Complaints, concerns rise with dangerous chop shop operating under First Avenue bridge

May 25, 2022, 6:24 AM
Screenshots from drone footage filming the chop shop under the First Avenue South bridge. (Video courtesy of Tony) Screenshots from drone footage filming the chop shop under the First Avenue South bridge. (Video courtesy of Tony)

Residents and business owners have made multiple complaints about crimes, particularly vehicle theft, coming from a homeless encampment turned chop shop lying below the First Avenue South Bridge.

“We have been responding out there over the last few months and we’ve been dealing with things like auto thefts and harassment out in that area for quite a while,” said Sergeant Patrick Michaud, a spokesperson for the Seattle Police Department (SPD), on the Gee and Ursula Show on KIRO Newsradio. “And it’s just one of those things where we have to handle each individual report as its own thing.”

Stolen vehicles, deaths, shootings, and use of illegal substances have all been witnessed and reported at this encampment by residents and police, with both claiming the people running the chop shop are extremely dangerous. There have been reports of the individuals at the chop shop carrying handguns and AR-15-style rifles.

23% of shots fired across the city have some connection to homelessness, according to Michaud.

When it comes to arresting these individuals, a police officer from West Seattle stated the criminals could be released and on the street the very next day.

“This is one of those things that we’ve been tracking since at least 2019, tracking repeat offenders. Something like more than half of the individuals have been arrested more than one time for auto theft,” Michaud said. “So it’s not one of those things where you get caught, and then you just stop. For the most part, we have people that have been arrested more than 20 times in the system since 2019.

“It’s frustrating, from a police standpoint, that we see these people over and over and over again,” Michaud continued. “But we’re going to continue doing what we do. We’re going to continue to make the arrest when necessary, and we’re going to continue to hopefully reunite individuals with their vehicles.”

Michaud noted that if a vehicle is stolen, the best thing to do is to call and report the missing vehicle and its location if it’s discovered in a “chop shop” encampment. He stressed victims of car theft should not enter these encampments alone without police. Approximately 4,000 cars are stolen in Seattle every year, according to Michaud.

“We feel your pain, it’s not easy having to deal with crime on a daily basis,” Michaud said. “That being said, we’re going to continue to work with you, we’re going to continue to ensure that each crime is investigated. And as we arrest people associated with these crimes, we’re going to work with the prosecutors to ensure that they are charged and held accountable for it.”

According to Ursula, a listener reported there have been four deaths, three shootings, and one overdose at this particular chop shop. The SPD is waiting to confirm those counts.

Fed up and frustrated with the increase in stolen cars across the Puget Sound region, a West Seattle man, going by his first name, Tony, for safety concerns, took matters into his own hands by using his drone to connect car theft victims to their stolen vehicles.

“Many cars were there with no license plates, completely disassembled, engines missing, hoods off,” Tony said. “I think people appreciate that someone is actually doing something to look, see and try to find their stolen property. Unfortunately, it’s going to take us citizens to do the work that the cops can’t.”

Tony posted pictures from this flight on a Facebook group page called “PNW Stolen Cars.”

Listen to Gee Scott and Ursula Reutin weekday mornings from 9 a.m. – 12 p.m. on KIRO Newsradio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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Complaints, concerns rise with dangerous chop shop operating under First Avenue bridge