King County leaders address courthouse safety in downtown Seattle, seek solutions to safety issues

Security at the King County Courthouse was the lead focus of Wednesday’s King County Government Accountability and Oversight Committee meeting.

Council members and judges from the King County Superior Court and District Court held a security briefing update that discussed ongoing concerns as well as potential solutions.

Violent crime in and around the courthouse has been a major concern. In late July, police said a woman was nearly sexually assaulted inside a woman’s bathroom and there have been a number of incidents outside the building.

Jurors don’t want to go to downtown Seattle and ask to be reassigned to other courthouses, according to the judges.

Chief Presiding Judge Susan Mahoney said the King County District Court has lost a number of employees due to security concerns.

RELATED: Councilmember calls for King County Courthouse to be closed to public after attempted sexual assault

"Quite frankly, even after the one was chased by a man with a knife, she stayed for quite a while, but when things did not improve, finally it got to be too much," said Mahoney.

Over a week ago, the City of Seattle closed City Hall Park and cleared out the homeless encampment. Fences now surround the park area. Now, courthouse employees worry about what happens after the park is reopened.

"They’re replanting the grass, they’re cleaning it up, and they’re going to reopen it. I agree, without a police presence or enforcement I believe people will quickly return and we’ll be right back where we are," said Mahoney.

County Council members said law enforcement presence is a deterrent and security is needed consistently to prevent crime.

There were discussions on finding long-term solutions and bringing the courthouse and park together as a campus.

Councilmember Jeanne Kohl-Welles also introduced the idea of acquiring City Hall Park from the City of Seattle, whether that means purchasing the property or through a land swap.

"If the park was owned by the county, then there could be options considered that would be under our control and we could go through deliberation, discussion, a public process to see what would be the best options," said Councilmember Kohl-Welles.

In the meantime, county leaders are continuing to work with the City of Seattle to see the progression of City Hall Park. It’s due to reopen as early as six weeks from now.

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