Police have been unable to respond to “rapes, robberies, and all sorts of violent acts” occurring in Seattle’s East Precinct, which authorities abandoned on Monday, leaving the area in the hands of activists who set up their own police-free “Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone” (CHAZ), Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best said Thursday.
The police chief is now working on a plan to reopen the precinct, telling reporters calls for service “have more than tripled.”
“These are responses to emergency calls — rapes, robberies, and all sorts of violent acts that have been occurring in the area that we’re not able to get to,” she said.
Emergency response times in the area have tripled, she noted, going from just over five minutes to 18 minutes.
“If that is your mother, your sister, your cousin, your neighbor’s kid that is being raped, robbed assaulted (or) otherwise victimized, you’re not going to want to have to report that it took the police three times longer to get there to provide services to them,” Best said.
“It was never an option to have residents of the precinct, many of whom are members of our most marginalized communities by the way, waiting for an extra length of time for an officer to arrive to a violent crime in progress,” she stated.
The police chief also confirmed someone breached the building, which was abandoned on Monday:
Seattle Police Chief: "Rapes, robberies and all sorts of violent acts have been occurring in the area and we're not able to get to [them]." #capitolhillautonomouszone #antifa #BlackLivesMatter pic.twitter.com/Oe5YfVz3uL
— Andy Ngô (@MrAndyNgo) June 12, 2020
Carmen, in a Thursday video address to East Precinct officers, emphasized it was not her decision to abandon the precinct. Rather, it was the city that “relinquished to severe public pressure,” resulting in protesters — including Antifa members and self-described anarchists — setting up a six-block perimeter, CHAZ, around the area and deeming it a police-free, “autonomous” zone.
“I asked you to stand on that line. Day in and day out. To be pelted with projectiles. To be screamed at. Threatened, and in some cases hurt. Then to have a change of course nearly two weeks in. It seems like an insult to you and our community,” Best said, adding “ultimately, the city had other plans for the building” and caved to public pressure:
Best also highlighted reports of armed individuals “patrolling” certain areas of CHAZ and said they have heard that those individuals “may be demanding payment from business owners in exchange for that protection,” although she noted at a later press conference the department had not received “any formal reports.” However, she also said in the video they have heard that individuals in the zone may be demanding to see identification from those who live in the area.
“This is not legal,” she stressed.
She wrapped up her brief message to officers by recognizing that they likely feel “underappreciated” but said, despite the noise, she believes “most” people in Seattle support the police department and its officers “even though they may not be the ones posting on social media.”
“They and I will continue to have your backs,” the police chief added.