman Bob Kettle so Diaz could hear from merchants about how they have been impacted by criminal activity. Concerns about crime and public safety at Queen Anne businesses has also prompted a collaboration among community stakeholders to address those issues.

In response to a noticeable uptick in criminal and nuisance activity in Queen Anne, merchants and residents have formed a new coalition that aims to tackle those issues.

“Queen Anne Together” is a fledgling collaboration of merchants and community organizations that was launched in January with its aim to improve public safety and reduce crime throughout the neighborhood.

The effort was spearheaded in part by Debe Franz, owner of A Bit of Taste — Queen Anne Olive Oil Company, who felt compelled to do something after a series of events made it clear to her that something needed to be done at the community level to address these issues.

“This isn’t just a business problem. This is a neighborhood problem. This is an everyone problem,” Franz said.

Franz said her first “watershed moment” of recognizing Queen Anne businesses were at risk happened in 2019 when she learned someone stole $25,000 in merchandise from Queen Anne Dispatch during a break-in and robbery. Slowly, more reports of incidents via a business Instagram group came to her attention.

“It’s just part of this progression,” she said of the criminal incidents. “It definitely got worse after COVID got going.”

The second incident that made her take notice was last year when the owner of Stuhlberg’s reported she had been having problems with a person yelling and defecating outside of her business. But it was after the lending library outside Franz’s business was destroyed by the same person who was responsible for the Stuhlberg’s incidents — and a number of other crimes on upper Queen Anne — that Franz realized the issues facing businesses couldn’t be put off any longer.

“I cannot have my 20-year-old employee closing my store and putting her at risk by encountering someone like that on her own,” Franz said.

While merchants on upper Queen Anne had talked in the past about hiring a security company to watch over their businesses when they realized they were targets of crime, the idea was too cost prohibitive and went no further than that. Future collaboration between merchants went no further than general discussion as everyone focused on their own business, as well.

A conversation between Franz and Charley Shore, executive director of the Queen Anne Chamber of Commerce, got things started, however, and the chamber agreed to help spur a community business initiative in whatever way possible. A presentation from Queen Anne Block Captain Network Chairman Paula Mueller on how businesses could work together to protect themselves further spurred the effort.

They also enlisted the help of Zac Cooper, Coopers Optique owner and chair of the Uptown Alliance Small Business subcommittee. Cooper has made inroads getting to know merchants in Uptown and has created an online form for businesses to document public safety and crime incidents as a supplement to police reports. Each week, the reports are sent to the Seattle Police Department. Queen Anne Together has since adopted this practice.

While still in its early days, a top goal of Queen Anne Together is to establish a communication network and alert system that includes businesses from every area of Queen Anne and Interbay.

That means forming connections with as many business owners as possible, especially those who are not affiliated with any business group, and inviting them to participate.

“I look at myself as a facilitator,” Franz said, adding she is acting like a liaison, connecting business owners and communicating with them.

As well, the chamber will host meetings and programs that give business owners tips on how to keep their stores and employees safe.

Mueller will represent the community and block watch and keep track of the incident reporting system. Cooper will represent Uptown and the business interests from that neighborhood.

Franz said, because the coalition is still forming, it is too early to say what the end product will bring.

“We don’t really know what to expect … because, quite frankly, we’re all a bunch of volunteers,” Franz said. “It’s going to be very chaotic and messy, but what we really all want is to make the community better.”

With each of the stakeholders communicating and collaborating, and a plan to include as many businesses and community members, Franz feels positive Queen Anne Together will accomplish its goals.

“If you want to make a change, then you really have to make a change in the system,” Franz said. “You have to involve the whole system. By bringing all the diverse players to the table, then I know we can make a difference for this neighborhood.”

Mueller said, until now, there has not been a formal business watch group but thinks this one can be successful.

“I think as it really gets going, I think the merchants will begin to see the benefits, and perhaps, over time, some of the problems that have been happening, if we can get more awareness of the crimes that are going on, and we make it a little harder for the people committing those crimes, I think the added benefit will be reducing the number of crimes going on,” Mueller said.

As Mueller and Franz point out, however, it will take the community working together to improve the criminal activity in all of Queen Anne.

“We really want people to think that this is neighborhood related,” Franz said.

To learn more about Queen Anne Together, visit the Facebook page, QATogether.

People can also email Debe Franz; Paula Mueller; Charley Shore; and Zac Cooper.