Business owners speak out about high cost of crime in Spokane

(The Center Square) – Sheldon Jackson, owner of Selkirk Development in Spokane, told a 65-member Zoom audience that it is time to “take back our city from irresponsible public officials.”

He issued the call for action this week during the monthly digital meeting organized by the Spokane Business & Commercial Property Owners Council. The group hosts the forums of 60 to 90 minutes to connect community members with government leaders at the local and state levels.

Jackson was invited by Chud Wendle, moderator of the event, to give an “update from the streets” as the owner of several properties. He addressed the hardships facing businesses during a time of high violence and property crime rates, particularly in areas with homeless encampments.

“Eighteen months ago, I was driving Spokane entrances and reporting on illegal camping, garbage, and graffiti,” he said. “What has changed? Today, I now report on violence, shootings, gang activity, assaults and murders.”

Jackson whose office is located in the historic Browne’s Addition, said there have been six murders in that neighborhood during the last 18 months.  

“We need to ask ourselves, ‘Why Now?’” he said. “Why does the mayor and police chief need a Violent Crime Task force today? What laws have changed to cause this violence. Who is responsible?”

In addition to violent crimes, Jackson pointed out that vandalism and burglary have skyrocketed in Spokane, especially in the downtown blocks.

“Personally, I have had six instances of theft and damage at one building with costs to my family of over $30,000,” he said. “And that’s just one building.”

Jackson believes thefts are on the rise to generate money to feed drug addictions. He said vandalism and crimes that deface and damage properties seem tied to the mental illness of the perpetrators. 

He blamed the increased lawlessness on soft on crime policies enacted by the Legislature and championed by some local government leaders.

His message is echoed by Jerry Dicker, owner and president of GVD Hospitality Management Services, which operates six downtown properties.

“I think city leaders have to do something to keep our streets safe and clean,” he said.

Like Jackson, he has  hired security personnel to keep employees and customers safe. He has also spent tens of thousands to clean up graffiti and repair broken windows and other damages.

In addition, he said there is now human waste to clean up around buildings with the homeless population growing.

“This situation has deteriorated,” said Dicker.

He believes the downtown crime rate is higher than reported by city leaders because many business owners have quit calling police about crime that never stops. 

“We started to complain in 2014 and it just gets worse every year,” he said.

Dicker said police aren’t to blame for the situation, politicians are.

“The police are overwhelmed trying to do their job, this is a legislative problem,” he said.

As a result of increased crime, he said vacancies grow in the downtown corridor. Businesses can’t afford the added costs and are also losing customers due to public safety concerns.

“That means less income for the city and less job creation,” said Dicker.

He said the business community is now banding together to find solutions to the challenges that threaten viability.

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