SPD sends tone-deaf response to Pioneer Square’s Collins Pub after assault
Operating an eatery in a busy, tourist-filled area of Seattle — at the foot of the Smith Tower in Pioneer Square — is a challenging enough occupation, but for Seth Howard, owner of Collins Pub at Second Avenue and James Street, the duties have increased to a dangerous level.
On at least a weekly basis, customers enjoying lunch and drinks outside on the patio are threatened by people living on the street. Howard said that this has happened between 10 and 20 times in recent months.
“There’s an element, a character, in Pioneer Square that is a challenge, and an increasing challenge, I think, which many down here would agree [with],” Howard told the Dori Monson Show. “And it’s basically become a full-time job for me to shoo away unwanted elements, guests, people bothering my guests.”
Calls to Seattle police typically take three to four hours to result in an in-person response, if police show up at all.
“When I call back, often times it’s the pat answers — ‘Our service is overwhelmed, they’re dealing with more important crimes, they’ll get to you, you’re pretty far down the line, pal,'” Howard said.
After yet another set of assaults on Monday, Howard had enough.
A woman on the sidewalk approached a customer having lunch at a table outside and asked for his iced tea. When he said no, she grabbed the glass, drank half of it, poured the other half in his lap, then shattered the glass on the table.
The woman ran off, but returned to Collins Pub a little while later. When staff members attempted to keep her out of the restaurant, she threw garbage at them.
Tired of the minimal results he knew would come from calling the Seattle Police Department, Howard tried a different approach and reached out to police on Twitter.
Dear @SeattlePD this lady has now assaulted my customer and staff twice this afternoon. I’d call 911, but whenever I do you never respond, so I thought I’d try this format? Thanks! pic.twitter.com/6QlxEocga8
— collins pub (@collinspub) August 5, 2019
SPD’s response, however, was not what Howard had hoped for — and led him right back to square one.
We’re unable to dispatch via twitter. If you have a crime to report, please call 911 and provide info to one of our dispatchers.
— Seattle Police Dept. (@SeattlePD) August 5, 2019
Ironically, however, Howard spotted an officer right outside Collins Pub writing a parking ticket the next day. (UPDATE: SPD clarified that parking enforcement officers cannot be dispatched in the same way as patrol officers.)
These guys never seem to miss a beat though! pic.twitter.com/2EwVGRg4ll
— collins pub (@collinspub) August 6, 2019
In another notable encounter a few years ago, a person came into the pub and randomly sucker-punched a customer. Howard and his staff called 911 a few times, but it took six hours for police to arrive.
“The cops came in with their hands on their holsters and said, ‘Where is he? Where is the guy?'” Howard said. “Needless to say, both he and the victim were long gone six hours later.”
He emphasized that the individual officers who come in are not the problem; rather, it is the overall system that keeps them from quickly responding to assaults by criminals.
“They’re frustrated, their hands are tied, I think they’re not happy about the way things are going — as I am,” he said.
Unfortunately, the frequent threats, harassment, and assaults create a huge financial burden for the small business. When scared guests get up and leave in the middle of their meal, Howard has to cover that cost.
“I lose guests; other guests are horrified, and we will not, probably, see them back,” he said. “It’s not good for business, that’s for sure.”
It also affects employment. A couple of months ago, Howard hired a young man as a new bartender. Two days later, a homeless man threatened the new employee’s life. The frightened bartender quit on the spot and even threatened legal action.
“We’re about a 75-percent female staff, and I certainly don’t ask them to put themselves in jeopardy, nor the males,” Howard said. “It usually ends up me out there, holding up a chair and fending off somebody as if they were a lion.”
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