SEATTLE -- Assaults, harassment, drug dealing -- police said it’s happening in broad daylight outside the King County Courthouse.
Some jurors are even asking judges to dismiss them from jury duty, saying they don’t feel safe along Third Avenue.
Now the King County sheriff is asking local lawmakers to increase his budget to get deputies walking patrols to help keep the peace.
More than 18,000 people visit the courthouse every year. On Tuesday, a group of jurors, judges and police said the chaos outside the building is getting old.
“When they come to this courthouse they’re afraid to come in,” said King County Sheriff John Urquhart. “They’re afraid to walk down Third Avenue because what they see.”
Two jurors were recently assaulted outside the courthouse and others have asked judges to let them out of jury duty to avoid the mayhem.
“They’re asking to be excused or they’re asking to be transferred to the Kent facility,” said Superior Court Judge Laura Inveen. “That is very concerning. Due process is jeopardized if we don’t have a full array of jurors.”
“We need to drain the swamp,” said Urquhart, “But we’re up to our keister in alligators right now.”
Urquhart planned to ask the King County Council for about $8,000 each month to put deputies on foot patrol.
“It’s an open air drug market, there’s no question about that,” he said.
Last month alone Seattle Police arrested eight people on drug charges in the area.
Local law enforcement officials said what’s missing are social workers to help connect vulnerable people to services that could help.
“There are a lot of people suffering from mental illness, suffering from addiction,” said SPD’s Mike Teeter.
Seattle Police said it already has cops on bicycles patrolling – but a lot of what can make people uncomfortable downtown isn’t always something police can solve.
“They have a constitutional right to do exactly what they’re doing, standing on the street and yelling,” said Teeter.
In addition to the proposed new officer beats, the council also plans to power-wash the sidewalks to help get rid of the stench of human waste.