SEATTLE - Many Seattle residents say they no longer feel safe because homelessness has spilled over into lawlessness.
Concerned citizens say there is a trend in the city where the laws are not being enforced when it comes to encampments and homeless people committing crimes.
“It’s terrible and it’s frightening,” Ballard resident John Wisdom said.
Wisdom says the homeless man now accused of raping a woman at Carter Volkswagen in Ballard was known to many. Court documents allege a homeless man followed a woman into bathroom Monday at the dealership and raped her.
‘’This particular individual has a reputation in the neighborhood and it was never dealt with,” Wisdom said.
Wisdom says he holds city council responsible, specifically Mike O’ Brien, who represents his district.
“It’s a large extent of his policies, kind of encouraging camping out and RV dwelling,” Wisdom said.
Wisdom is with the group Speak Out Seattle! It’s an organization created more than a year ago directly in response to O’Brien’s idea to expand encampments in public spaces, including parks.
“We don’t want to stigmatize or prosecute homelessness, but we want to prosecute crime,” Wisdom said.
He says when he and other residents call police about an encampment issue or a homeless person committing a crime, police officers tell them their hands are tied. This is something dozens of residents have told Q13 News over the last couple of weeks.
Responding to the concerns about enforcement, Seattle Police say they enforce the laws regardless of whether or not someone is homeless.
“Seattle has created a welcoming environment for people who are bad actors, and police have been told to stand down and not prosecute petty crime,” Wisdom said.
He said he doesn't want to criminalize homelessness - he just wants the laws enforced, regardless of whether someone has a home.
But more than prosecution, Wisdom wants the city to focus on rehabilitation and mental health services.
Ava Levine is also a member of Speak Out Seattle! She is a veteran who knows what it’s like living on the streets.
“For 6 years on and off I was homeless - I’ve seen the deprivation,” Levine said.
She struggled with drug addiction and mental illness and Levine says many who are homeless are dealing with the same issues.
She fought her way out of homelessness after getting psychiatric counseling and drug rehabilitation at Harborview.
“My point is, as long as I have my mental illness and drug use, housing didn’t do any good for me," Levine said. "That’s what my concern is."
The group says the city continues to tax to fight homelessness with nothing to show for it.
“We are creating a cycle that’s not doing any of us any good,” Levine said.
Levine was opposed to the head tax on large companies saying the city doesn’t have a revenue problem but a strategy problem.
Most of the head tax will go towards building affordable units but Levine says that is not solving the root of the homeless crisis.
“That’s my concern - where is the money going?” Levine said.
Q13 News requested an interview with O’Brien on Wednesday, but a spokesperson said he was traveling and unavailable. He did release a statement about the alleged rape.
“My office was in touch with SPD earlier today upon learning about this violent attack," the statement reads. "The accounts are devastating, and my heart goes out to the survivor of this terrible crime. The full force of the law should be brought upon the perpetrator. I am grateful to the individuals who risked their own safety to come to her aid, and I have asked SPD to keep me informed as they gather more information about the incident.”