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Auburn leaders take action to address recent break-ins, crime impacting business owners

A photo of a sign in Auburn that reads "Welcome to Auburn." (KOMO)
A photo of a sign in Auburn that reads "Welcome to Auburn." (KOMO)
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The mayor and police chief of Auburn said police emphasis patrols will work to tackle growing crime reports from business owners and residents in town.

They spoke to KOMO News following a Monday night city council meeting, where residents spoke out about the crime in Auburn.

“I do not feel safe," Valerie Erickson said Monday. "My house was burglarized, and my car was stolen.”

RELATED: Auburn residents plea with officials over recent crime: 'Stop this madness'

Over the weekend, four people were seriously injured from a shooting during what Auburn police said was an illegal street racing event.

Elsewhere in town, Antique Marketplace owner Carly Willis said their shopping center on Howard Road has dealt with vandalism, break-ins, and armed robberies.

“Something has to change,” Willis said. “I won’t be able to have a small business if something doesn’t happen. I’m not the only one. We’re all in the same boat. We’ve all been hit over and over again.”

Joseph Morris, who said he works in security for the company that owns the shopping center, said he has seen a lot.

“We’ve had ODs in the parking lot. A guy last year got shot right around the Walgreens,” Morris said. “I’ve caught prostitution in the parking lot. I’ve had a knife pulled on me. It’s a huge crime epidemic.”

Morris added that the police department will be more visible in the area, something Police Chief Mark Caillier stated is underway.

“The problem first came to our attention on April 3. After that meeting, we added that area to our list. It’s been about three weeks since that time to start doing emphasis down there.”

RELATED: 4 injured in quadruple shooting after fight breaks out at illegal street racing event

Despite that push, Willis and others continue to speak out because they still feel unsafe, “ultimately, it comes down to there not being enough police in Auburn,” she said.

“The last couple of years we’ve had our share of turnover. Just like the rest of the nation, rest of Washington State,” Caillier said, “we’ve been actively recruiting. We only have about five vacancies. We have about probably 20 plus people in various stages of background for those five positions. The hiring process is there,” but the police chief says that hiring process can take a while.

In understanding that challenge, Auburn Mayor Nancy Backus said they are looking at other ways to bring the crime rate down.

“I have committed to putting together a meeting with our city of Auburn team, not just police, but also code enforcement, our anti-homelessness department, and our economic development team to try and come up with creative solutions. It’s not always going to be a police response,” Backus said, “we’re looking to our business owners to help with those ideas.

When asked what she means by ‘creative solutions,’ she mentioned part of that includes expanding services for those who are homeless, “we believe in resources and services forward approach, but if you’re not willing to take those services, Auburn isn’t the place for you to be.”

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Backus said her team will work on preparing this next week, and a meeting could take place within two weeks.

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