Please excuse me if I get up on my soapbox. And yes, this is about travel…you (and others) traveling here. Our city (Seattle) is not doing very well. The article above is a prime example. Not sure if you heard about this on your hometown news but in the last three days there have been three shootings in downtown Seattle. Two of them within a block of each other. This wasn’t in a “bad” part of Seattle, it was right at what many of us consider the center of Seattle. A block from Westlake Park and Westlake Center. That’s the heart of our downtown.
Don’t get me wrong, I love Seattle. One of my many other websites is called “My Seattle.” I created the site about 10 years ago because so many of our cruising friends come here to sail to Alaska and they were always asking me for recommendations. Sadly, my recommendation to them now is…don’t come. You don’t know how much that makes me sad to write. Or come here but stay out of downtown.
I have a PDF flyer I put together for clients and friends about all the reasons I think that when you take an Alaskan cruise, you should sail out of Vancouver. There are lots of reasons I say this; sailing the Canadian Inside Passage, not losing a day due to your “by law” stop in Victoria and others. Now I have to add this to that flyer: It isn’t safe to stay or tour downtown Seattle. Sorry, it just isn’t.
Its not just these shootings. We have a homeless problem here. It’s bad. (Want to know how bad? Watch this special done by KOMO, one of our local TV stations.) Please don’t get me wrong, I believe that people who are homeless should have opportunities to find a permanent place to live. I believe those people who want help are getting help. But we also have a population of homeless that does not fit that description. They are homeless by choice. Maybe it’s addiction, maybe it’s mental illness but they don’t want to live in a way that conforms to the rest of society. But it’s not just that they are homeless. They are aggressive in their panhandling and demeanor to the point that King County (where Seattle is) had to close two of the main doors into the county courthouse because of the confrontations happening outside those doors every day.
The original historical area of Seattle is Pioneer Square. That’s where we started. If you have been here you may have taken the Underground Seattle Tour, or walked from downtown to a Mariner or Seahawks game, then you were in the Pioneer Square area. The panhandling and confrontations are the worst down there and it’s been a few years since I have felt comfortable going to that part of town except at midday.
But that problem has rapidly moved north into downtown. Walking from downtown to our biggest tourist attraction, Pike Place Market is not something I would do today. You see to get from most of the downtown hotels to the Market, you would probably walk through the intersection where last night seven people were wounded and one died in what was probably (they haven’t officially said yet) a gang shooting. This wasn’t even late at night. It was at the height of rush hour. I would love to say it doesn’t happen that often but as I mentioned, there have been three shootings in the last three days within blocks of each other and more in the last few weeks not to mention knifings and other attacks.
Even if no one is shooting, it can be scary. Kathleen and I have been walking to restaurants or the theater and had vagrants yell and scream at us. Some want money, others are mad at the world. Most that scream at you are mentally ill and there have been so many attacks, you just don’t know what is going to happen. Sadly we have season tickets to a theater that is right in the middle of it. The season start in March and the only reason we are keeping the tickets is that we can park in the theater’s underground parking and not leave the building.
I am not going to go into why I think this is happening. That has been debated over and over again for the last few years. Watch the special on KOMO that I linked and you will get some idea. But I do have a solution. It’s what New York City did to clean up Manhattan about 20 years ago. Travelers didn’t want to go downtown in NYC and the city decided that had to change. Now, I have no problem walking the sidewalks there. I have a lot more problem walking the sidewalks in most of downtown Seattle. What’s the difference? Cops! And lots of them. If you have been in downtown Manhattan in the last few years you may have noticed that almost anyplace you are on a sidewalk, you can stop and look around and probably see at least two police officers. Sometimes more. Seattle needs to do that. NOW! Hire more officers and put two at every intersection in the downtown core. It’s not going to take that many. Downtown isn’t that big. At least the areas that currently need policing. The city says it has been doing “emphasis patrols.” Moving cops driving around. This (IMHO) is not what we need. We need street cops, who can enforce the law with the backing of the city, on foot, at every intersection.
In the meantime, my best advice if you come here is: Stay out of downtown. Especially anywhere in Pioneer Square or in the Pike/Pine corridor from 6th Avenue to Western. Unfortunately if you are sailing out of Seattle on Norwegian Cruise Lines, your ship docks just below that area and if you come here you will want to explore. But if you do, be VERY careful. Please. We now avoid this area like the plague.
What we all want is public safety. We don’t want rhetoric that’s framed through ideology. —Kamala Harris