While not many solutions came out of a public safety meeting focusing on crime last month, Queen Anne business and neighborhood leaders are hoping city leaders will heed what they have to say moving forward.
The Queen Anne Community Council arranged for business owners and elected and police officials to meet via Zoom on Feb. 28 to discuss the crimes that have been plaguing the business district for some time and share solutions, and QACC Chair Paula Mueller said a walk-through of the business district on Upper Queen Anne is still something she would like to see happen in the coming months.
Kevin Rinderle, whose family owns Queen Anne Dispatch, experienced repeated break-ins late last year at his Queen Anne store and at his business in Wallingford, as well, and has spoken to city officials about the problem before.
Rinderle said small-business owners are struggling at this time, and repeat break-ins are disheartening.
“When we do get broken into, it’s frustrating on a lot of levels,” Rinderle told city officials at the meeting. “Not only do we feel our privacy is being invaded, but we feel insecure and threatened, and we’re exhausted at the end of the day.
“We’re really just pleading for hope and for change,” he added.
Mueller said after the meeting that, having heard from the members of the business community who attended the meeting and from speaking to business owners in her capacity on the Queen Anne Community Council, their frustration runs deep.
“First, people are very frustrated with the lack of capacity at SPD to respond to all the crimes that are happening,” Mueller said. “They are also frustrated with how difficult it is to report criminal activity online. Even though SPD is making it easier, it is still a challenge. A good majority of crimes aren’t being reported.”
Reporting crime through filing a police report, however, is just what the law enforcement members advise business owners and everyone else who has experienced crime to do, because Seattle Police Department officials use those reports to determine where to focus their resources. This is a frequent refrain, which they echoed again last month.
Business owners who have been troubled by break-ins or routine shoplifting would like to see more dramatic action from elected leaders and Seattle law enforcement, however.
Mueller said repeated break-ins and damage to business is not only time consuming to report, but they jeopardize the businesses in the community because having to make continued repairs to fix broken windows and property is expensive, even with insurance. Plus, business owners run the risk of having their insurance premiums go up with each additional expense or report.
Rinderle confirmed he has left some expenses off his insurance reports to avoid having his rates go up or have his coverage threatened.
“We went very light in what we submitted to insurance for fear that would happen,” Rinderle said.
‘SUPERMAN’S NOT COMING’
Mueller said, in addition to time lost, expense and insurance worries, there is another deep-rooted fear.
“Another thing is what I call the trauma of long-term repeated crime activity with no hope of having any kind of intervention,” Mueller said.
Rinderle said that anxiety is leading to a lot of resentment from business owners like him.
“I heard a lot of frustration and angst from the members of the Queen Anne community, and we’re at a loss at what the next steps are,” he said.
Unfortunately, these things take a long time to solve,” Rinderle said, adding these problems have developed in Queen Anne and other neighborhoods for some time.
He also pointed out that when city officials and law enforcement turn the majority of their focus into one area, such as the downtown, that only sends the criminals elsewhere and can make the problems worse in nearby communities.
“Superman’s not coming to save us, and there’s no short-term solutions, which we understand,” he said.
After the meeting, Mueller outlined a list of possible solutions that could help reduce some of the crime problems including:
1. Improved lighting
2. Improved cameras that can be installed along the streets and aimed at businesses to capture crimes.
3. Streamlined crime reporting
4. Resources for people with addiction or behavioral health issues
5. Faster responses to removing encampments
6. Increased patrols
The last option would make the biggest short-term difference, Rinderle said, adding creating civic task forces to find solutions to problems and try to programs are nice, but they are not a replacement to having police officers on hand to make arrests.
Rinderle said, however, residents can do something to make a difference, even while solutions are sought at the city level. He said, in addition to supporting local businesses and keeping their eyes and ears open to what is taking place in the business district, residents can help by taking an active part in the democratic process in upcoming elections: learning what elected officials have said and done about the issues, listening to their challengers’ platforms, and voting for the candidate who they feel will best serve the Queen Anne community moving forward.