Dori: Seattle Parks and Recreation most recent victim to rising vandalism, graffiti incidents
“You Sweep, We Strike” was tagged alongside a series of damages toward the Seattle Parks and Recreation office building downtown. Damages included smashed windows and defaced city cars.
The message was presumably in response to the county’s efforts to remove and clean up homeless camps.
Homeless advocate Tim Emerson, who works with the organization “We Heart Seattle,” said he was taken aback when he heard about the destruction.
“I was angry. I don’t understand why we can’t all work together for a cleaner, safer Seattle,” Emerson said to KIRO 7 News. “It doesn’t make sense to me. And most of the people that I work with are in the same boat. They don’t understand it. The houseless community is very confused about who’s trying to help.”
He says the city’s efforts to clear out homeless camps in parks and on sidewalks are disrupting the unhoused, but he believes there is also a benefit to the clearouts.
“I think the sweeps help personally, it motivates a person to take the resources out there,” he said. On Wednesday, Emerson said he was helping someone who had been moved from his camp multiple times to take steps to get housing.
The disruptive act caught the attention of the mayor, who called the vandalism “wholly unacceptable.”
“It does nothing to help people move out of homelessness and into shelters with services. It does nothing to restore parks, playfields, and public spaces,” Mayor Bruce Harrell said in a statement. “The way to make change is to engage, not to drive division. In One Seattle, we work together with shared values toward sustainable solutions. Our administration and employees will continue with that mission to address the homelessness crisis urgently and compassionately.”
One Seattle is a comprehensive plan to help guide city decisions about where to locate housing and jobs, and how to invest in transportation, utilities, parks, and other public assets.
The rise in vandalism and graffiti caught the attention of Elizabeth Economou, who once described the increased graffiti makes Seattle look like a warzone.
Economou believes the lack of uniformed policemen is what is causing the rise in vandalism and graffiti.
“There are no consequences. So, of course it’s going to get worse,” Economou said. “Why don’t we employ what Giuliani did in New York in the 1970s. The broken window theory. We need to stop the defunding and vilifying of cops. We need more cops around, we need law and order.”
In 2020, 186 Seattle police officers left the department and only 51 new officers were hired, according to Seattle Police Department data. The following year, 171 officers exited the agency with only 81 new officers brought on board. So far in 2022, just five new officers have joined the force compared to 20 leaving in January alone.
“It’s a beautiful city. It’s incredibly expensive to live here,” Economou continued. “And yet, if you drive on I-5 in any direction, north or south, you see that the graffiti, and let’s not call it graffiti, let’s call it what it is. It’s vandalism and it’s expanding north and south.”
Independent journalist Jonathan Choe recently had a confrontation with five people tagging public property in broad daylight. He filmed the confrontation with his phone.
“This was probably the most blatant incident. Look, even the mayor will say it’s difficult to catch these graffiti artists,” Choe tells Kruse on the Dori Monson Show. “He held a press conference last week where he goes, ‘I’m not sure what time of day this is happening. Let us help you. But please don’t use the entire city as a canvas.’ With that said, this latest incident was probably the most blatant one. Five young guys just openly tagging.”
Choe believes the graffiti issue in Seattle is a larger problem than it sounds.
“As we approach the warmer summer months, you have tourism season coming into play, you’re going to have a lot of visitors, especially as we continue to emerge out of COVID. It’s an optics issue,” Choe said. “You drive down any main highway or street and it’s everywhere. It’s going to be this ongoing problem that I think the mayor will have to deal with.”
One of the five taggers wrote out Mayor Harrell’s name to bait the mayor into doing something about their graffiti, according to Choe.
Tim Emerson interview reported by DeeDee Sun, KIRO 7
- Tune in to KIRO Newsradio weekdays at 12 noon for The Dori Monson Show.