By: Benjamin Kukull - 8.19.2004

Violence and Crime on "The Ave." How dangerous is it?

"I dont think there has ever really been much of a problem. I mean, the people who were there before are still here. I guess it is cleaner now." Ashley Watanabe, student.

"There doesn't seem to be any danger on the ave. Most of the street people are just selling drugs and dont bother anyone. I've never seen any violence or felt threatened." Ethan Baker, student

Somewhere in history, University Way ("The Ave") has developed a reputation for crime. it has justifiably shaped the economic development with the area as well as the patrons.

In August of 2003, "The Ave. was given a new face upon the completion of a reconstruction project started in 2001. A goal of this project was to revitalize the the sinking sales, while temporarily uprooting the riff-raff that many of the restaurant and retail owners blame for low sales. In addition, 5,000 new police hours were added in order to maintain the new face. The Ave. now is a cleaner street with wider sidewalks, better lighting and newly planted trees and flowers. But has anything really changed?

Before the clean-up of 2001, The rate of major violent and property crimes in the census tract that includes the Ave jumped from 1996 to 1997, dipped in 1998 but increased in 1999, according to Seattle Police Department statistics. In 2000, the tracts crime rate of 1,302 major crimes per 10,000 people was more than double the citys median of 606 incidents per 10,000 people (David, Chelan). Among these crimes in 2000, there were six rapes, and around 5x as many robberies, assaults, and arsons than in adacent districts - all in about 1/13th of the area. see source. The Seattle Police Department crime statistics for 2001 and 2002 also show violent and property crimes around The Ave continued to be significantly higher than in adacent areas.

U Village

Walter Kukull, a UW student in the 1960s and now a UW Professor of epidemiology, claims that in the 1960s, most of the Ave. was trafficked by students and there were virtually no street people. With the rise of drug culture in the late 1960s, he recalled that there were a number of students choosing to sell drugs on the street corners whom would say "hash.", "grass.", or "acid." as other students would pass by. In the early 1970s, police started to crack down on student dealers, but they were soon replaced by a harder-edged crowed in the late 1970s and early 1980s. More homeless started to move to the area and crime increased substantially. The shoppers and street people started to clash on a regular basis and, thus, the shoppers began to shop elsewhere. At this time, upscale businesses also began taking their business elsewhere, leaving us with the small, independently-owned restaurants, grocers, music stores, and smoke-shops we have today. Martin and Eckmann, Yankee Pedler, and Nordstrom (now Big 5) are among the retailers that moved with the changing atmosphere. Although U. Village caters to a more upscale clientele, it is not responsible for absorbing business that the Ave. once had. Most of the large retailers moved before the development of U. Village. Since this time, there has been a number of violent crimes, that prompted the Ave. clean-up.

Nowadays, the Ave. continues to cater to an alternative crowd; but, most people interviewed do not view it as a threatening environment.

A History of Violence

Here are some more infamous instances of violence on "The Ave." :

• On August 1969, Teenagers riot in Seattle's University District destroying property and setting fires.

• On May 22, 1988 a 22-year-old man slays a teenager with a baseball bat.

• On April, 2002 a street youth attacks 33-year-old man after a verbal conflict with a skateboard. The man was hospitalized and died the next day from a fractured skull. See The Stranger Article