Protestors held signs in the packed council chambers during Monday night’s meeting. Photo by Scott Schaefer.

By Jack Mayne

Burgeoning crime in Burien and the need for additional police officers spurred a large group of residents to spend over two hours at the City Council’s public comment session at the Monday (March 6) regular meeting.

The inside session followed a ‘Rally Against Crime’ outside council chambers, with dozens of upset citizens all wanting more and better police protection. Here’s a highlight video from the demonstration as shot by Scott Schaefer and originally broadcast live on our Facebook page (even B-Town’s infamous ‘Segway Guy’ was there; also of note, around 6:09 one citizen claimed that protestors were unfairly targeting the homeless):

Later, inside the packed Council chambers, citizens held up signs such as “Enough” behind speakers in the two hour-plus comment period where speakers get two minutes to express their views.

City staff said 38 people were calling for more police out of the 40 people who commented Monday night to Councilmembers.

Need to enforce laws
Former city council candidate Darla Green said “we don’t need more laws, we just need them enforced” and that youth need “safe pathways” to and from their schools and especially at the King County Library that shares the Burien City Hall building.

The “store director” of the Fred Meyer on 1st Avenue South said he was urged to attend and speak at the Council session by Darla Green.

“I can resolutely stand here today with no apprehension whatsoever that the Burien market is by far the most criminally active market I’ve experienced in my years of managing Fred Meyer stores,” said “Pete,” the store director.

He listed a number of ways the store tries to stop shoplifters, including an electronic device that locks up the shopping cart’s wheels if it does not pass through a checkout lane.

Burien storeowner Robin Desimone (pictured above), of the Iris and Peony business across from Town Square, said she has issues about crime every day on SW 152nd Street. She recently had someone try to take trash from her hands when she was with her daughter behind her store. “I don’t want any more confrontations like this. I have gone through all the proper channels. I am not safe.”

“I need things to change and things to happen,” Desimone said. “I am not sure what more we can be doing; I believe it is something you need to be doing,” she said to Councilmembers.

Two teenaged schoolgirls told the Council they come to the library to check out and find books and “we don’t feel safe doing this. It is a real problem and it needs to be changed.” She said she gave the Council a petition she had school students and teachers sign asking for more safety at the library.

The girls said they have been yelled and screamed at by people at the library.

“It needs to stop, it is really bad,” an 8th grader told the Burien Council.

Shootout at bus center
Trish Keaton (pictured above), who lives in Seattle, said her father – who has lived in Burien for 60 years – wanted to stay in Burien. In mid-February he moved into the recently completed Merrill Garden retirement complex a block from city hall and she told of planning a dinner with her father on move in day.

“What should have been a night of fun and celebration on my father’s first night at the new Merrill Gardens turned into a “gangland style” of gunfire and violence with “two groups firing hand guns at one another” near them, and “we are very lucky that stray bullets did not hit us although the window of the building to our right was shattered.

“The sound of the rapid gunfire and the sight of muzzle blasts were frightening.”

Choking up, she said, “I want this to be safe for all of you,” gesturing to the packed chamber.

“What efforts are underway by this city of Burien to clean up these gangs loitering and bad behavior engulfing the city center, what plans are in place to communicate with Merrill Gardens the advent of such violence?”

“Wow, Trish, what a story” said the next speaker, Sylvester Road resident Jill Esau.

Esau said although she has had six burglaries in “about two years,” she was at the Council on behalf of a friend who has had a car broken into nine times in the last year on Maplewild Avenue SW, and a friend walking with his two young sons on a late morning in Olde Burien who stumbled over a “passed out person late morning with two open beer cans next to him,” adding that another neighbor had his car alarm go off on a sunny afternoon and “he caught the guy on camera,” but the person “just wandered off with no sense of urgency.”

