Downtown Seattle has become so dangerous that King County will now have security guards escort their employees to transit.
On November 15, King County will debut their new Walking Bus which have security guards escort county employees based in Downtown Seattle and Pioneer Square to the nearby train station and ferry terminal each evening for their commute home.
According to an announcement on the King County website, "King County is launching a 'Walking Bus' pilot program where county employees can join their colleagues and a Facilities Management Division (FMD) Security Escort each evening walking to the King Street Station and the Coleman Dock from the downtown campus."
Participating employees will meet at the 4th Avenue entrance of the King County Courthouse rather than the 3rd Avenue entrance which was closed due to the homeless people living on the street who regularly attacked and harassed employees and others coming to the building. The group traveling by rail will be escorted the King Street Station once each afternoon and those traveling by water will be offered four options for escorts to the Colman Dock.
"The Walking Bus pilot program is in addition to security escorts offered by FMD Security Officers, who can escort you for several blocks from the building you work in, from downtown buildings to Goat Hill Garage or immediate vicinity bus stops."
Many residents were quick to note that no similar arrangement or program has been made for private sector workers in the same area even though their taxes pay for the escorts and the county employee salaries.
Some also inquired as to why a private security company was being used instead of Seattle Police officers or King County Sheriff's deputies. Some answered their own question citing the defunding of local law enforcement and others assumed it was because progressive politicians would rather hire security guards than police officers.
A deadly homeless encampment was allowed to remain in the park next to the courthouse for over a year. In August the encampment was finally removed after a prolifically offending meth addict was arrested after allegedly sexually assaulting a county employee inside a women's bathroom at the courthouse. This followed a series of violent incidents including a fatal stabbing and assault on a 67-year-old man and one of the campers kicking the man’s dog to death.
Even though the park has been closed for weeks for restorations, campers are already returning.
Crime has skyrocketed in Seattle after over 300 hundred officers have left the force following the council’s defunding of the department and the council’s policy of allowing encampments to remain in place and grow. Potential jurors for cases have refused to come to the courthouse over safety concerns.
Last month, Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan issued an executive order offering $25,000 hiring bonuses for police officers in an attempt to recruit more officers. However, The Seattle Police Officer’s guild commented that the move was too little, too late after Durkan supported defunding the police following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, and the deadly "autonomous zone" in the city.
In a statement, Mike Solan, president of the guild said, "Many of these former police employees left for lower paying agencies just to escape Seattle's toxic political climate. We also have another 100 officers now off the street due to the Mayor's COVID-19 vaccination mandate and another 130 officers currently unavailable for service who are out on extended leave."
Despite the hiring bonus and the Mayor changing her attitude towards police, this week the council proposed a budget which would slash in excess of an additional $10 million from the SPD budget. The proposal has been met with harsh criticism from citizens as well as recently elected officials who feel the voters chose them for a return to a more ‘law and order’ based model for the lawless city.
King County officials have demanded that the city to more to ensure the safety of their employees and is even in the process of taking control of the park next to the courthouse from the city.
Currently King County security staff are only allowed issued pepper spray and to wear a bullet resistant vest while on patrol.