Seattle, WA (WorkersCompensation.com) – Online retailer Amazon will offer its workers in downtown Seattle alternative office locations instead of returning them to an office at 3rd Avenue and Pine Street.
The office, formerly a Macy’s store, is in an area where many companies are leaving as incidents of violent crime are rising. Amazon said it is offering its 1,800 employees at the location alternative office locations. Employees had been working remotely during the pandemic.
“Given recent incidents near 3rd and Pine, we’re providing employees currently at that location with alternative office space elsewhere,” an Amazon spokesman said in an email interview. “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.”
Employees still have the option to work remotely. The company said it is not closing the building, but giving its employees a choice when it comes to their work locations because of safety concerns.
According to the Seattle Police Department, there have been at least three shooting, two stabbings and one carjacking in the area since Feb. 21. A look at an online Seattle Police Department data map shows that more than 80 offenses were recorded in the Downtown Commercial district over the past seven days, including larceny, theft, fraud, motor vehicle theft, robbery and weapons violations. The data map shows that on March 15, 2022 the M3 beat, which includes 3rd and Pine, saw 25 calls for service in the previous 24 hours.
The police department sent extra patrols to the area starting on March 3 following two fatal shootings. Officers on bikes offer a mobile patrol, and an increased presence in the area is hoped to stall the rise in crime in the area.
But that increased police presence may not be helping, some say.
Tony Lombardi, beverage director for Bar Taglio, said staff members and customers at the Italian restaurant in downtown Seattle took cover on March 7 when an armed man drove into a federal building and opened fire, prompting officers to fire back.
Lombardi told KOMO News that he heard shots ring out in the middle of the restaurant’s dinner service. Looking across the street, he said he saw a man aiming a gun at the federal building.
“I turned around the corner, and there, like, less than a hundred yards was a guy with a shotgun just shooting at the building,” he told the television station.
Police said the shooter drove into the federal building and opened fire on it. Lombardi said his first thought was protecting his staff and customers.
“We sent people back towards our dry storage in the center of the building where we knew there was a stairwell. At least it wouldn’t be near any windows,” Lombardi said.
Police said they shot the man “for reasons that remain under investigation,” and killed him.
The location of the shooting is just blocks away from the new mobile precinct the police created in response to the increase in violent crime in the area.
Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell said he was working to make the area safer for those living, visiting and working downtown.
“Mayor Harrell is working every day to make downtown a safe and thriving neighborhood for residents, workers, and businesses,” the mayor’s office said in a statement. “While it will take time to reverse longstanding safety issues, Mayor Harrell’s early efforts are critical first steps to address crime and improve safety through dedicated SPD officers, a mobile SPD precinct, and additional environmental changes. 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.”
Amazon is just the latest business in the area to have concerns over its employees and customers safety. In a survey of 200 employers last December, the Downtown Seattle Association found that 70 percent thought one of the most important conditions when deciding whether or not to bring workers back to the office was public safety.
Tech company Qumulo, a cloud computer company located at Fourth Avenue and Pike Street, offered its employees the option to continue remote work citing continued violence in the area. Martin Fagan, a former police officer and now a facilities director for the company, said employees don’t have to return to the office until the situation “stabilizes.”
And Olga Sagan, the owner of Piroshky Piroshky, said she closed her bakery’s Third and Pike Street location, out of fear for employee and customer safety.
In a series of tweets, Sagan said her decision came after a man was shot near her store in the middle of the day on a Sunday. Sagan had previously posted videos on Twitter of open drug use in front of her store.
“Due to another shooting, countless safety concerns for our employees we have no choice but to close 3rd location until further notice,” she tweeted.
A McDonald’s in the area also closed. Franchise owner David Santillanes told KING 5 that his top priority is “the health and safety of our employees and customers.”
“We continue to support the local police department with their investigation into the ongoing violence in our neighborhood, and we will reopen the restaurant when we believe it is safe to do so,” Santillanes added in a statement.