Seeing “all you regular folks at the meeting, all with your intense desire just to live you life in peace and safety … we can’t do that, can we?” asked Esau

Esau said she urged people “to keep this in mind in November and when we vote and we allocate funds … I want to remind folks we still have a Second Amendment and I, for one, hold a concealed weapons permit.”

Parents ban the library
Lily Conner, holding her infant son, Asher, said she brought him to the area outside the library to eat lunch one day, but her son picked up a razor blade and now he has to be tested for infectious diseases “which is horrifying.”

People are asking why she would bring a child to “the most dangerous place in town – it is horrifying to be told that I am a bad parent for bringing my child to the library.”

Conner said others have told her that they ban their children from the library because they have seen people doing drugs in the bathrooms “or they have been assaulted physically or verbally.”

The library should be available to people “in a safe way,” said Conner.

“We are in need of more law enforcement officers,” resident Patty Janssen said, adding that the plan to have two more officers by mid-year “is not enough.” She mentioned the shooting in the city on Monday and “I can bet you that every officer was over there at that shooting; who is here to take care of what’s going on here, right?”

Janssen said the city’s gang unit was disbanded in 2014 and city does not have less gang activity, but less police working on the issue because the unit is gone.

She added the Burien Police are shy of the recommended number of officers per number of citizens.

Berkowitz challenged
Chris Hemp (pictured above) said Dottie Harper Park might not be used for kids’ activities because of homeless and others harassing them.

As for the library at City Hall, “people sleeping in the library, watching porn, this is not a library’s intended usage, it has become unsafe for the kids.”

“The one Councilmember who does not come to these meetings, ironically it’s because of safety reasons,” Hemp said to scattered audience applause.

The Councilmember he referred to is Lauren Berkowitz, who has attended only three Council sessions in person since January 2016.

“That is completely incorrect and inflammatory,” said Berkowitz over the telephone speaker as usual.

Mayor Krakowiak noted freedom of speech allowed Hemp’s remark.

Library defended
Key Dellaveccia said she is an employee of King County Library and “if you ever feel unsafe, we are always there and we do not discriminate. We are there if you have a problem – all you have to do is to come up and tell us. If you have suspicion you come up and you tell us. We have patrons call up and tell us and we have addressed it. I think we have done a remarkable job.

“Again, we will not discriminate” against the homeless and the issue is a national one, not just in Burien, Dellaveccia said. “The law has to change.”

People who have been arrested for drug use are put in jail, then freed to return to the community, she said, “that’s called insanity, doing the same thing over and over.”

City’s taxing limit
Resident John Upthegrove reminded the Council that serial ballot initiative purveyor Tim Eyman, proposed and the citizens of the state approved, that limits property tax increases to 1 percent per year.

“You may not agree with (the Council’s) spending priorities but cities, counties, the state – everyone is limited to 1 percent increase in revenue by their taxes.”

“If we want to have more police officers, and I do, I have a sign in front of my house that says ‘Beware of blind guy with shotgun’ – I haven’t had any problems.

“You are blaming the wrong people, we are the ones kind of to blame. We want more police officers; we have to figure out how to pay for them. They (the Council) can’t, they are limited to 1 percent per year.”

Upthegrove did not mention that the city could put a ballot measure on the next election ballot asking if people wanted to raise taxes higher than 1 percent, as several fire districts and some cities routinely do.

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46 replies on “Upset Burien citizens ‘Rally Against Crime’ at lengthy City Council session”

  1. Why does Bezerkoitz miss the meetings then if not for fear of the imaginary pitchfork wielding crowd waiting for her. She made her bed, now she gets to sleep in it.

  2. I’m confused by that attached photo of Berkowitz, now she’s some sort of alien space ship with lights which has landed on a desk?

    1. Ms. Berkowitz has been present only a handful of times since the birth of her child over a year ago. Instead, the council has accommodated her by allowing her to “appear” via phone. Monday night, she was on the phone and mysteriously, about an hour into the meeting, there was a loud clunk and a dial tone.
      Is anyone aware of a rule that allows council members to not be present in person for a majority of the meetings? After all, she most likely continues to collect a paycheck and I was told that council members also receive health insurance.
      Mr. Edgar tried to amend the agenda for Monday nights meeting to include an item for discussing “censure”. It was voted down by the council. Any idea if it could have been to discuss censuring Ms. B for her chronic absence?

