SEATTLE - Business owners in downtown Seattle are fed up with months and months of crime and violence. The ongoing drama in the heart of the city has forced several stores to close, lose staff and customers because people don’t feel safe.
Piroshky Piroshky on 3rd Avenue and Pike Street opened its doors at dawn after being closed for months. The staff said within three hours of the opening, they saw a drug deal, indecent exposure and a police standoff with someone waving a knife.
"Police presence all over. We look out the window and there’s a man brandishing a knife. They pull out their guns, they’re telling this man to drop the weapon," said Brian Amaya, director of operations for Piroshky Piroshky. "There’s drug users, people trying to steal food from our display case here—they reach in and try to grab it."
Olgoa Sagan, the owner of Piroshky Piroshky, said her location on 3rd Ave and Pike St closed in March after PPP funds ran low. She also said the closure helped the team take a break from the ongoing violence downtown. However, the drama they were trying to avoid showed up at their doorstep on opening day.
"I think that’s the scary part that we’re so now accustomed to this kind of level of crime and lawlessness around this area," said Sagan.
"Sadly it was kind of more of the same of what we expected," said Amaya.
Seattle police said the man with the knife was experiencing a mental health crisis and was taken to a hospital for evaluation.
In a tweet on Monday, Piroshky Piroshky called on the City of Seattle and the Seattle Police Department to have a conversation about what could be done to address the crime downtown.
"Downtown is still in trouble, we’re still having issues, there’s still safety concerns, we still need police presence here, we still need help here," said Sagan. "It’s scary that the King County building—they all were sent home. I mean, government officials keep running away from the city. What is left for us to do?"
The Downtown Seattle Association said help is critical for the community to recover, especially after several businesses, "endured closures, financial loss, anxiety and uncertainty." The group wrote in a statement:
Our city and county elected leaders need a plan for addressing problems that only seem to be getting worse. Decisions made at the city level have, in part, led to Seattle Police staffing shortages. Will City Council mitigate or exacerbate the situation?
"We have a lot of people who are finger-pointing here, all over—in government, in businesses and what we want to do is we want to do our part. We want to be here, be open, serve our customers," said Sagan.
Earlier this summer, Mayor Jenny Durkan announced the Road to Downtown Recovery plan—investing millions of dollars to bring back small businesses, workers and visitors to the area. Sagan said if the plan goes into action, she questioned if it would help bring customers back? Or, has the damage been done?
"We’re getting a lot of messages that people don’t want to be here, people are scared to be here. They want to walk through downtown as fast as they can," said Sagan.
The Mayor’s Office said there is also a comprehensive budget plan to address hiring more police officers and reducing gun violence in the city.
Sagan said Piroshky Piroshky does not deal with crime and violence challenges at their Pike Place Market location, since tourists mostly visit that store. Both Sagan and Amaya said they are grateful for customers who showed up to their first day of reopening on 3rd Ave and Pike St despite the issues downtown.
"Really warm reception from the community—people stopping by, not necessarily buying something, but saying we’re so glad to see you back," said Amaya.
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