by Sara 

?RV criminals vs. RV homeless


By reporter Steven Smalley

In the shadow of two murders in a decades-old encampment called, The Jungle, here?s a tale of two entities chasing the same seemingly impossible dream: Send RV criminals down the road while meeting the needs of the ?deserving? homeless at the same time. A request for immediate removal is plain enough to request, but cities across the country report an identical homeless/drug problem with little success cleaning it up, according to City of Seattle officials. The two sides in our area met a second time to reiterate demands and report some success.
The meeting, organized by the newly-formed Neighborhood Safety Alliance (NSA), took place Thursday night at Seattle Pacific University. A change of venue was scheduled to accommodate the crowd of nearly 300 attendees ? more than the previous standing-room-only gathering at the United Church of Christ.
? ? ? ?At issue: Frustrated neighbors in Magnolia, Ballard, Queen Anne and other parts of town want police to take nuisance RVs ? blamed for all manner of crime ? off city streets. Ne?er-do-well occupants, with their attendant criminal enterprises, make neighbors angry enough to call for their removal across the board. Victims of burglaries, theft, and car break-ins point fingers at the mayor for not doing enough to rid the neighborhoods of this unlawful element.
?I understand people?s frustration. I have to be able to plan something. I can?t react to something,? says Assistant Chief of Police, Steve Wilske. ?It has to be part of a plan. Otherwise all I do is move them from your street, to your street, to your street, to your street. If I go out and start writing one-million people one-million tickets, all I?m going to do is move them from Magnolia to Ballard.?

Seattle Assistant Chief of Police, Steve Wilske

Several attendees in the audience spoke after their names were randomly drawn. All of them submitted questions in advance. One of the first and loudest was area resident, Don O?Neill from KIRO Radio?s ?The Ron & Don Show.?
?There?s a huge difference between homelessness and what?s happening on our streets. We have to separate them. The Burkeshire report says we need 353 more police officers in the City of Seattle,? he explained. ?If the mayor wants more money, we want more accountability.?

Don O?Neill, ?The Ron & Don Show” ( KIRO Radio)
The mayor?s representative, Scott Lindsay (holding a bottle of used needles) and Gary Hunter (NSA)
The mayor?s representative, Scott Lindsay (holding a bottle of used needles) and Gary Hunter (NSA)
NSA?s Harley Lever

Members of the Alliance began by saying they have nothing against the homeless. To the NSA, the issue is the criminals, including heroin and meth-amphetamine dealers who hide within the RV community. Add to that, complaints of garbage, human waste, used hypodermic needles, and other dangerous debris left outside parking spaces as seen in scores of photographs taken subsequent to the last meeting.
?I want the city Council to change the policy for RV parking,? says Gary Hunter, member of the Alliance. ?I want to push the mayor to the moratorium that we demanded at the first meeting. We can take all of the RVs off the street for 180 days, then we can develop a policy that the City Council can pass and we can enforce with the participation of Seattle Police and the Seattle Department of Transportation.?
The City of Seattle, for their part, indicates a need to follow existing law. Three so-called Safe Zones have been established to site those RV dwellers who want to separate from the criminals and cooperate with the system.?In place of the mayor who did not attend ? to the vocal enmity of some in the audience and at the podium ? Scott Lindsay, Special Assistant on Police Reform and Public Safety spoke of the commitment of the City of Seattle to act.
?The law is this: Any vehicle over 80-inches wide is not allowed to park overnight in residential or commercial streets. They are allowed to park overnight in industrial zones. That?s why you get them in three major industrial zones in the city: Lower Ballard, Interbay, and lower Magnolia,? he said. ?For those who are not willing to go to the Safe Zones and are out of compliance with city law, meaning they?re not moving every 72-hours, or their vehicle doesn?t have a license plate or tabs, or their vehicle is junk-vehicle status, the Seattle Police Department will begin escalating enforcement of those vehicles. The idea is to drive them into the Safe Zones, and keep them off the rest of the streets.?
After the NSA meeting January 6, residents noticed stepped up police activity in Magnolia. Those actions by SPD were confirmed by the West Precinct Captain, Chris Fowler in an interview with Magnolia Voice.
?We opened up one of the Safe Lots on West Armory Way. We were able to move ten to twelve RVs into that area. There were fourteen or so in the Magnolia area. We whittled that down to a couple,? he said.
Not all in attendance were supportive of the effort to vanquish the RVs. A few in the audience with decidedly younger faces were vocal to the point of yelling disruptions, defending the homeless community from perceived attacks. At one point, an NSA member spoke quietly with an overly boisterous attendee and was successful in getting him to calm down. To the credit of the organizers, the meeting never got out of hand.
In the end there was still much distance between the demand for a 180-day ?moratorium,? followed by a complete RV ban, as requested by the Alliance, and what the City could promise now.
?There are over 300 people currently living in their vehicles,? Scott Lindsay explained. ?What a strict moratorium would mean, if we can?t get those folks into their vehicles, ultimately the solution is the impoundment of those vehicles. For some RVs that is absolutely going to be the solution. But for other vehicles with people living in them ? economically displaced persons, even a drug addict engaged in low-level crime ? to simply impound the vehicle and leave them with nothing on the streets, is a rash reaction.?
Following the meeting, Gary Hunter had a request:
?Every member of every neighborhood in the city needs to reach out to their City Council representative and compel them to change the policy in the City of Seattle, and do the best they can to represent the constituents to which they serve.?
Cindy Pierce, who heads up the Neighborhood Safety Alliance was not entirely satisfied with statements from city officials.
?We did not get an answer on RVs parked in industrial areas,? she said. ?As it sits right now, nothing?s changed. We were told they were going to be enforcing the law more strictly. We?ll wait and see.?

 Questions from the audience

Questions from the audience





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