    2. She had a kid a year ago, did I read that correctly. How long is her paid maternity leave for. A year seems to be massively excessive don’t you think especially if its paid by tax payers. Wonder why Burien is in Bankruptcy. The Democratic way I see. What a shame. Go Trump……

  3. Recently picked up five used needles in a doorway on 153rd. Found out I could get sex for $10, if I was interested 152 nd & 4th s.w. Business owners have had to spend big dollars to block store entrances from being used as crash pads.

    A library should be a place where people, of all ages, should be able to feel safe. After all, it is paid for by taxes. I would bet that those sleeping in the library / city hall buildings don’t pay a cent in taxes.

    I have been in the area since 1956 and I am shocked of the current state of downtown.

    I have the greatest respect for the local police. They, typically, do what they are directed to do. The City Council needs to be very clear on what is and what is not acceptable. Laws are being broken and there are no consequences.

    “Branding” for Burien? City officials need to get things cleaned up before you can actually come up with an attractive “brand”. So far, they have been very neglectful in actually addressing / solving issues.

    Long past time for changes.

  4. Thanks to all who attended.

    While citizens had opportunity to express their experiences, and hopes, it would really great if our City Council had some sort of ‘official’ response.

    What’s the word Council members ?

  5. The current city council doesn’t want to solve Burien’s crime problems, because to do so would be politically incorrect to their progressive agenda.

    Vote them all out!

  6. Blaming Tim Eyman for the property tax restriction when these council members made it a sanctuary city is pretty darn shortsighted. If you don’t have enough money for cops why would you welcome even more criminals?

    1. Carrie, thank you for the comment. Just to shed light on the 1% comment. That 1% is only on property tax revenue. It is not applicable to all the other taxes that the city assesses and collects such as sales tax, excise tax, utility tax etc. In all the city generally obtains only 1/3 of its revenues from property taxes. So they can receive more than 1% increase in all the other taxes they assess.

      1. Exactly Chuck. And moreoever, if the city is hurting for money due to Mr. Eyman’s initiative, then how did they get the $$$ for the city logo? The answer is they have the money, but their priorities are out of wack.

  7. What concerns me is the business owners talking about how bad things are. Why would other business move here if the current ones have so many problems? I am hoping that Burien will becomes a vibrant thriving community. With Seattle booming and hard working people not being able to afford Seattle this is an opportunity to make our city so much better. It seems we are going in the opposite direction though. This is our time to make a change. We have huge potential here. A beautiful beach, a nice main street and convenient location.

    I have seen a lot of negative comments about Berkowitz not showing up. Without getting nasty here, does anyone know the reason why she has not been showing up to the meetings?
    Seems very strange a council member would miss so many meetings.

    We can make this place a great place to live. I love its here but it has just gotten so bad here lately.

    1. Maybe Bezerkoitz doesn’t show up because the Trespassing Ordinance actually does work. And why isn’t it being utilized more as a lawful tool to clean up downtown Burien?

      1. QA, one of the many problems with the ordinance is that jailing people for crimes of homelessness is just a revolving door. And a very costly one at that. Jailstays are expensive to the taxpayer and the person just ends up being put back out on the street again and again and cycling back into another expensive jailstay after another. So just from the “pursestrings” angle alone, it doesn’t work. I believe one of the people who spoke last night, a library staffer, made reference to this.

        1. The Trespassing Ordinance, like many if not all utilized by many other cities does not incarcerate. It is used to Trespass people who continually cause problems at a specific site and prevent them from entering.

