Nickels Reelection Watch

This Month: Crime in Belltown

May 22, 2009 Published in the June 2009 issue of Seattle Met

BELLTOWN RESIDENT ARIEL SANDERSON will concede at least one point to Mayor Greg Nickels: “There’s a lot of social forces,” she said, “including the volatility of drunk people and crackheads, that we’re all powerless against.” But how much more does this real estate agent and Belltown Community Council member have to witness—the sidewalk brawls, the open drug markets, the car that plowed through her condo lobby—before her neighborhood becomes a top mayoral concern? “It would be nice to see more involvement on a city level. We’ve struggled.”

The Seattle Police Department received 25 assault calls in the neighborhood in March, the Seattle Times reported. And a recent high-profile Honduran drug ring bust—which netted more than 30 suspected crack dealers—only highlighted the nabe as the place for scoring dope. A campaign issue for the November 3 mayoral election? For sure. “Whoever can fix it down here, you’ve got our vote,” Sanderson said of the 5,600-plus active registered Belltown voters primed to cast ballots this fall.

So far only one candidate, Norman Sigler, who kicked off his mayoral bid at Buckley’s pub near Second and Battery, has made the neighborhood a campaign focus. His idea: Keep cars off the streets on Friday and Saturday nights between 8pm and 3am. “Open them to pedestrians only. I think a lot of people feel they can get away with stuff because they can jump in their car and drive off onto 99 right there.” Second, he would up the police presence either with a new Belltown police station or by permanently parking police paddy wagons in the area.

Tim Ceis, Nickels’s deputy mayor, insists that’s already happening citywide. “Hiring of additional police officers was preserved in the mayor’s budget reductions,” Ceis said, referring to a provision that adds 154 cops to the force by 2012. “And this summer the largest number of police will be on patrol in the city’s history.” But beyond pointing to the Honduran drug sting (which Sanderson claims made only “a slight shift in drug activity”) the mayor’s office hasn’t specifically addressed Belltown.

Sanderson hasn’t seen anything from Nickels, Sigler, or any other candidate to convince her that they’re up to the task of mending her neighborhood. “I’ve personally invited the mayor to come down and experience it firsthand on a Friday or Saturday night,” Sanderson said. “And he hasn’t taken me up on that yet.”

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