Amazon plans to move 1,800 workers out of downtown Seattle offices because of violent crime in the area, which has been rising after the city council voted to defund the police budget by $36 million since 2019.
Homicides have risen during the pandemic, up 49 percent in the first quarter of 2021 compared to the same period in 2019, according to Thomas Abt, director of the National Commission on Covid-19 and Criminal Justice. Aggravated assaults and gun assaults have also risen while other types of crime — drugs, burglaries and property crime — were down for the same period, the National Press Foundation reported.
Defunding the police—or the threat to defund the police—has yielded sharp declines in law-enforcement capabilities in major cities, wrote Wall Street Journal editor-at-large Gerard Baker in an opinion piece.
More than 40 buildings in Seattle make up the Amazon headquarters, the workplace for 75,000 employees — almost 7 percent of the e-commerce giant’s 1.1 million U.S. workforce.
The Amazon building at Third Avenue and Pine Street employs 1,800 people, near where 15-year-old Michael del Bianco was shot and killed on March 2. Other recent crimes in the area include multiple shootings, assaults and a carjacking, Daily Mail reported.
Citing an increase in violent crime in the area, Amazon announced on Friday that it would temporarily move workers from their office at Third Avenue and Pine Street. “Given recent incidents near Third and Pine, we’re providing employees currently at that location with alternative office space elsewhere,” an Amazon spokesman told DailyMail.com in a statement. “We are hopeful that conditions will improve and that we will be able to bring employees back to this location when it is safe to do so.”
Violent crime, specifically in the area of Third and Pine, has pushed other businesses out of the area, including a cloud technology firm Qumulo, McDonald’s and a Russian bakery.
The Seattle City Council has been criticized by residents who asked the city to spend more on public safety. Police department spending was recently cut by more than $7 million for a total of $35.6 million over the past three years.
Some Republicans and pro-police groups say calls to slash spending on law enforcement led to a dramatic rise in violent crime in cities overseen by Democrats. But the reductions in police spending were mostly modest, and the same big increases in homicides are being seen around the U.S. — even in cities that increased police spending, AP reported.
“Specific Democratic policies have clearly played a significant part in the retreat from what had been perhaps the most important social advance of the past 50 years—an unprecedented decline in almost all categories of crime,” Baker wrote.
The spike in homicide stems from a range of factors including the pandemic, social unrest caused by police violence and increased gun sales, according to Abt.
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Curbing violence requires new policing and public health strategies, said Fatimah Loren Dreier, executive director of Health Alliance for Violence Intervention. Thinking of crime as more than a policing issue can help stop the cycle of violence that disproportionately affects Black and brown communities across the U.S.
Dreier proposes a “community violence intervention” strategy that includes outreach, peacemaker fellowships, hospital-based intervention programs and other approaches to connect with those caught up in the cycle of violence. People reached through such programs are less likely to show up again in hospital emergency departments, Dreier said.
It’s a mistake to blame the pandemic for the rise of crime in U.S. cities, according to Baker. Such thinking fosters “the climate of lawlessness,” Baker wrote.