Owners of businesses serving tourists in downtown Seattle are using photographs to document what they say is an unacceptable level of panhandling and drug dealing on the streets of the city's commercial center.
In a strongly worded letter to Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn and the City Council, the business leaders said the problems have gone on for too long and have become worse -- reaching what they say is "a tipping point."
Kevin Clark, president and CEO of Argosy Cruises, is one of several in the tourism industry who took photos of panhandlers along the waterfront and downtown and sent them to city officials -- an effort coordinated by the Seattle Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Clark photographed a man begging for money in a wheelchair, who, he said, walked away and was replaced in the wheelchair by another person.
He said he sent in a picture of a panhandler who camped in front of Argosy Cruises for nearly seven weeks. The person camped with two pitbulls, one of which was pregnant.
According to Clark, tourism surveys have found that manny Seattle visitors say, "I'm not coming back to Seattle. I just didn't feel safe."
The business leaders hope their campaign of tracking the problem will get city leaders to take steps to improve public safety.
Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn sent the group a letter Thursday night saying, "On some issues, such as how we deal with low level street disorder, there is not yet consensus in the community about what is the best approach."