Backs against the wall, Ballard business owners host town hall on crime

Jan 19, 2023, 3:17 PM | Updated: 8:08 pm

Ballard business owners...

Damage to windows of businesses in Seattle's Ballard neighborhood. (Photo courtesy of Steele Barber)

(Photo courtesy of Steele Barber)

Fed up with surging crime rates that have failed to dissipate, multiple Seattle business owners called upon their elected officials for increased support at a town hall in Ballard Monday night.

Matt Humphrey and his barbershop, Steele Barber and Spa, hosted the meeting as an opportunity to discuss potential solutions.

“It’s sad because the city is really great,” Humphrey told The Jason Rantz Show on KTTH. “I moved here in 2005 and set my life up here and kind of put everything on the line to open a small business 5.5 years ago, and for the last three years, it’s just been brutal.”

Two men shot to death in Georgetown overnight

Humphrey cited multiple break-ins, both attempted and successful, believing the increase in homelessness has indirectly brought additional crime.

“The crime is not necessarily just those guys, but every time it moves closer, we start to have incidents,” Humphrey said. “It’s just been rough. And we really are concerned about the safety of our staff and our customers.”

Seattle City Councilmember Sara Nelson was the only one in attendance for the meeting.

“Sara Nelson, the only one to show up, is the only one who actually cares about the business community, in my view,” Rantz said in response.

Dan Strauss, a Democratic councilmember representing Seattle’s sixth district that encompasses the Steele Barber and Spa alongside the rest of Ballard, did not attend the town hall forum.

But, as Ballard business owners pine for increased efforts from elected leaders, the city council is undergoing significant changes. Kshama Sawant announced Thursday she is not seeking reelection, making her the fourth of seven council members with expiring terms to announce a departure from the city council. Councilmembers Lisa Herbold (District 1), Alex Pedersen (District 4), and Debora Juarez (District 5) were the other three.

Seattle City Councilmember Kshama Sawant not running for re-election

Strauss, in addition to Tammy Morales, has yet to announce a decision on whether or not he’ll pursue reelection.

“You know, I met Dan once. He came down, kind of surprised me with a visit when we were having some challenges with the changes that they were making on Ballard Avenue to try to make it more pedestrian-friendly, and they didn’t do a lot of real outreach to the business owners and landlords before they did it,” Humphrey said. “And you know, I invited him three times. But I got a response finally yesterday that they didn’t get my emails — even though I CC’d all of his handlers.

“So it was disappointing because I felt like Dan himself had admitted that crime has been tough,” Humphrey continued. “I said, ‘come down here at night and you’ll see,’ and he goes, ‘oh, I know.’ So I think he’s aware.”

Humphrey made it clear he did get responses from others who were unable to attend, including Mayor Bruce Harrell, who had prior engagements due to the three-day MLK holiday weekend.

“What we’re expecting universally is the same,” Humphrey stated. “You got to get the police back to the base level. It doesn’t have to turn into a police state, but we got to get cops back on the street because it’s the Wild West. You watch any western, and you see people without law enforcement and how they behave. That’s what’s happening on the streets of Seattle right now.”

In February last year, the Downtown Seattle Association (DSA) hired a private security firm, Iron and Oak, to provide public safety support to Third Avenue between Stewart and Union in response to rising crime trends. The association spent more than $500,000 on private security for the downtown area in the previous fiscal year.

Downtown Seattle group spends $564,000 on private security, more to come for 3rd Avenue

“Whether it’s private security, which I don’t think is necessarily the answer because they don’t always have the training. There are some great outfits out there, though, but something has to change fast,” Humphrey said. “They’ve got to get it in place now, because I spent Thanksgiving in my shop with a $6,000 broken window after an attempted break-in. My landlord was right there along my side, helping me board it up. I mean, this is just not the way civil society is supposed to work.”

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Backs against the wall, Ballard business owners host town hall on crime