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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Opinion >  Guest Opinion

Central/Downtown District Business Coalition: Crime statistics only tell part of the story

By the Central/Downtown District Business Coalition

By the Central/Downtown District Business Coalition

Data can be a good thing. Everyone likes to have real and reliable numbers at hand to substantiate a point being made. Unfortunately, statistics don’t always tell the full story. Case in point: a recent report indicated that Spokane is losing its reputation as a “property crime town.” According to data from the Spokane Police Department, reports of property crimes in nearly every category have dropped this year.

When businesses in the downtown core are collectively shelling out more than a million dollars a year for private security, you might forgive us for not joining in the celebrations just yet.

To say the past two to three years have been a challenge is an understatement. The ongoing effects of the pandemic coupled with the growing national houselessness quandary have left local businesses battered and bruised. Too many calls for help have gone unanswered. Many business owners have lost confidence in any response at all and have stopped trying to get one altogether.

Instead, many companies are now footing astronomical bills for security. We are installing security cameras and systems to dissuade criminals and providing our employees with personal protective devices. We are engaging private security personnel to respond to persistent acts of vandalism, harassment, trespassing, open drug use and theft, among others. We have a responsibility to our employees, our customers and our service providers to maintain a safe environment.

Maintaining safety is a responsibility we take seriously, and it is one that grows more frustrating by the day. While statistics may show crime receding, many in the downtown community see it building. We experience tenants leaving and storefronts remaining empty. We clean up broken windows, graffiti and drug paraphernalia. We lock down anything and everything that could be ripped away, from dumpsters to HVAC units and electrical boxes. We commiserate with staff and customers who are distraught over disturbing and heart-wrenching scenes. We have lost count on all counts.

The chosen strategies of local politicians may work through the lens of tidy statistics, but the true state of downtown Spokane tells a much different story. This is not the time to stop and pat anyone on the back for a job well done. This is the time to stop looking at the numbers and take a closer look at the state of our neighborhoods.

As business owners, we are accustomed to having concerns brushed aside and being told that we simply don’t like the look of houselessness. We admit it – we don’t. No one should; everyone deserves a roof. It’s time to recognize that the emperor is wearing no clothes. The encampments for the houseless are no fit place for human habitation. They are a health hazard to the vulnerable people who inhabit them. And, yes, businesses near campsites are feeling the side effects that tend to follow their expansion: increased property crime and lower foot traffic as customers and community members shy away. We owe it to our entire community to create solutions that help everyone.

Businesses are about numbers; after all, that is often how we measure how well we’re doing, how many jobs we create. But we would be remiss if we didn’t question our own data and consider if it matches what we’re hearing from our customers. If we miss some great disparity, we are putting our company at risk. If Spokane’s leaders want to believe that the city is headed in the right direction based on recent statistics, then they are missing a great disparity and putting our community’s future at risk.

Politicians and police alone cannot solve the issues we have on the streets today.

They are far too complex and too numerous. We must create real solutions that help people get off the streets while simultaneously ensuring the economic vitality of our community. It will take a Herculean effort by all of us – government, public safety, businesses, nonprofits and more – but it must happen now.

The time for talk has passed, it’s time to act.

Chris Batten, President/Managing Broker, RenCorpRealty. Tom Clemson, Owner, Cutter Tower. Craig T. Crowley, Principal/COO and Mark Aden, Principal, DCI Engineers. Susan Horton, CEO and President, Wheatland Bank. Kelly Risse, CEO, Physical Therapy Associates. David Coombs, President, DMC Properties. Chris Patterson, President, BreakThrough Inc. Jerry Dicker, President, GVD Properties (Montvale, Steam Plant, Ruby Suites, Ruby Hotel, Bing Crosby Theater). Gordon Hester, President & CEO, Kiemle & Hagood. Dave Black, CEO, NAI BLACK Black Realty Management Inc. Chud Wendle, Managing Member, Northtown Square. Kevin Roberts, Partner, Roberts Freebourn PLLC. Betsy Cowles, President, River Park Square. Lawrence B. Stone, President, Stone Group of Companies. Sheldon Jackson, President, Selkirk Properties and Revamp Properties. Rick Welliver, Owner, Spokane Boxing. Terry J. Goebel, Owner, T.S. Development and BHT Properties. Peter F. Stanton, Chairman/CEO, Washington Trust Bank. Jack Heath, Owner: The Buffalo Building, City Ramp Garage, Fire House Number 1/B&H Enterprises and the Cracker Building.

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