By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
Junction Plaza Park just passed its 10th anniversary. In those 10 years, it’s been the site of many celebrations and gatherings, including the annual community Christmas tree lighting.
Right now, it’s a source of concern.
Since the city installed a “hygiene station” there four months ago, though it already maintains a public porta-potty a block west, the West Seattle Junction Association has been receiving reports of what it summarizes as “escalating violence and drug use in the park.”
Out of “the continued frustration of our citizens, coupled with the escalating violence, compounded by zero response (or accountability) from Human Services,” WSJA executive director Lora Radford has just launched a webpage meant to call public attention to some of those concerns and ask for community support in seeking a city response.
One example of the escalation of trouble in and near the park: The recent rampage at the QFC across the street, for which a suspect has been charged and remains in jail. But that’s just one incident mentioned in some of the anecdotes and observations posted on the page so far. While trash and discarded needles are mentioned, so are concerns about personal safety:
“… while I was sitting on a bench in the park trying to comb my dog, a young man approached me and accused me of staring at his girlfriend, then promptly flashed a large knife at me and told me to leave the park.”
“… There was a police response as a belligerent and violent man was accosting his fellow transients but also two innocent men who were literally just walking by on the sidewalk.”
“… We have had instances of our tenants being verbally accosted while trying to cross the street at that location and an instance where a colleague was chased by one of person s congregating in the park.”
The WSJA’s page makes it clear that it’s fully aware that the big picture involves “significant health, economic, and social challenges” and services are needed. But in the meantime, it’s concerned about safety – of the vulnerable people in the park as well as others in the area. It is asking all those with concerns to contact the Human Services Department (info). So far, after previous contacts, the only response from the city is a reply that just acknowledged the concerns and added:
You are correct that providing mental health and drug addiction counseling services is a broader question that needs to be addressed city-wide.
The Hygiene Station program team includes representatives from the Human Services Department (HSD), Seattle Public Utilities (SPU), Seattle Parks and Recreation (SPR), Office of the Mayor, Finance and Administrative Services (FAS) and Department of Neighborhoods (DON). Many team members are also working on COVID-19 and homelessness response issues and policies.
Aside from that acknowledgment a week ago, nothing, says Radford. So here’s how you can help if you have concerns too:
When you observe illegal behavior or see drug and mental illness issues in the park – first and foremost, please call 911. Please do not engage with the persons.
Send an email to Human Services. Together, we can work to elevate the need for more mental and drug counselors at the park. Let’s get people to the services they need, and support accountability:
Copy/paste into the send line of your email
Tom.VanBronkhorst3@seattle.gov; Frank.Coulter@seattle.gov; Bill.Benzer@seattle.gov; Tess.Colby@seattle.gov; Lisa.Gustaveson@seattle.gov; Donna.Waters@seattle.gov
Or Call Human Services
Tom Van Bronkhorst
Other business districts in the city have similar concerns; WSJA recently joined with some of its counterparts in this letter to the city. An excerpt:
We ask you take small businesses and the owners, employees, customers, and adjacent residents into consideration when assessing the public safety needs for the constituents of this city. Seattle is at a crossroads and is choosing its path forward. It’s time for us to ask our leaders, both legislative and executive, to find a way to work together to achieve what they essentially agree on: a reimagined municipal social contract—especially around public safety—that protects and lifts up all of us. Confronting and dismantling systemic racism and providing a safe environment for our neighborhood business districts are not mutually exclusive; indeed, they rely on each other completely.
For the Junction Association, the bottom line is at the end of its new page: “Join us. It’s time for action.”