On a chilly evening in late December, all is quiet outside of the SoDo Jack in the Box on 4th and Holgate. The windows are dark and, aside from a man in a Santa hat smoking outside the restaurant, the parking lot is practically empty. This, according to police, is a bit out of the ordinary.
Located in an industrial area, the Jack in the Box is in close proximity to the homeless camps which dot the wooded northwest side of Beacon Hill, known as the "Jungle." The restaurant also sits on the border between the police department's west and south precincts, at the edge of two busy police beats, making it less likely for officers to regularly be in the area. One police officer familiar with the area describes it as being "like the Twilight Zone."
At a community meeting in South Seattle in November, police revealed to neighbors that the SoDo Jack in the Box has become a magnet for problems in the late evening hours.
Indeed, Seattle police records obtained through a public disclosure request show that police have been dispatched to the Jack in the Box nearly 100 times—usually at the request of employees—between January and November of last year. This is why the SoDo Jack in the Box has apparently earned the unfortunate title of "The worst Jack in the Box in the Country."
The unfortunate moniker was, according to police, bestowed upon the SoDo fast food joint by Jack in the Box West Coast Loss Prevention Manager Dennis Yoroway. South Precinct Captain Dave Emerick told the crowd at a community meeting in South Seattle about the nickname last November.
According to South Precinct Lieutenant James Koutsky, police are frequently called to the business to deal with loitering, public drinking, and public urination, but the majority of the calls are about drug dealing. the SoDo Jack in the Box has been a magnet for crowds late at night, and a hub for drug sales. Unfortunately, the Jack in the Box isn't too far from a major outpatient drug treatment center—the Evergreen Treatment Center—and police are concerned that drug dealers in the area might be targeting rehab patients. "I think some people who are trying to get through rehab are targets for predators," Koutsky says.
Ran Jackson, executive director of the Evergreen Treatment Center, says he's heard about problems at the Jack in the Box for years and says his staff "strongly discourage[s] patients from loitering" in SoDo. "We tell them go on with your day, don’t hang out here," he says. "Having people in the area actively dealing drugs is not in the interests of our patients.
Police are working with Jack in the Box's corporate staff to clean up the area and prevent future problems at the business. Koutsky says Jack in the Box has hired security to patrol the area and is working with the county to move a bus stop further away from the restaurant.
Calls to Jack in the Box's west coast loss prevention manager Dennis Yoroway for comment were not returned.