          1. Ok, fair enough. And for the record, I’m a mother and a grandmother and I totally understand why parents and young people don’t feel the library is safe. But trespassing people over and over and over doesn’t solve the problem. Permanent housing (not shelters) and intensive services for mental health and substance use issues actually does solve the problem, and in a way that costs less than the costs incurred by someone living on the streets and repeatedly using expensive publically-funded services like ERs, sobering centers, jails, etc., which can run into the hundreds of thousands of dollars per person every year uf they are high utilizers. And for some people, permanent housing with intensive services gives them the kind of stability they need to move on to more independent living. But most of that kind of permanent housing with onsite 24/7 suport exists in other parts of the county, and there’s just not enough anywhere to meet the need.

  8. I attended the city council meeting last night and was appalled at many of the individual stories told by the very concerned citizens and business owners of our city. The pain and anger in the room was palpable, and thank you to the council for encouraging every person to speak. I hope the council was appalled as well, and that they will take these comments to heart.

    Tonight I stopped by the library on my way home from work to see for myself what the atmosphere is like. I saw very few children with parents, lots of computers in use, several students doing research/homework and TEN PEOPLE SLEEPING IN CHAIRS, many with an unusual amount of personal belongings next to them. And, as was pointed out last night during the comment period, a particular smell in the air.

    How ironic that the library shares this spacious public space with City Hall. It sends quite a message about how the city values it’s resources and more importantly its taxpayers!

    AND WHERE THE HECK IS LAUREN BERKOWITZ? Why is she not required to attend meetings in person?

  9. VOTE OUT BERKOWITZ. Here is what Lauren Berkowitz was ‘live” tweeting on Twitter last night during the meeting she was not attending:

    “So far, the overwhelming trend of people claiming they don’t feel safe in Burien have one unifying characteristic: they’re nearly all white.” – Lauren Berkowitz

    “The speakers we heard from tonight in no way represent Burien as a whole. Burien residents support public safety for all, not just for some.” – Lauren Berkowitz

    Vote out:


    1. She actually sent a total of 18 Tweets that evening about the meeting. A good majority being negative.
      A fun little side note, She can’t seem to be able to attend a Burien City Council meeting, but was able to attend a “State of the City Address” in Hopkins, MN on JAN-26th according to her Twitter page.

    2. In 2015, it was voted by the council that “tweeting” was not allowed during their meetings. It was determined the consequences would be censure. In Ms. B’s case, that could have been damaging to her future career in the legal profession. And yet, it sounds like she’s at it again, tweeting during meetings where she is not physically present. She is at home with her child, tweeting, hanging up when she feels like it, and still getting paid-with our money!
      What’s wrong with this picture?

    3. Dave thank you for posting Lauren’s tweets. It is interesting that she claims that people “don’t feel safe in Burien”. Does she not “feel safe in Burien” city council chambers with an armed police officer there?

      The people I heard said they did not feel safe after they had had an incident confront them. What is her excuse for NOT showing up to council meeting to fulfill her council duties?

      As to her racist comment about “white” people, I and two other speakers are Hispanic. Although that is not an exact (7.5%) representation of the population, it is representation. If she were there perhaps she would be able to see that fact.

    4. There must have been a live web feed of the Council meeting for her to see how “white” is was. It seems so patronizing to allow her to abuse the system and be absent and thereby disregard the no tweeting rule. She not for the people as her head can’t fit more than her ego.

  10. I am a young business owner currently located in Seattle and I’m looking to expand my business into another area. I have been spending more time in Burien over the past few years. I grew up in north Seattle and the Burien area reminded me a lot of my hometown but has a downtown which is an added bonus. I am currently in contract on a building purchase in Burien but with all of the recent news, it has made me realize that the risk may not be worth it for me. While I feel comfortable in the Burien area, I worry about my employees. I hope that Burien can become a safer place for all of its current citizens and for those who wish to become part of the Burien Community in the future.

