Seattle’s Bikur Cholim Cemetery overrun with crime
Unauthorized tents can be found in parks, along sidewalks, and in neighborhoods throughout Seattle.
The homeless epidemic has now spread to cemeteries, according to Bikur Cholim Cemetery Board member Ari Hoffman.
Hoffman told KIRO Radio’s Dori Monson that Bikur Cholim Cemetery, a Jewish cemetery in Northgate, has become so overrun with encampments and all ensuing manners of crime that the cemetery board is trying to figure out how to fund permanent security for the graveyard.
“Two days ago, the police caught a couple having sex on top of two of the tombstones,” Hoffman said. “That’s how bad it’s gotten. That’s the kind of thing that’s happening at 11 o’clock in the morning.”
Rather than simply beautifying the cemetery, the grounds crew has made it their mission in recent months to put a stop to any crime taking place on the property. Before this, Hoffman said, drug addicts had turned the cemetery into a nightmare.
“For two years, needles, feces, used condoms, drug deals were going on, prostitution was going on, we believe that it may have even been some underage, child prostitution that was going on out there,” Hoffman said. “Anything illegal that could go on was going on there.”
The vagrancy problems have started to ruin Jewish traditions that visitors to the cemetery would like to practice. For instance, the restroom and the water are now locked down to prevent people from making the cemetery their free campsite. Hoffman said that this prevents the Jewish ritual of washing one’s hands upon leaving a graveyard.
“It’s holy ground for us,” he said. “And when we see it being desecrated in this way, it’s horrifying.”
At a Memorial Day event this week in which kids and soldiers put up American flags together, Hoffman said that two people who were likely prostitutes tried to enter the cemetery.
Homelessness to Bikur Cholim Cemetery
Seattle police “have really been wonderful,” Hoffman said, but the city “is handcuffing what [police] can and cannot do and stopping them from doing some of the things they really want to be doing.”
Hoffman believes that the City of Seattle has wanted the homelessness problem to look as bad as possible to residents so as to drum up support for the head tax.
“They want it in our face, they want it all over our city so they — they thought they could swindle the entire city with the head tax,” he said. “They wanted it visible.”
In Hoffman’s opinion, real change won’t come until the 2019 election, when seven Seattle City Council seats are up for election.
“2019 can’t come soon enough,” he said.