Edmonds is certainly not immune to the crime issues facing the entire nation. In recent months, there have been countless instances of shop lifting, illegal narcotics use, car thefts, catalytic converter thefts, vandalism, home break-ins, and other various forms of petty crime. This data is easily accessible by the general public on the Snohomish County crime statistics map. There is something different going on though, which is new to our city. That new issue is violent crime, which has had a serious and immediate negative quality-of-life effect, particularly on the communities on and near Highway 99. Crimes of this nature include a drive-by shooting at the Emerald’s Best Hotel, a random shooting that happened right outside the day care facility at 240th Street Southwest and Highway 99, an assault of an innocent bystander at 220th last summer outside of Starbuck’s and, most recently, a violent armed robbery at the Interurban trailhead on 76th Avenue West.
As the authors of this article, we are not only neighbors but we are friends.We both live in the Lake Ballinger neighborhood and have on many occasions discussed the issues facing our neighborhood. We’ve talked about the quickly-changing nature of our part of town, which is both very diverse and getting younger, with predominantly young families moving in, such as my own. After the events on Wednesday, at the trailhead, we both felt we needed to write something to MyEdmonds News to bring some attention to the crime and safety issues plaguing our neighborhood.
To get most anywhere in Edmonds, our day will certainly involve crossing and traveling along Highway 99. Pretty much any time of day, you can witness firsthand some sort of crime taking place. Certain areas have been affected by blight, with vacant buildings covered in graffiti, garbage and used drug paraphernalia. The Aurora Marketplace shopping center has a rampant shoplifting issue, and at times was so unsafe that going at night to shop was no longer an option. The park — specifically Mathay Ballinger, which is one of the only parks accessible to this part of the city — was regularly abused with needles found in the bushes and around the kids’ play structure for those keeping an eye out for them. Some of our most important businesses in the city, those being our car dealers, have had more cars stolen in the last few months than the last few years combined. It is no surprise that the current state of that road is a magnet for criminal activity, both petty in nature and violent.
Some work has been done to bring focus to these issues, but more needs to be done. The problems are serious and getting worse. No part of Edmonds is immune to criminal activity, but certainly Highway 99 and the adjacent neighborhoods suffer the brunt of these issues. City resources need to be directed to improving safety and security of our residents. We need the community office fully staffed and open as much as possible. The revitalization project needs to start and be completed, creating a more inviting pedestrian experience. The focus on crime at the motels needs to be constant and enforced. Blighted buildings need to be assessed and codes need to be enforced by the city. The Edmonds Police Department needs the tools and resources to do their jobs effectively and they need to have a regular presence along the stretch of highway. And most importantly, all this work needs the backing of our elected officials and the community at large.
That starts with a general acceptance that we have a very serious problem on our hands, and agreement that all branches of government will work together in cohesion to get this tough work done. So much effort has been wasted on what’s not working in Edmonds. Perhaps it’s time to use some of that energy to focus on solutions that we need to make this a great place for everyone to live.
We are making a commitment to seeing meaningful change along Highway 99 and to show that residents and elected officials can have a common goal and passion that makes this a great place to live for all. The community needs to come together and demand safety and security along Highway 99 so this long-overlooked part of our community finally gets the attention it needs. If not soon, then the situation is at risk of getting far worse before it can ever get better.
— By Tom Kozaczynski, Lake Ballinger resident and Will Chen, Edmonds city councilmember and Lake Ballinger resident