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Seattle grocers ask SPD to hire more officers to meet 'basic levels of public safety'

The Washington Food Industry Association says its members are scared for their employees and shoppers and question why they continue to do business in Seattle.

SEATTLE — The Washington Food Industry Association (WFIA) is calling on the City of Seattle to address its crime problem. The association argues its members feel conditions are not safe for employees and shoppers. 

“Simply put, we need the city council to work with the Seattle Police Department to bring staffing levels up in a way that meets basic levels of public safety. Action must be taken to increase the number of police available to respond to emergency calls in a timely manner. The current response times are simply unacceptable. When you call 911, you expect a timely response,” said WFIA President Tammie Hetrick in a news release. 

More than 200 Seattle police officers have left the force in recent months, and workers at grocery and convenience stores say they are feeling the impacts of the loss.

"I just try to do my best to protect the store and protect myself," said Ty Kwon, manager of Belltown Market. 

Kwon is often the only employee working in the convenience store. He stocks, helps customers and finds himself increasingly responsible for security. 

"I'm 53 years old and I have to fight more now than when I was in high school. It's crazy," said Kwon. 

He said he has more than 1,000 video clips pulled from the store's security system that document the theft and assault that he's endured. He's made hundreds of calls to Seattle police but he said officers either don't show or arrive too late. 

WFIA said its members are scared for their employees and customers and that some members are questioning why they continue to do business in Seattle.

“The City of Seattle has a crime problem and there currently are not enough resources to address it. Adding more officers to respond in a reasonable timeframe is a rational solution. We would like to work with the council and SPD to develop a solution to these challenges,” said Hetrick. 

In response to the WFIA, the Seattle Police Department said, "The department continues in its efforts to hire additional officers to enhance public safety service in Seattle."