News blog for Seattle's Fremont neighborhood

 

Neighborhood proposal to curb aggressive panhandling

May 17th, 2010 by Athima Chansanchai

For awhile now, the all-volunteer FAWN (Fremont Aurora Wallingford Neighbors) group has noticed a growing problem: aggressive panhandling. Incidents have been most apparent outside the Upper Fremont grocery, Marketime (4416 Fremont Ave. N.).

In response to these concerns, FAWN neighbors are discussing with Marketime a strategy to work with them and other businesses to curb aggressive panhandling.  Some of the behavior by panhandlers appears to match that prohibited in current municipal law. Some of the panhandlers appear to genuinely need shelter, food, or some kind of medical or mental health care. Real Change solicitors, who sell a product, do not seem to be part of the problem.

We must balance the right of individuals in public areas to ask for money with the right of others to use public right of way without aggressive, threatening interference. Needy panhandlers could be helped more constructively–for example, by providing information to connect them with nonprofit organizations to help them with appropriate services.

We propose to offer the community constructive alternatives to giving cash to panhandlers. We plan to enlist businesses to post notice of what kinds of behaviors are prohibited by law.  People would have a real alternative, offering help instead of giving money. It would be clear to everyone what kind of behavior could justify calling the police. Some panhandlers probably would accept help, while others would stop panhandling where it does not pay.

The group has proposed posting the following sign at local businesses. What do you think?

A HAND UP – NOT A HAND-OUT

Panhandling has been on the increase in Upper Fremont, with some of those involved becoming increasingly aggressive. Some of the individuals appear to be in true need of help. But please consider these steps to truly help these people instead of giving them cash that only perpetuates the situation:

  • Offer to help them call 211 to connect to the help they need – emergency shelter, food, medical care, including substance abuse and mental health care. (Business cards with help numbers available inside store).
  • Support needed services: donate to United Way of King County online at www.uwkc.org or by check to “UWKC” mailed to Pledge Processing, UWKC, 720 Second Ave, Seattle, WA 98104
  • Purchase a copy of “Real Change” from a street vendor who has proper I.D. Real news and real change.

Although it is lawful to ask for money on a public sidewalk, certain behavior is a misdemeanor under the current Seattle Municipal Criminal Code. Unlawful behavior includes asking for money in an aggressive and intimidating or fear inducing way or blocking a person’s movement on the sidewalk. (SMC 12A.12.015A&B

Readers: thoughts on this proposed sign? The proposal that precedes it?

The FAWN group list is available only to those who live within the areas bounded by N. 36th and N. 46th, from Fremont Avenue to Stone Way. They also participate in weekly block watches/walks.

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From SPD: Personal Safety Training

April 27th, 2010 by Athima Chansanchai

Living in cities requires a certain amount of awareness. Take it from me, having lived in small-town Mississippi and suburban Florida, living in urban environs takes a little adjustment. I think I can say I’ve picked up some things having spent years as a resident of DC, Baltimore, New York (Manhattan) and now Seattle.

For instance, I vary my routine quite a bit, use timers for my living room and porch lights, alert my neighbors when I’ll be out of town, and rarely walk in my neighborhood by myself after dark. I also try not to linger getting in and out of my car and make sure it’s pretty clear before I get out.

But I think everyone can learn more – and should be open to good advice from reputable sources.

Police, from MorgueFile.com

Thursday, April 29 from 7 pm to 8:30 pm, FAWN (Fremont Aurora Wallingford Neighbors) invites you to hear Diane HorswillCrime Prevention Coordinator at the North Precinct, a civilian position, who will speak about personal safety training. Meet in the library of BF Day Elementary, 3921 Linden Avenue North, at the south end of the main floor. The talk replaces the April 29 FAWN walk.

To request being on the FAWN listserv, e-mail fawn.seattle@gmail.com.

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Beware of thieves stalking outgoing mail

April 26th, 2010 by Athima Chansanchai

For the past few months, neighbors in Fremont have been reporting thefts of outgoing mail left for their postal carriers on their porches/home boxes. It might be prudent to drop mail – especially bill payments & Netflix DVDs – in USPS mailboxes from now on, or directly at the local post office.

Credit: Clarita, MorgueFile.com

This was reported to FAWN in March:

“Our mail was stolen today, Sat. 3/13. We live on the 3800 block of Linden Ave, near the firestation. We have had mail stolen before from our house, but had thought the thieves had moved from the neighborhood. (Drug addicts living a few houses away were kicked out of their rental.)

