KING COUNTY, Wash. - It was once considered one of the roughest parts of King County. After decades of work, White Center is slowing loosing that reputation. This weekend, Jubilee Days Celebration kicked off with south King County families enjoying food, games, and live music. It’s just one example of a community trying to leave its history in the past and make it a safer place to live.
“Get something to eat. Get on more rides and have some more fun,” said Jimmel King who volunteers in White Center.
“It’s Jubilee Days. It’s amazing. It’s the best thing to happen in White Center all year,” said Erin Murphy who lives near White Center.
White Center is an area with a reputation local law enforcement says was earned.
“It was the wild west,” said King County Sheriff’s Deputy Bill Kennamer.
During the late ‘80s and ’90s, Kennamer says the area was ravaged by the crack epidemic.
“When I first started policing here, I wouldn’t have lived here and I’m an armed policeman,” said Kennamer.
He says there were shootings, stabbings, drugs, and other crimes plaguing the area.
“In the late 2000s, more commercial investments. They started tearing down the crappy housing and building better housing,” said Kennamer.
After nearly two decades, Deputy Kennamer says he’s slowing seeing change, especially because of the influx of new businesses and a new attitude in town.
“More people are taking ownership and pride in their neighborhood,” said Kennamer.
“I’ve seen more changes for the better and it’s becoming a positive place with a positive atmosphere,” said King.
“As the gentrification is slowing trickling from north to south, it’s getting better,” said Murphy.
But after a neighborhood shooting that injured a pregnant woman during July 4th festivities, changing the reputation is an uphill battle.
“All the crime, the drugs. There’s a lot of stuff. And I don’t feel safe with my kids being out,” said Maxine Eason.
“Do I feel safe here? Not all the time. I feel safe here right now, would I walk around super late at night here? Absolutely not,” said Murphy.
The long standing conversation of White Center being annexed into Seattle continues. Some in the community argue, if that happens, the area will see an increase in much needed resources.