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Problematic behavior outside King County Courthouse continues

King County Courthouse. (penjelly, Flickr)

People are still being hassled as they go in and out of the King County Courthouse near Seattle’s Pioneer Square neighborhood.

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King County commissioners found out Tuesday that people don’t feel comfortable going to the courthouse. It’s especially a problem when jurors don’t want to show up for duty.

Last July, Judge Lara Inveen told council members that the two city parks adjacent to the courthouse were “virtually open-air drug markets.” Threats, assaults, lewd conduct, and drug dealing all became an issue around the government building.

In response, the council convened a panel to uncover the root of the problem.

Seattle Police Captain Thomas Mahaffey says the issue may be the homeless camps in the area.

“I don’t think it’s the courthouse in particular. I think — as I mentioned — it’s some of the other environmental issues down here, mainly being you have all of your service providers clustered in a very small area.”

King County Councilmember Pete von Reichbauer says the problem needs to stop.

“We pay jurors ten dollars a day to get abused,” he said.

He said it seems ironic that the city and county encourage people to walk and use public transportation, but they are inhibited by people on sidewalks that are in violation of the law.

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“Tent situation is very frustrating,” Captain Mahaffey said. “We have a lot of administrative rules we have to follow … my officers go out but because of the rules regarding encampments that we are bound to follow — they are administrative rules, maybe they don’t line up with city ordinance and law — but that’s what we have to follow.”

Captain Mahaffey says officers can ask people to move, but if they make an arrest, they are responsible for all the property. The department doesn’t have the resources to deal with it.

Major Dave Jutilla, chief of King County Metro Police, says efforts in the area will continue.

“Our efforts on Third Avenue are going to be long and consistent as we keep moving ahead and that will include the courthouse area.”

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