Police step up patrols outside King Co. courthouse after complaints of crime, threats
SEATTLE - A city park that has been the source of complaints about crime, daytime camping and drug use is getting some major attention from the City of Seattle and the King County.
City Hall Park, which is next to the King County Courthouse, is slowly becoming a draw for the lunchtime crowd. The county and city have encouraged food trucks, set up lawn games, trimmed trees and improved lighting.
The move comes after months of cries for help from judges who say their staffers have been assaulted; jurors who say they won’t report for duty; and courthouse employees who say they have encountered people defecating and shooting up drugs outside the front doors.
Julie Caldwell, a King County employee, said before last few weeks she couldn’t imagine eating her lunch in the park. She said it was a place she only zipped through to get to her bus stop.
“It’s so awesome to be able to come out and sit and have some really good food,” Caldwell said Tuesday, as she ate a spicy tuna poke bowl.
Michelle and Peter Leong parked their food truck, Mix Poke Bar, at the park for the first time Tuesday.
When they pulled up and saw a mix of people in sleeping bags and under blankets and cornhole, chess and other games supplied by the City of Seattle the couple didn’t know what to think.
Michelle Leong said there are so many poke trucks throughout the city they gave it a shot.
“Nobody else is here, so why not? Why not spread our aloha somewhere else, versus somewhere everyone else is going?”
But Tobi Bets, of Wedgwood, said she had her doubts about the strategy to draw lunch goers to a park where so many people are in desperate need of help.
“It’s almost an oxymoron that you see two millennials playing beanbag toss right next to six people will all of their possessions in a shopping cart,” Bets said.
Bets said she used to work downtown and after walking around the courthouse and through Pioneer Square Tuesday “I haven’t seen any improvement, to be honest.”
The King County Council on Tuesday morning discussed the park and safety around the courthouse.
Presiding Superior Court Judge Laura Inveen said things have been bad for a while and she fears will gets worse if there isn’t a dedicated effort to focus on crime and quality of life issues.
Inveen said that in recent months people have been groped inside the park, a prosecutor was assaulted nearby and people have encountered people shooting up drugs and defecating on the courthouse steps.
“We’ve got a long way to go, but we need to keep plugging at it,” Inveen said.