Last Wednesday night, there was a mass shooting outside a McDonald’s in Seattle, resulting one woman’s death and injuries to seven bystanders, including a nine year-old. The suspects have been identified as “frequent flyers” but have not yet been caught.
When I heard the news, I was saddened but not shocked. Over the last couple of years, there’s been a number of random acts of unprovoked violence and vandalism, from hate crime to stabbings and other violent assaults (one incident leading to a 2-week closure of the courthouse entrance). Drugs are often involved and have ties to other problems as well, like the rise in defecating on sidewalks. It’s reached a point where I feel unsafe going to Seattle (especially at night), avoid it when possible, and wouldn’t particularly recommend it to tourists visiting our state.
Eric Johnson is a local journalist who’s been researching these problems for some time now. His reports highlight the heart of the issue, which is that (as is clear from the outcomes) the city’s current leadership and their policies are simply not working. Meanwhile, issues related to crime and drug addiction are quickly getting much worse than they started out.
Johnson’s latest report can be watched here (about 5 minutes), but to get a full scope of the situation I recommend taking the time to watch his 1-hour documentary, Seattle is Dying. Nearly a year old now but still relevant, it includes diverse perspectives from citizens, law enforcement officers, and current and former addicts. At the end he offers some ideas for possible solutions to try.
As a side note—I’ll add that there was quite a bit of backlash from other media sources when this film was originally released. Some thought it was too sensational, harsh, or tunnel-visioned; others accused Johnson and his network for being politically motivated. To that critique I would say—sure, it’s not a perfect documentary, but a) if the current attitudes are superior, why is the situation continuing to deteriorate? and b) there hasn’t been any real political diversity for many decades, so merely criticizing the mayor and city council is bound to be perceived as political in nature.
Regardless of whether Seattle is “dying”…there is still a serious problem, and Wednesday’s tragedy was a symptom. I wholeheartedly believe it’s possible to solve it in a way that is compassionate and fair to the entire community. I hope the city’s leadership opens up quickly to alternative perspectives and approaches to improve public safety, or that voters support candidates who will, because the status quo should not be acceptable.