In the past few months, students, faculty and staff have reported concerns about personal safety on the Seattle campus at night. These issues center heavily on the Central Plaza Garage (CPG), but also include other parking areas and buildings.
Unfortunately, like in other parts of Seattle, these reports describe encountering people displaying disruptive — sometimes threatening — behavior. Students and employees report coming across drug-use paraphernalia and human waste, and report stolen property (including cars), property damage, fires and offensive graffiti.
As a result of the increase in safety issues, we have increased cleanup frequency in the Odegaard and Kane stairwells and elevators connected to the CPG so that the areas are usable for students, staff and faculty. UW Building Services, the UW Police Department, Environmental Health & Safety and Transportation Services are meeting regularly to collaborate on additional strategies to ensure safety for all in the CPG primarily, and also in other campus spaces.
In an effort to prevent these drug use, waste and damage issues from occurring in the first place, UW is immediately increasing the number of unarmed security guards working on the Seattle campus overnight. These guards will be from a private company at first while UW works to staff up internally, and they will be assigned to the CPG and check other buildings as determined by UWPD. The guards will have radios for direct communication with UWPD dispatchers and officers for situations that require a law enforcement response.
These additional security guards are necessary to meet the immediate need for assistance at night. For the CPG, additional security upgrades are slated to start later this summer, including roll-up style gates at the garage entrances, keycard access doors on the pedestrian entrances to the garage, security cameras and wifi. That work is slated to be complete in summer 2024.
It’s important to note that UW and almost every other entity with public spaces in cities across much of the United States are wrestling with how to ensure safety and address the root causes of the issues causing fear and concern – humanity-wrecking addiction; a lack of mental health supports; deep trauma; homelessness; and more.
UW continues to help fund a REACH outreach worker in the U District who builds relationships with people experiencing homelessness and connects them to the help they need – everything from food and clothing to medical care, shelter and mental health and/or substance use treatment. UWPD officers and security guards will keep sharing information about safe places to sleep for those who need support.
Through this combination of short- and long-term efforts — along with continuing work on addressing the root causes of the significant issues facing our society — we aim to provide a safer environment for our students, faculty and staff, as well as all members of our surrounding community.