Seattle, WA – Crime has gotten so bad in downtown Seattle that Amazon relocated the 1,800 employees assigned to its Pine Street office building.
“Given recent incidents near 3rd [Avenue] and Pine [Street], we’re providing employees currently at that location with alternative office space elsewhere,” an Amazon spokesperson told KOMO in an email. “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.”
Amazon said that although 1,800 employees officially reported to the former Macy’s building located on Pine Street, less than a mile from the company’s headquarters on Seventh Avenue, many of them were still working remotely.
A series of shootings downtown – including one that left a 15 year old dead – has caused the Seattle Police Department (SPD) to set up a mobile precinct on 3rd Avenue, KOMO reported.
They’ve also added officers on bicycle patrol to the area.
Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell’s office said the mayor was very concerned about the surge in violent crime downtown, KOMO reported.
“Mayor Harrell will continue to develop a comprehensive approach to public safety in collaboration with police and safety advocates, community members, service providers, and businesses, including Amazon, to activate, revitalize, and restore downtown for all,” the mayor’s office said in a statement.
In his first State of the City address in February, Harrell said he was putting public safety at the top of his priority list, GeekWire reported.
Other companies have also taken steps to protect their employees.
Some businesses have started closing their offices earlier to allow employees to leave and get home before dark, and others have hired security teams, GeekWire reported.
Seattle police reported three shootings, two stabbings, and a carjacking in the immediate area of the Amazon office building since Feb. 21, according to Business Insider.
Business Insider reported that the same employees that have been behind the push to unionize Amazon sent a list of demands to Amazon in connection with the recent safety crisis that included higher wages and a more flexible attendance policy.
The city is scrambling to save its reputation before companies begin leaving en masse, the Seattle Times reported.
“This is a challenging time for employers and employees,” Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Rachel Smith said. “I know our employers are trying to do everything they can.”
Olga Sagan, the owner of a well-known bakery called Piroshky Piroshky, closed her 3rd and Pike Street location in February because of fears about employee and customer safety, the Seattle Times reported.
Jon Scholes, president and CEO of the Downtown Seattle Association, said addressing safety concerns has become a “precondition” for many employers that are ready to end remote working.
A survey of 200 Seattle employers in December of 2021 showed 70 percent said they would bring employees back into offices if the city addressed the homelessness and public safety problems downtown, the Seattle Times reported.
“What happens on 3rd is really critical to the rest of downtown’s ability to bring more office workers back,” Scholes said. “It’s the worst-kept secret in Seattle, and it’s been that way for quite some time.”
Smith said that a number of companies located in the downtown area are taking additional safety precautions for their employees but she hasn’t heard of anybody else actually shutting down a location in the city because of crime, the Seattle Times reported.
Mario Bisio, the owner of Mario’s, a prominent clothing store on Sixth Avenue, has added a doorman to his shop to greet customers and also to provide safe escorts to vehicles for employees after work.
Bisio said seeing Amazon leave Seattle, even temporarily, was demoralizing, the Seattle Times reported.
“It sends a very negative message to our clients and to the community on the state of affairs of downtown Seattle,” he said. “We pray that there will be a time in the future that people can bring their family downtown in the evening, feel safe to shop, walk the streets and go to restaurants. That is not the case today.”
Bisio said his store would stay open and “fight for the resilience of Seattle,” the Seattle Times reported.