Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best said that she wants the abandoned East Precinct to return to service and officers to start patrolling the area again.
On Thursday, Best was seen entering the Eastern Precinct, inspecting the now mostly-empty building.
“Our calls for service have more than tripled,” Best told KOMO News, adding that “these are responses to emergency calls” for “rapes, robberies, and all sorts of violent acts” that have “been occurring in the area that we’re not able to get to.”
“We owe that service to everybody,” Best said of officers returning to the area.
She also said in a recent address that it wasn’t her decision to abandon the East Precinct before left-wing protesters took over a several-block area and declared it the “Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone.”
“You should know, leaving the precinct was not my decision,” she told officers, adding that Seattle city leaders failed its citizens and police. It came after protests, some of them violent, following the death of Minneapolis man George Floyd.
Earlier this week, Seattle officers were seen removing items and boarding up the East Precinct on Capitol Hill ahead of demonstrations. Days before that, Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan banned the use of tear gas.
“We had solid information to believe anti-government groups would destroy the precinct when we left,” Best told officers. “The station is still standing. No officers were hurt, no force was used,” she added.
But she suggested that law and order might return to the area soon.
“You fought for days to protect [the East Precinct]. I asked you to stand on that line. Day in and day out, to be pelted with projectiles, to be screamed at, threatened, and in some cases hurt. Then to have a change of course nearly two weeks in, it seems like an insult to you and our community,” the chief told officers. “Ultimately the city had other plans for the building and relented to public pressure. I’m angry about how this all came about.”
In the meantime, individuals with guns are checking the identification of people trying to enter the so-called autonomous zone, also known as “CHAZ,” which was essentially set up by far-left groups including Antifa.
“We have been hearing from community members that they have been subjected to barricades set up by the protesters, with some armed individuals running them as checkpoints into the neighborhood,” Assistant Chief Deanna Nollette told reporters on Wednesday.
“While they have a constitutionally protected right to bear arms, and while Washington is an open-carry state, there is no legal right for those arms to be used to intimidate community members,” she added.
Citizens and businesses are being asked to pay a fee to operate in the area, which is tantamount to extortion, according to Nollette.
A local rapper, Raz Simone, allegedly committed assaults in the area and was captured on camera punching someone who was spraying graffiti. On Twitter, some have jokingly referred to him as a local “warlord” who patrols the neighborhood.
The zone has makeshift borders constructed via old police barricades, fencing, plywood, overturned dumpsters, trash cans, and warning cones. A cardboard sign reads that you are now “leaving the USA.” Anti-police and pro-Black Lives Matter graffiti is seen throughout the area.
President Donald Trump highlighted the apparent lawlessness in the area, writing on Twitter that Washington Gov. Jay Inslee and Durkan are being “taunted and played at a level that our great Country has never seen before.”
“Take back your city NOW. If you don’t do it, I will. This is not a game. These ugly Anarchists must be stopped IMMEDIATELY. MOVE FAST!” he wrote on Twitter.