    1. This is such an important comment. It should be heard and taken seriously. Part of Burien’s challenge is that the problems we’re grappling with are reflections of a regional crisis, and any lasting and appropriate solutions are going to have to be done as part of a serious regional coordinated effort in which smaller and lower-income towns like Burien, with far fewer resources, are given the support they need to respond adequately — whether that’s more law enforcement or more supportive housing and services. We cannot respond alone. This is a regional crisis.

    2. Eric thank you for your post and observations of our fair town. While your concerns are understandable I believe that the showing at Monday’s nights meeting is indicative of a populace that has had enough of the criminal activity.

      Give us, the people of Burien, until November 7th to affect and effect change in this matter. We are mad… and will not take it any more. Burien does have a great deal to offer a business.

  11. What the hey, what up with a council member who doesn’t’ go to council meetings? No wonder nothing is being done to clean up downtown, the library and city hall areas; she’s never around to see the mess. If Burien starts losing businesses like Iris and Peony etc. due to crime and indifference to act the city is going to go through another business death spiral. Walking around downtown Burien one sees nothing but bums, trash, trash and shopping carts. The City Council needs to get their priorities straight and their act together on this issue.

  12. Great meeting and enlightening conversations here….BUT….what is being done?

    As in an actual action plan…isn’t that what these meeting are supposed to produce?

    And “Tweeting while not at but otherwise ‘attending’ yet another Counsel meeting”… that like a DWI?

    1. PatH , well what is to be done or “a plan” we will see. If the council doesn’t get the hint after the show at the meeting, then the “plan” as mentioned in several comments is real simple – replace some of the council members.

      They seems to like the Seattle government style of governance so let’s replace them in November and they can move to Seattle and live their dream life.

    2. No, it’s like DT tweeting and not attending National Security Meetings.
      I am happy to pay more taxes for more police. But it has to be city wide agreement.
      Everyone wants something for nothing, more police, no new taxes….
      A sanctuary city only states our police will not spend OUR tax dollars HELPING ICE.
      It doesn’t mean our city is more or less safe.
      white drugs addicts are not sought after by ICE.
      Do want Our tax dollars going to helping round up women and children, families whose only crime was coming here illegally?
      That won’t help crime, that will just keep our police busy not attending to crime.

  13. The problem with the city of Burien is that I’m far too busy spying on people who aren’t posing a threat and racking up OT with the drug task force to care about Burien. Did I mention that I really need the OT? It’s because I have too many children. Go to church, people.

  14. I read a lot of comments about not feeling safe, emotional response, and near zero about actual threats outside of burglaries, which no one pointed to any statistics, just their personal assumptions and fears. Especially about the library. It’s a public place and diversity scares some people. When I grew up, parents taught their kids (and me) how to deal with it if and when encountered, not whine about how they cannot deal with the real world, and seem to expect personal police escorts everywhere they want to go downtown.

    Burien will never be Pleasantviille, and is not like Los Angeles or Chicago. The things that need to be addressed are less realated to “enforcement” and more related to both squarely addressing the gangs–bring back the gang unit, and finding a place where the homeless can go instead of trying to shoo them out, which due to the increasing numbers of them in the region will continue to be ineffective. I’m sorry the woman and her father who was close to the gunfire exchange were in the wrong place at the wrong time,and addressing the gang situation would go far to reduce the likelyhood of that.

    Flack Jacket on. But it needed to be said. Throwing money at it and adding more police without a plan behind it won’t get my vote for tax increases. We don’t want to emulate Seattle in that respect….

    1. To Michael,

      Did you attend or watch the meeting on line? I heard story after story from residents and business owners who have experienced direct threats from, or seen first hand the detritus
      spread by vagrants, drug addicts and gang bangers. Plenty of people at that meeting were emotional, but many of them were reacting to very specific instances.
      I realize this is a problem that encompasses the Puget Sound region. I have lived in Tacoma, have a business in Tukwila and even have experienced issues with the homeless population around my business in Bellevue (drug paraphernalia, public drunkenness, urinating in public, sleeping 20 feet from my front door, panhandling), so I realize the extent of the issue. Burien has been on the cusp of becoming a great little city. I see that opportunity being squandered because we are tolerating these behaviors. It’s a slippery slope we are on, and with the eviction of another large encampment in Seattle, Burien will surely experience another influx of NON-RESIDENTS taking up “residence”.

