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Committee working to improve safety around Seattle’s King County Courthouse

SEATTLE -- Reports of assaults, robberies, even gunfire around the King County Courthouse not only worries government employees, but also members of the public serving jury duty.

The King County Council is working to figure out ways to make sure people who are required to visit the county courthouse feel safe.

Q13 News reported the problems beginning last July. The County Council says they have made some improvements since then.

Crews are now power-washing human waste three times a week, towing illegally parked cars, and the campers inside the courthouse-adjacent park were removed.

But some who have to work at the courthouse say officials are still not managing the root cause of these problems – drug abuse and homelessness.

“It’s the last time I’m going to come here,” said Maria Dominguez.

Dominguez and her family say having to come to the county courthouse in Seattle is a chore they would rather avoid.

And the problems aren’t hard to spot – the smell of human waste lingers in the warming spring air. Plus, it only takes a few moments to find a spent and exposed needle nearby.

The last time the family was here, Dominguez says, someone tried breaking into her car.

“I just said, what are you guy’s doing? And they started running and it was scary,” she said.

Those are just some of the problems that remain a focus for King County judges and the County Council.

“This is a citadel of justice,” said Seattle Police Capt. Tom Mahaffey. “People need to feel safe coming and going from here.”

During Tuesday’s hearing, a committee heard from judges and law enforcement – some saying a portion of the 18,000 jurors who are required to show up to the courthouse each year refuse to come, fearing for their safety.

“If people don’t feel safe coming and going from here, the streetscape is threatening the people, then we still have work to do,” said Mahaffey.

Since 2017, the county also built a reporting system for employees and jurors to document incidents that don’t rise to the level of a crime. Some are asking officials to install brighter lighting and even plan events at the park next door to discourage people from behaving badly.

Officials are also considering spending a couple hundred thousand dollars on bullet-resistant windows – and possibly opening a second secured entryway into the courthouse for jurors and staff.