“It was almost time for the mail carrier to arrive and my husband took a chance and put the mail out on the postbox on our porch. It was taken within minutes, around 11:15-11:45am. My husband heard someone on the porch and assumed it was the carrier. The carrier arrived a few minutes later and confirmed that he had not picked up our mail.

“Any information about strange people, not dressed as mail carriers, taking things from home post boxes would be appreciated. Take care when putting mail out for pick up and don’t put anything with a check or ID info out on your home postbox. We have reported the theft to the police and Postal Inspector.”

And then more recently:

Outgoing mail thefts have been occurring right on Fremont Ave between 41st and 42nd. Several tenants in one apartment bldg had their mail stolen from the outgoing mailbox and their checks washed and presented to local branches of banks for cashing. Two dates this occurred were March 30th and April 15th. There were probably more that haven’t been tracked down yet.”

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FAWN walk with the Mayor

April 22nd, 2010 by Athima Chansanchai

If you live in Fremont, and are not a subscriber to FAWN (Fremont Aurora Wallingford Neighbors), you’re missing out on weekly reports that will clue you in on break-ins, drug activity, prostitution and other illegal happenings.

When I moved to Seattle from Baltimore 5 years ago, I chose to live in Fremont – first in an apartment on 35th St., then to my current townhouse about 5 minutes away, one block east of Aurora. My landlord advised me to get on the FAWN listserv and every week for the past 10 or so years, they’ve done a neighborhood walk.

I finally went on my first walk with them – my neighbors – on April 8. (This entry, though, is my first as a Fremont Universe blogger.) About 20 people showed up at the corner of Whitman and 40th – the usual place the group begins its dusk-time walk. But usually, there aren’t this many people. The draw: Mayor Mike McGinn, who biked to the spot from his Greenwood abode. With him – 2 of his aides from the Mayor’s Office and 2 state police officers. The Fremont Neighborhood Council and the co-owners of Marketime Foods on Fremont Ave. were also there.

We didn’t take a long walk in these brisk but dry conditions. We walked north on Aurora, noted empty lots, some lights out and some suspicious loitering going on across Aurora before going into the warmth of a meeting room at an apartment building off Aurora and 43rd.

“I view this as a significant corridor,” McGinn said, once we’d settled in. “It shares common characteristics: a zoning mix of non-residential and residential communities, offices and motels. But these corridors really present challenges. I want to hear from you.”

And he did.

The Mayor, himself a victim of robbery at gunpoint and a frequent rider of the Aurora Express bus route 358, listened to neighbors who told him about their first-hand experiences of trespassing, physical assault (dragged by car), drug use in stairwells, shoplifting, drug dealing in parking lots and trying to explain these things to their children.

“I have a great view of these things morning, noon and night,” said Danny Sullivan, who lives next to the The Fremont Inn (formerly The Thunderbird motel), one of several motels owned by Dean and Jill Inman, and where, neighbors say, the problems fester. He has a hard time explaining gunshots, bags of white powder and knives being pulled out to his 10-year-old daughter. “I knew what I was getting into, I knew this was not the most Bambi in the Woods neighborhood. The problem is, businesses are not being run responsibly.”

Others at the meeting reaffirmed Sullivan’s experiences, particularly in areas near the motels owned by the Inmans - the Wallingford Inn, Fremont Inn, Seattle Motor Inn and Italia and Isabella motels- which were the subject of 180 criminal charges for various tax violations. (The Seattle Motor Inn closed in December.)

One apartment owner told the Mayor about one of her tenants breaking her lease. Reading from the letter, she described how the tenant witnessed knife fights and slashed tires, thugs surrounding cars. The apartment owner talked about having SWAT teams and other SPD sealing off the building and the block at times, and having to mirror some of her tenants’ windows so they won’t have to see what’s going on in the motel next door.

Representatives from Marketime Foods complained of a steady flow of people coming from Aurora on a daily basis, people who engaged in shoplifting, drug dealing in the parking lot and panhandling in front of the business, which they said has the effect of driving customers away.

But, neighbors emphasize, this is not about singling out certain people.

“This is not about people being poor,” said one of my former colleagues at the Seattle P-I, environmental reporter Robert McClure (now with InvestigateWest). “This is about people being criminal.”

“This is a great neighborhood. We have a problem that is a specific blight,” said Linda Clifton, one of FAWN’s regular walkers, who got involved with the group after one of many stolen, abandoned cars rolled down a hill and totaled her car 8 years ago. “We appreciate what the city and the police have done so far. We’re just looking at the next step.”

To contact FAWN: fawn.seattle@gmail.com

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