Business owners and residents in Seattle’s so-called “Capitol Hill Occupied Protest” zone, or CHOP, are growing increasingly concerned about safety inside the area, according to local reports.
Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best declared this week that there’s no “cop-free zone” in the city, but stakeholders in the neighborhood around the abandoned East Precinct police station say otherwise.
And response times to 911 calls in the surrounding area have tripled since police vacated the building, according to authorities.
“We are just sitting ducks all day,” Matthew Ploszaj told Seattle-based KIRO 7. “Now every criminal in the city knows they can come into this area, and they can do anything they want, as long as it isn’t life-threatening. And the police won’t come in to do anything about it.”
Ploszaj said he called 911 after witnessing a burglar break into his courtyard and steal a bike, the outlet reported. Then he said the dispatcher told him there was “nothing we can do” unless someone’s life is in danger.
He reportedly saw the same burglar a few days later, made eye contact and called 911 again — to no avail.
Russell Kimble, who owns an auto shop on 12th Avenue and East Olive Street near the edge of the CHOP, told Q13 Fox that police “would not” respond to a break-in and confrontation at the business.
New cement and wood barricades bear the name CHOP, Tuesday, June 16, 2020, inside what has been named the Capitol Hill Occupied Protest zone in Seattle. The city put the barriers in place Tuesday in hopes of defining an area where emergency, delivery, and other vehicles can travel through the area while still preserving space for protesters, who have been there since police pulled back from near the department’s East Precinct after recent clashes with people protesting the death of George Floyd. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
Best told Q13 that her department received a report and sent officers who “observed the location from a distance.”
She said they saw no signs of smoke or fire or any other signs of “a threat to life safety.”
“Clearly if it’s something that’s a life-safety situation, somebody injured, shots fired, that kind of thing. We don’t have any other choice. We’re going in,” Best said Tuesday, according to Q13. “If you’re asking about the current situation, it’s not one that I like.”
Best has maintained that it was not her decision when Seattle police pulled out of the East Precinct earlier this month after more than a week of protests — which at times grew violent — over the police-involved death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
A man allegedly drove into a crowd of protesters on June 7 and shot someone just a block away from the building. One day earlier, demonstrators allegedly hurled bottles, rocks and “explosives” at police.
Arson attacks on five unmarked police vehicles occurred just a few blocks away on May 30. The Justice Department announced the arrest of a 25-year-old Tacoma woman in connection with that incident last week.
When authorities pulled out, protesters filled the void, occupying the area around the precinct building and declaring it a “cop-free zone.”