Newly opened South Park bridge may be a path to crime

SEATTLE - The long-awaited reopening of a bridge to Seattle's South Park neighborhood may be contributing to a spike in crime.

A Boeing employee walking to lunch outside the company's facility in that area confirmed she and co-workers received an email warning of two car thefts since the bridge reopened nearly a month ago.

The email also alerts employees to an increase in possible car prowls on company property, and asks them to be careful about securing belongings in their vehicles.

"It concerns me. It's distressing," said Boeing employee Caryn Hopkins. "You can't help but note the connection between what's happening in our lot and the bridge opening. I can't remember getting a warning like this before."

A Boeing spokesperson says summer usually accounts for an increase in such crimes. Longer days and warmer weather draw people outside.

The $163-million bridge opened in June to a large community celebration. It took four years to replace the former bridge, which engineers concluded was no longer safe. Several businesses suffered lost revenue during the closure due to lack of vehicle and foot traffic.

Seattle Police say it's too early to know if there has been an increase in crime. Analysts are still reviewing statistics and usually need a longer period of time to detect trends.

Business owner Bill Owens says he and other residents are elated the bridge is back, but he acknowledges people wonder how it may affect the crime rate.

"We're aware of the possibility and we're really concerned about it," Owens said. "So everyone's watching for it. And no, we have not yet seen it."

He thinks people may perceive an uptick in crime as problems like theft, car prowls and vandalism return to levels that were normal before the old bridge closed.

"One of the things that made the crime level drop so quickly is access to the neighborhood was almost impossible with the bridge closed," Owens pointed out. "It was harder for criminals to come here."

Owens was encouraged by an incident he witnessed recently. As he and other residents were about to confront a prostitute who appeared ready to pick up a John, several Seattle police cars pulled up and made an arrest.

"That tells me police are keeping an eye on our neighborhood, and that's a good feeling," he said.