Neighborhood farmers market plagued by burglaries

SEATTLE -- A group of local transients are suspected of repeatedly taking advantage of spotty security practices to steal tables, banners, lights and more from the Lake City Farmers Market, according to the Seattle Police Department.

An unnamed Farmers Market employee reported three burglaries to the Farmers Market's storage shed located in the parking garage below the Lake City Library last month alone. And, she told officers they weren't the first burglaries to the shed and probably won't be the last.

According to the police report for an Aug. 8 incident, the employee was preparing to set up for the Thursday-afternoon Farmers Market when she discovered folding tables, banners, a propane tank, a camping stove, a rechargeable light and the engraved brass bell used to open the Market missing from the storage shed.

At the time, the employee blamed the burglary, as well as many past burglaries, on transients, who she said use the items to build shelters and bedding nearby. She told officers she often finds stolen items in the stairwell leading from the parking garage to the area where transients are known to camp.

Two weeks later, the employee discovered someone had kicked in the shed's door and stolen a number of lights, according to the police report for that incident. She found the lights in the stairwell, but someone had walked off with them by the time she called 911.

The week after that, a number of folding tables were found missing from the shed, according to an Aug. 29 police report. The employee told officers the transients steal the tables to sleep on in place of the cold concrete.

While the employee, who assured police Aug. 29 she would probably be calling them about another burglary the next week, seems frustrated by the burglaries, responding officers simply seem perplexed by the lack of security for the parking garage where the shed is located.

"For some odd reason, the security roll-up gate is never used, even during after-hours," Officer Michael Gonzalez wrote in the Aug. 29 report.

Gonzalez also pointed out that security personnel make rounds in the garage and stairwell. But, he wrote the stairwell doors are left unlocked for up to 90 minutes after the library closes, giving transients easy access to the garage and storage shed.

In an email the day before the most-recent reported burglary, Chris Curtis, director of Neighborhood Farmers Markets, which runs the Lake City Farmers Market, said he was not too concerned about the continuing burglaries.

"There has been some minor vandalism to the shed and a few Farmers Market items have gone missing over the past few years, but we don't think it's very newsworthy," he said.

Curtis said the shed and garage will be better secured starting this week, so the Farmers Market should not be as vulnerable as before.

"The library, City of Seattle and Seattle Police Department have been very responsive to the situation, and we are satisfied with the solutions and outcome," he said.