Safety & Security at the Seattle Program Center and Magnuson Park

Due to the pandemic, the past year has been one of the most challenging in the history of The Mountaineers. More recently, we’re facing another concerning challenge: a significant uptick in crime that is threatening the Seattle Program Center and its staff and visitors. Learn what you can do to help us address this growing threat.
The Mountaineers The Mountaineers
March 29, 2021

COVID-19 presented The Mountaineers with significant operational and financial challenges, many related to facilities and program shutdowns and restrictions. At our recent State of the Organization update, we highlighted the many ways we’ve navigated these unprecedented challenges. As we’ve begun to slowly emerge from the grips of the pandemic, we’re now facing a growing threat: crime that is impacting our Seattle Program Center (SPC) and our staff, visitors, and program participants. 

Magnuson Park, home to the SPC, is Seattle’s second largest park. Magnuson is also home to more than 30 organizations, ranging from educational institutions and childcare, to nonprofit organizations and affordable housing. The diversity of organizations who are tenants in Magnuson Park is one of its unique strengths. Sadly, in the last year, Magnuson Park has also become an epicenter of crime in Northeast Seattle - at a time when most of the tenants in the park are enduring the devastating impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

CRIME ON THE RISE IN MAGNUSON PARK

Until recently, crime in Magnuson Park has been infrequent and limited mostly to periodic vandalism such as broken windows, graffiti “tagging”, and break-ins of vehicles. In recent months, organizations such as The Mountaineers and other tenant organizations in the park have observed a dramatic increase in crime - in both sheer number of incidents and in severity. For example, vehicle theft and vandalism, break-ins of buildings, drug dealing, and robberies have become a common, weekly experience in Magnuson. 

Sadly, The Mountaineers have felt the full force of this increase in crime. Despite improvements in our security systems and protocols, the SPC building has been broken into several times, resulting both in expensive repairs and theft of property. Last week, robbers entered the basement while a teen youth program was in progress and stole several of the participants’ backpacks - including their wallets and car keys. Then, in broad daylight, a parent was robbed under the threat of deadly force, unless they paid the perpetrator money. Fortunately no one was injured in either incident but they were shaken and worried about their safety. 

ACTIONS WE’RE TAKING

Our baseline building security at the SPC was good but as we’ve been targeted with more crime, we’ve made improvements such as adding surveillance cameras and lighting to vulnerable areas. The Mountaineers has also been collaborating with other tenants of Magnuson Park to share ideas and coordinate on actions that can make the entire park more secure and safe. We’ve also begun outreach to elected officials, Seattle City Parks, and the Seattle Police Department to ask for their help. On March 25, District 4 Councilmember, Alex Pederson, and representatives of the Seattle Police Department met with The Mountaineers and other tenants of Magnuson Park to discuss recent incidents and possible actions that can be taken.

Unfortunately, over the past year police patrols in Magnuson have been reduced and community policing programs that support park residents and organizations such as The Mountaineers have been cut. When our break-ins and robberies have occurred, response times from SPD have been relatively slow and unfortunately none of the police reports we’ve filed have resulted in arrests or prosecutions. As we’ve heard from other tenants in Magnuson and SPD, lack of consequences for crimes such as robberies, break-ins, vandalism, and drug dealing have emboldened others to commit more frequent and more serious crimes.

WHAT YOU CAN DO TO HELP

Just as The Mountaineers is working with the community of tenants in Magnuson Park, Mountaineers members, staff, and volunteers can work together to keep our community as safe as possible and secure the SPC. When visiting the SPC, please be extra diligent by following these tips:

  • Be aware of your surroundings in the park and report suspected crimes immediately by calling 911.
  • If confronted by anyone, make your personal safety the top priority and don’t try to argue or prevent a crime yourself. 
  • Secure personal belongings in the SPC and don’t leave valuables in your vehicle, especially in plain sight. 
  • Always diligently follow closing and lock-up procedures for courses and events.
  • Promptly report security-related repairs that need to be made, for example lights, doors, and windows. 

We also encourage members who are residents of the City of Seattle to contact your Councilmember and/or Mayor Durkan to request their support of actions that can help address the urgent and growing crime in Magnuson Park:

  • Increased resourcing for SPD patrols, especially after dark.
  • Restoration of community outreach programs to support residents and tenant organizations with their safety and security.
  • Follow-up investigation and prosecution of serious crimes that have occurred in Magnuson Park, especially repeat offenders.
  • Prompt repair of broken lights in the park by the Seattle Department of Transportation and Seattle Parks.
  • Address illegal overnight vehicle parking and encampments that have attracted illegal drug use and dealing.

We recognize that our entire community is recovering from an extraordinarily difficult year, with issues ranging from the COVID-19 pandemic to the specter of systemic racism. We also understand that addressing the recent increase in crime in Magnuson Park is related to other City of Seattle policies and requires a comprehensive and thoughtful approach. The Mountaineers encourages members of our community to engage with our elected officials in a constructive, solutions-oriented way to help solve issues such as the increase of criminal activity in Magnuson Park.

Lead image of the Seattle Program Center. 


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Sid Watson
Sid Watson says:
Apr 07, 2021 05:11 PM

When a city defunds its police force, crime increases. Simple as that. Perhaps the Program Center should be moved to a safer city.