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Why this Seattle business owner wishes there were '10 times more police officers' downtown

Trevor Boone has operated Emerald City Guitars in Pioneer Square for 25 years. But over the past couple, he says he never sees police around the neighborhood and calls the area a “free-for-all.”

The guitar shop started seeing customers by appointment only during the pandemic. But now, Boone says that policy is also a safety precaution.

“We don’t want our customers having to come down here unless we can get them directly into the shop,” Boone says. “It’s a safe place. We create our own world.”

Last Thursday, Boone stepped outside his guitar shop to pay the parking meter. That's when a person suddenly came up to Boone and pulled out a knife. Boone ran away and called 911. It took police nearly half an hour to arrive.

“I was pretty disappointed having a knife pulled on me and then visually seeing the man stand freely for 20, 25 minutes until someone showed up,” Boone says.

He says over the nearly three decades he’s been at South Washington Street and 1st Avenue, the neighborhood has gotten less and less safe.

“It's absolutely out of control,” Boone says. “Super violent, garbage bags being emptied out every two seconds. We're picking up bags and needles from in front of all our businesses down here almost every day.”

Meanwhile, the Seattle Police Department says they’re facing staffing shortages and a lack of support from some city leaders.

"I know they're understaffed, but we need them," Boone said. "I wish there were 10 times more police officers downtown."

Seattle police increase patrols, face shortages

Over the past weekend, SPD deployed extra patrols to the Pioneer Square, Belltown, and downtown neighborhoods. It was in response to a string of shootings around the city that left five people dead and nine others injured.

But those extra patrols stopped on Monday. An SPD spokesperson said they would look at the data from the weekend “to determine how/where and quantity of officers we need to field in the future.”

At a press conference last week Mayor Jenny Durkan stressed the need for more police officers to keep up with the city’s crime.

“Over the past 17 months the Seattle Police Department has lost over 250 officers,” Durkan said.

Durkan points to a lack of support from some City Council members who have called on divesting from policing.

“Not unexpected — losing these numbers of officers,” Durkan said. “When city leaders talk about cutting a department by 50%, you will lose employees."

Five months ago Trevor Boone sold his house and moved out of Seattle, but he doesn’t want to quit Pioneer Square just yet. He says he’ll go down with the building.

He tries to keep positive, but is still frustrated with the city for not doing more to keep the area safe.

“I still love this little neighborhood. But it's different, man. They failed it.”