A lot has changed in the last 37 years in Everett.
Just ask Gary Watts.
The operator of Z Sport Automotive has spent decades developing a successful business at 36th Street and Smith Avenue in Everett’s industrial section. In recent years, however, outside elements have chipped away at that success, making it more difficult for him to retain clientele.
He calls 36th and Smith “the epicenter of crime in Everett,” a city that overall is safer than only five per cent of all U.S. cities, as reported by neighborhoodscout.com based on national crime data.
Having an increasingly serious effect on his business, he says, is the location of Everett Gospel Mission just a block down Smith Street under the I-5.
“The Mission attracts a very diverse group of people, heavily weighted toward drug addicts, alcoholics, mentally disenfranchised folks, the chronically homeless,” Watts says. “Certain populations migrate to this area and that brings with it a very strong criminal element.”
Previously loyal female customers staying away
The perception of safety in the neighborhood has been a huge factor in driving women away from his business over the past seven years, Watts says.
“In 2012 – and we track these kinds of things – we had about 62 per cent female customers. That number today is down to 40 per cent,” he says. “Some people are saying they just don’t feel safe in the neighborhood. For some people, it’s just not a place that after dark, or on a rainy or dark morning, you’d want to be dropping your car off.”
Vandalism, thefts from vehicles common
Watts has invested heavily in 24/7 security and surveillance systems around his shop and an onsite security guard patrols overnight. Frequent break-ins and vandalism to cars and trucks left outside overnight forced him to take stronger measures to prevent damage and theft from his customers’ vehicles.
“We’ve had windshield wipers broken off, key marks on the sides of the cars, rocks through the windows, not to mention stealing whatever’s inside,” he says. “We’ve been forced to totally rebuild one of the largest automotive services in the county to deal with it, rather than investing in helping our customers.”
County Council could help attack problem
While he appreciates the work done by Everett police, Watts says they have a hard time keeping up when the justice system releases most petty criminals from jail back onto the street, a mere eight blocks from the Mission. “That’s why the Snohomish County Council District 2 position is so important. You can work the symptoms or you can work the systemic problems, and right now the City of Everett is working the symptoms,” he says.
He calls candidate Anna Rohrbough someone who is “politically motivated to do the right things … she says what needs to be said and is an action-conscious person who gets things done. I think she can influence how the County reacts to this important issue of public safety.”
Says Rohrbough: “As an elected public servant I believe it is our number 1 responsibly to protect the rights of our citizens. We have to make it uncomfortable to do drugs and commit crimes. I absolutely think it is imperative that we stand up for those who are being victimized by criminal activity on our businesses, in our parks and against our property.”
PDC – Paid for by the Campaign to Elect Anna (R). For more information electanna.com