Capitol Hill business look for ways to make community safer

SEATTLE -- Some businesses on Capitol Hill are fed up with transient and trespasser trouble, and Wednesday, they gathered to find ways to keep the community safer.

Workers at Lab-5 Fitness say it's not uncommon to find feces or trash in front of the business -- often left overnight from transients.

"Sometimes it takes gloves and a basket and sometimes it takes a hose," says Steven Landry. "It can be a nuisance."

It's a problem that was part of a discussion between business owners and police Wednesday. The conversation started with concerns about panhandling.

"Asking somebody for money isn't a problem," said Seattle Police Officer Christopher Brownlee. "It becomes a problem if they say no and the asker follows or harasses or hinders or blocks their passage on the street."

Other topics included trespassing, response times and dealing with transients who suffer from mental illness.

"The concern of the employees is when somebody with mental health issues comes in, and we have to turn them away," said Nichole Paul. "And if I have to get strict with them (my employees) are worried there's a backlash they can't prevent."

Seattle police says they have officers who are trained to deal with mental illness calls. If you're at a business and need help, you can request one of those officers to respond.

The goal of the meeting is to figure out how to make Capitol Hill a safer neighborhood -- some say it means everyone working together.

"The main issue that I was continually upset with is how frequently the SPD said to call 911, call 911 when anything comes up," said Stephen Hrivnak. "And to me, that completely eschews the ability of communities to come together in solidarity and solve our problems without armed forces."

At Lab-5, the studio director has never called police to deal with issues here, but also agrees solving the transient problem will take a community.

"The more presence we can have as owners as managers and police on the street -- a community of eyewitnesses and people watching out for each other -- we can build," Landry said.