    2. Michael – I see. So parents should tell their kids who need to use the restroom at the library, “don’t worry about that woman shooting up in the stall next to you.” Drug addicts overrunning the library and restrooms, parks. Kids cannot use parks without stepping on hazardous used needles, razorblades, etc. (according to one “emotional” response). This is the reality of Burien today, and we really should not shrug and accept it as the new normal (as you seem to want to do).

      Anyone with their eyes open knows that Burien is going downhill regading crime and safety. What we need are solutions and leadership – but we are not getting it. I was at the meeting and the testimony of everyone who went up to speak was real, even if there are no hard stats provided.

      1. Mischaracterizing my comment is not going to get us moving towards addressing the issues.
        Your statements show that you did not comprehend what I was referring to. Either you never learned how to deal with the real world, or your perceptions are now shaped entirely by anecdotes and not reality.

        1. How did I mischaracterize you? My guess is you did not attend the meeting. The “anecdotes” you refer to where the real experiences of concerned citizens in Burien. We would do well to not ignore them.

          1. I watched it online. And it was little different from your attitude–emotional, non-productive and mostly superfical stereotyping and assumptions of others who were victims, with pleading for simplistic actions based upon a refusal to acknowldege the root causes and what has proven to be actually effective in addressing this.

            I do plan to monitor the council meeting on homeless policy Monday. Keeping in mind that 52 percent of the city budget is allocated for police whose resources do not seem allocated effectively or as productively as they could be, but leans more towards being politcally driven. That does not always imply enforcement alone.

  15. To Brendan – I forgot to mention that I pick up shopping carts and return them to the respective store. I try to get as many as I can. It is amazing how far some of those carts travel.

    1. We benefit from being a “sanctuary city” because it improves the relationship between the police and the minority communities. People are less afraid to cooperate with the police when there will be no unnecessary questions about their immigration status and that makes it more likely they will catch the real bad guys, not break up fearful families.
      The police support the “sanctuary city” policy, which has been their policy for years.

  16. Funny ……I thought only Republicans were afraid of facing their constituents concerns in person? ALL elected official should be prepared to show up in person for meetings with the citizens that elected them to office.

  17. Berkowitz is spitting in the face of every Burien resident who wants to live in peace. Asking that the laws be enforced seems to be a big problem for her. She insults me with smug hatred and disregard for her fellow citizens. Her brand of politics is poison and only brings a big negative to Burien. Sign me up to do everything in my power to remove her from the council!

    1. It seems to me that the city council itself has a responsibility to deal with a member of its own who is not (apparently) performing the duties of the job she was publicly elected to perform. There is much speculation as to the reason L.B. has essentially been a no-show at her job for the last year. I’m believing that as a “public official” it should be public knowledge what the problem is. The city council is itself causing disruption by not being up-front about this with their constituents. And that she is behaving this way AND getting paid on top of it?! Only in the government sector…..
      Ironically she was the one who voted down hiring additional police. How ’bout we use her salary to add to the Burien Safety Slush Fund?

      1. According to the website for her law business, she is a member of the council in her “spare time”. My guess is the $600 per month and health insurance are quite a bonus to someone with a fledgling business. She is clearly no longer participating in council business, as evidenced by her absence at Monday’s meeting, unless “phoning it in”, tweeting and hanging up at her convenience are considered participating. Not in my world- not on our dime!

    2. Sign me up too, Paul. But also sign me up to hold accountable any council member who does not do something to improve the safety of Burien. Berkowitz does not have any respect for the citizens of Burien concerned about crime and safety. We need to show her the door – if she’s even running again.

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