SEATTLE -- With prolific, repeat offenders like Francisco Calderon walking the streets of Seattle, what does that mean for tourism in the Emerald City? What about small businesses? Both are crucial to Seattle’s success, and both are feeling the impacts of these criminals, but is that enough to take business elsewhere?
“We actually have talked about, ‘gosh should we go to the east side?’ and it’s something we are looking at but we don’t want to leave our roots downtown.”
Stacy Bennet is a Seattleite through and through, and while she and her husband have contemplated moving their business, ‘Buki’ she says it’s not time yet. It is safe to say, though, that a lot of people believe it is time for a change.
“One of our gals left the store and called me and said ‘Hey just as I was leaving I wanted you to know, we had someone starting to camp out on our front porch here.' So I had to have security come and move her along, and then also, there was some sort of a drug bust in the parking lot right next to our store.”
Bennet says the challenge isn’t just taking care of your business, it’s making sure the employees are okay too. You can’t have employees, though, if you don’t have customers.
For Bennet, the foot traffic just isn’t the same as it was 3 years ago when they set up shop.
“I think it definitely impacts all of our businesses downtown because we hear it from our friends, people just don’t want to come downtown anymore.”
Bennet says there are several factors deterring people from coming into downtown Seattle. Parking and driving, well that’s just part of the problem. The homelessness issue coupled with the opioid crisis, and the threat of repeat offenders are problems that others echo as ones impacting our businesses and our people.
“It’s putting the communities, and the safety of folks who live and work and visit here at risk," said Jon Scholes, President of the Downtown Seattle Association.
In a statement by Tom Norwalk, President and CEO of Visit Seattle, he says repeat offender cases like Calderon’s can impact people visiting the state.
“We have had increased comments from visitors about Seattle’s challenges with our street scene, which encompasses a host of behaviors.”
While the tourism numbers have not decreased, Norwalk believes they could.
“These types of incidents have the potential to damage our city’s reputation, appear nationally in social media and can be alarming to potential visitors.”
So we have identified some of the issues: How do we fix it?
Bennet is at a loss.
“I don’t know what the answer is."
While we, and the city try to come up with an answer, Bennet will be here running a business downtown, still proud to be a Seattleite.
“Well, I’m a fighter, so I will do everything in my power to make sure that we can try to make it through.”
Visit Seattle says they hope leaders develop both long and short-term solutions, as visitors want to know what the city is doing to overcome the challenges. The goal is safety and making sure everyone feels welcome in Seattle.