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Ballard residents frustrated with crime feel ignored by city council

Seattle Councilmember Dan Strauss used the entire allotted meeting time for blanket presentations from the city and county.

SEATTLE — Residents and business owners in Ballard say their Seattle neighborhood is being attacked by people committing low-level crimes like shoplifting and vandalism. 

On Tuesday night, they took their concerns to Seattle Councilmember Dan Strauss, hoping to find some solutions. 

Strauss advertised a town hall meeting from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. streamed live on YouTube. Constituents were asked to submit their questions via a digital document. However, Strauss used the entire allotted meeting time for blanket presentations from the city and county, without the opportunity for the public to ask questions during that time.

Strauss extended the town hall meeting for an hour to address community questions at the end, which left some constituents waiting three hours for an answer.

"We're trying to cry for help here. We're like hey, we're trying to employ people, recover from COVID and we just are having a tough time," said Matt Humphrey, whose question was addressed an hour after the meeting was scheduled to end.

In the RSVP to the town hall, Strauss said there would be presentations from City Budget Director Dr. Ben Noble, King County Regional Homelessness Authority CEO Marc Dones, King County Directors Leo Flor and Kelli Nomura to discuss the region’s behavioral health services, and DESC Executive Director Daniel Malone on Seattle's mental health crisis response. 

Humphrey owns Steele Barber in Ballard. He said on Sunday, someone fired a slingshot at his window. He believes there are at least 17 businesses in downtown Ballard that have been broken into in the past month and said he feels low-level crimes like theft and vandalism are becoming more common. 

"The question really is: what is Dan Straus and the City Council going to do for small business owners like me and all my neighbors who are constantly suffering the cause of the political gauntlet that everybody is trying to walk. It's not a political thing, it's a security and safety thing," said Humphrey. 

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"This, in particular, is why we have the victim's compensation fund, and that's why we wanted to get that started this year," said Strauss in response to Humprey's question. "Again, there's a difference between behavior that is someone in crisis, going through and doing things just to do them and then there's another section of the population that is engaging in organized criminal behavior."

"So for the people who are lashing out or having problematic behavior, we need to meet them with the crisis team, the specialist who will address their needs and get them inside," Strauss continued. "For the people that are engaged in the criminal behavior, we need to have the police doing the detective work and following up on that. Good question."

Another topic was the homeless encampment at the Ballard Commons. Strauss said he expects the camp to be cleared, but did not present a clear timeline. The presentation from the King County Regional Homeless Authority CEO Marc Dones said the authority plans to continue outreach across the county, but also have a laser focus on specific neighborhoods. It will start with Downtown Seattle. 

"That does not mean we stop doing outreach, or talking to, or stop doing emergency responses in a place where we're not focused. But it means that place isn't going to see the same kind of, what we hope, will be dramatic reductions until we are lasered in on it," said Dones. 

Humphrey was disappointed in the town hall. He said he stopped watching after about 30 minutes because the presentations didn't address the neighborhood's concern or present what he believed was a realistic, timely solution.