Months after devastating explosion, Greenwood struggling with spike in property crime


SEATTLE -- It's been three and a half months since Seattle's Greenwood neighborhood was rocked by a devastating gas explosion, but simply rebuilding isn't the first priority.

Seattle Police Chief Kathleen O'Toole visited the neighborhood Monday to talk about crime. Four of the businesses affected by the explosion were burglarized in the following month, and neighbors say boarding up the buildings hasn't stopped the rash of property crime.

A pizzeria on the block is just now getting its windows installed, and many in the neighborhood say they're one of the fortunate ones. Several nearby businesses are still boarded up and waiting for windows or insurance payments needed to make repairs and reopen.

"It has been hard for all the small businesses to recover," said Scott Nolte with the Taproot Theatre

The recovery has been slow, but Nolte says that's not the real issue for business owners.

"The neighborhood feels very vulnerable right now," he said. "Closed up businesses being broken into and the perception we just dropped off the radar and needed some extra help."

Elizabeth Chayer, who owns the American Dance Institute, wants extra police in the area to help keep order. Her surveillance cameras recently caught a man breaking into her office, and car prowlers have also been targeting vehicles behind her dance studio.

"I've had my business here for 28 years, we haven't seen this kind of activity in the neighborhood until recently," Chayer said. "My staff is totally wigged out going to work if no body else is there

Chayer and 50 other local business and home owners got a chance Monday to make their requests for extra patrols directly to Chief O'Toole, who says a property crimes task force is now operating in the neighborhood. The task force has arrested 200 suspects in the past two months, according to police.

"We've discovered that some of them are prolific offenders and we have support from the prosecutor to go forward and really take those cases seriously now," O'Toole said on Monday.

The Greenwood rebuilds, so does the trust with the police. Business owners said they were happy to hear O'Toole pledge to make property crimes a higher priority.

"If we don't address property crimes and quality-of-life issues, it's an invitation to more serious crime," O'Toole said.

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