EVERETT — An Everett business owner ratcheted up his campaign to draw attention to homelessness, illegal drug use and criminal activity in the city.
Last week, Gary Watts posted a “Welcome to Tweakerville” message on his computerized reader board at one of the entrances to Everett.
This week, Watts started Everett Tweakers cam, live-streaming video on YouTube, of the homeless people hanging out across the street from his business, Z Sport Automotive on Smith Avenue. He’s also set up a Facebook page, North Everett Tweaker Cam.
“Shedding light on what’s really going on,” said Chuck Watts, the son of the owner. “It’s one thing to read about it and hear about it, it’s another thing when you actually see it.”
Gary Watts plans to add a high-resolution camera with the capability to zoom in on the street scene. He is still working on internet capacity.
“It’s good enough that you can count freckles on people’s face,” Watts said. “You can watch the prostitutes and the addicts sticking needles in their arms.”
The City of Everett is working on innovative solutions for positive change for “our entire city, including those on the streets,” said Meghan Pembroke, the city’s spokeswoman, in an email.
“Everett is not unique in facing challenges on our streets, and we understand the frustrations of business owners and residents. City resources and departments are also greatly impacted by these challenges,” she wrote.
“These are complex issues, and there’s not one approach alone that will solve them. With the help of our community and our skilled service providers in Everett, we are making progress through programs like our Safe Streets work crew, Everett Police’s Community Outreach and Enforcement Team, CHART and our supportive housing efforts.”
At one time early Friday afternoon on the YouTube channel, 140 people were concurrently watching about a dozen people under makeshift tents across the street from Z Sport at 3532 Smith Ave. Watts also owns Z Sport Euro at 3829 Broadway.
The Smith Avenue business is near the Everett Gospel Mission. Gary Watts said the area started drawing more homeless people after the recession. There was a large cleanup a couple of years ago, but crime and other problems continue to this day.
Watts plans to do more to highlight the problems. He’s purchased a 13-passenger van. In a couple of weeks, he’ll invite neighborhood associations, service and social clubs and senior centers to tour the area along Smith Avenue.
“Anybody who would like to see what Tweakerville is and what’s really going on, we would be happy to show them — with a guide,” Gary Watts said.
He’s also planning to allow other business owners in the Smith Avenue area to transmit their video feeds onto the Facebook page and YouTube channel. He said he would provide the technical know-how.
“I’m doing nothing I haven’t done all of my life,” Gary Watts said. “My ambition is to change the world. If I can’t change the big world, I want to change the little world I live in.”
Chuck Watts said they checked with the police about whether they could film — and live stream — the street corner. They didn’t tell the people that they were being live streamed online.
“We have no legal reason to talk to anybody about cameras on private property,” Chuck Watts said. “We can put cameras on our property wherever we want.”
While the initial sign attracted a lot of media attention, Chuck Watts said he’s been pleased with the messages and hand-written letters that his father has received.
“It’s overwhelmingly supported by the good citizens of the country,” Chuck Watts said. “People who want to be involved in society.”
Jim Davis: 425-339-3097; firstname.lastname@example.org; @HBJnews.