Local business owners say crime on North 1st Street is scaring away their customers
YAKIMA, Wash. - Local business owners say they are seeing crime on North 1st Street increasing, from drugs to prostitution to trespassing to break-ins and even shootings.
"It's a shame that Yakima can't figure out what to do about North 1st," said Golden Moon Restaurant waitress Jodi Halcom. "This is the major entrance into Yakima and this is what people see when they pull in. It's not the pretty downtown area or down in Union Gap, this is what they see."
Halcom said the restaurant has been on N. 1st Street since 2004 and she has never seen the crime so bad, until now.
"At least once a week we hear from a customer that doesn't like to come to our restaurant anymore unless they get food to go because the area is so scary," she said.
She said the increase in crime is impacting their bottom line. On a typical day she said the restaurant would make about $1,000 in sales but in the past six months she said they've lost three-fourths of their business and she is blaming the crime.
"We found hypodermic needles in our parking lot," Halcom said. "We've had johns frequenting the ladies and had to go out in the parking lot and run them off. Last week we had a homeless man that was living in a car in our parking lot and five times we had to call the police to get them run off the street."
Police and some businesses in the area said most of the problem comes from places like the Sunshine Motel. A few years ago, the city even tried to shut down the motel.
Action News talked to the owner of the Sunshine Motel Rajiv Sauson who said his business isn't the problem.
There was a shooting on his property in March and he said neither the victim nor the shooter were staying at his motel.
"More people trespassing on property," Sauson said. "If somebody is walking behind the property they just knock on people's windows so if somebody is living there, they don't feel safe."
He said he thinks most of these people are coming from the Union Gospel Mission across the street.
"Well if they want the city, 1st Street to look like a Yakima Avenue, they need to move the mission, that's their first and last choice" Sauson said. "If this thing doesn't move, you will see more and more trouble in the future."
However, the Union Gospel Mission doesn't think people staying at their mission are the ones causing the problems.
Executive Director Rick Phillips said the mission has been on N. 1st Street for more than 25 years and he hears about crime happening in the area but doesn't notice much on their property.
Although, he said he thinks police presence is the key to fighting crime.
"We've always had a pretty good working relationship with the police department," Phillips said. "We actually encourage them to come on-site as often as possible, having their presence here has been helpful."