Ballard businesses, organizations concerned over lack of police presence on local waterways

A number of local businesses and organizations are voicing concerns over the decrease in Seattle Harbor Patrol, which they say has led to an increase in crime and boating accidents along the Ship Canal, Lake Union, and Lake Washington.

A coalition of businesses, governmental agencies, nonprofits, and recreational boating organizations voiced their concerns in a letter to city officials, saying that the reduced number of Harbor Patrol officers is a threat to safe water recreation and leaves shoreline businesses and residents vulnerable to crime.

Some of the coalition members include Commissioner of the Seattle Port Commission Peter Steinbrueck, Ballard Alliance Executive Director Mike Stewart, Brandi Gaines from the Fremont Chamber, and President of the North Seattle Industrial Association Eugene Wasserman. Other members include several yacht club representatives and liveaboard and floating home associations.

In the letter, the coalition points to the growing number of boaters, kayakers, and stand-up paddleboarders that now flock to local waterways as summer temperatures hit record highs.

“Seattle is blessed to be a hub of waterways that provide substantial economic, outdoor recreation, and tourism benefits to the City, especially in our warmer spring, summer, and fall weather,” the coalition writes. “But with those tremendous benefits come genuine obligations to water safety, to human safety, and to the health and well-being of residents and visitors alike. We want to bring to your attention our growing concern and alarm that those obligations are not being met —and the results can be tragic.”

Doug Dixon, general manager of Pacific Fisherman Shipyard in Ballard told KOMO News that he’s seen a steady increase in crime along the Ship Canal, saying that fishing vessel owners are being robbed while in Salmon Bay. Dixon says Harbor Patrol was once a helpful deterrent for criminals.

“Our most current information is that the Harbor Patrol, despite being budgeted for up to 30 FTE officers and civilians, is now operating at less than half of full strength,” the coalition wrote.

“On many occasions —including during our sunniest and hottest days of summer—there is only one Harbor Patrol boat to cover the vast marine environment of Seattle, to enforce boating laws like Boating Under the influence (BUI), to conduct search and rescue, and to respond to incidents both minor and major. Whether the root cause is a series of retirements, cutbacks in land-based patrols, or a combination of things, we hope you will agree that the result is unacceptable.”

Photo: Seattle Harbor Patrol

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