Thoughts on policing in Seattle.
I currently manage a small business in Seattle, and this month I’ve experienced more crime than ever- burglary, break in attempts, shoplifting, shoplifting while I was cleaning up after the burglary. Today I was asked to do an interview with Jonathan Choe of KOMO News, and after some thought and discussion, I’ve declined to do it. He was reporting on the suspect who will be in court tomorrow, not for our burglary (though he was arrested that same night with our merchandise under his arm, still tagged) but for assaulting a police officer, later that week. While on the phone, Mr. Choe indicated that this would be a report on the current state of prosecution in Seattle, and while I’m still very much angry, and very hurt, by what’s happened to my place of work (thousands of dollars of damage in an otherwise exhausting, challenging year! An injured employee! Sleepless nights!), I do not trust that my words on camera would not be turned into propaganda.
The arrest of the burglar gives me no joy, and no security. It will not pay for the smashed windows or damaged and destroyed product. Yes, it deeply disturbs me that I do not feel safe in my community and that as it stands now, I feel vulnerable to criminals. But it upsets me even more that I knew there would be no protection and that I could not trust the people who claim to serve and protect to do any of that. It scares me even just putting these words out into the world, I fear retaliation. We are a very small business and this has been a very tough year. I wish I trusted the systems that are supposed to be in place to protect us to do more. I wish I felt like the tax dollars we pay did something besides brutalizing protesters and the unhoused. The morning after the burglary, I stood among the wreckage and I just felt- sad. Our burglar is a repeat offender and drug user, and at that moment it felt like I was sitting under a collapsed house of cards. His arrest and incarceration wouldn’t pay for the damage. It wouldn’t save us from losing our insurance and thus our lease (if it comes to that.) It will only make it harder for him to break out of a cycle of violence. And I looked out the door, at the encampments and the people who wander our neighborhood every day, and I saw all of it feeding back into each other like a terrible oroboros of suffering.
If only we had systems to help people before they felt they needed to smash windows. There are people doing incredible mutual aid work here in Seattle. But the system itself is too broken to save. I am sick to death of people asking me “aren’t you worried there will be more of this if we defund SPD?” No, what I’m afraid of is more of this as more and more people end up on the streets in the cold, victims of evictions and mounting debts. I am afraid of more and more tax dollars bleeding into the pocket of the police officer who sometimes sits outside our shop, blocking our door with his cruiser, sleeping behind the wheel, always leaving before sundown. I am afraid for the regulars I have who are unhoused, who are good people, kind people, who have been unlucky in life. I am afraid to call police because I am afraid to be the reason someone is killed.
I am just one person. I don’t have answers. Right now it’s a challenge just surviving, and I am overwhelmed, exhausted, and afraid. It seems easier to close this document and leave it as a diary entry rather than sharing it. But with KOMO News waiting breathlessly to report on Seattle as a war zone, I want to be heard by someone. If this city is a war zone it is of the SPD’s own making. Everyone wants to fetishize my fear and anger against one criminal, and I am scared, and I am angry. But no one wants to hear about the people from the unhoused community who saw us standing in the night and checked in to offer words of support, or plywood for our windows. This city is not a war zone- it feels dangerous right now, but the danger is in the fabric of society allowing inequality to pull it apart. Jeff Bezos and Jenny Durkan have done more to make me feel unsafe than the encampments, but no one’s rushing to interview me about that.
As always, these words are my own views and not necessarily representative of my business as a whole. Defund SPD, shop local, Black Lives Matter. And please be kind. It’s the holidays, for fuck’s sake.