Friday, May 13, 2011

More on the Jungle

Just three days after I wrote about Seattle's notorious Jungle, a man was stabbed with a fork and threatened with a gun over a can of beer there.

I have received a flood of emails and phone calls over The Jungle since writing this blog post on Monday.  Some local Seattle residents had their own stories about the place, including residents of the besieged neighborhood of Beacon Hill that runs east of The Jungle.  Other readers from outside the Seattle area were incredulous that such a place could exist inside a major city.

Trust me, everything I have said about The Jungle is true----and more.

First, where is Seattle's Jungle?  It is a stretch of land that supports the network of access roads that make servicing the elevated portion of Interstate 5 through Seattle possible.  The video above from YouTube and the brave person who shot it perfectly captured the creepiness of the place.  It really is very scary, even in the middle of the day.

View Larger Map
This map shows the location of The Jungle relative to some universally known landmarks like Boeing Field which is directly west of Airport Way (as you might have guessed).  The location of the recent fork stabbing mentioned above, near the intersection of Airport Way S and S Bayview can be seen at the left of the map and is marked with a pin.  That big section of land east of I-5 where there are no roads until 13 Avenue South is the location of The Jungle.

View Larger Map

By the way, here is what the intersection of the "Fork Stabbing" incident of last night looks like.  If it looks that grim during the day, imagine what it looks like at night when the residents of The Jungle are awake and out searching for food, shelter, and often, victims. You can see I-5 in the distance and the entrance to The Jungle.

Most estimates put The Jungle at about 100 acres in size.  Using I-5 mile markers as a reliable measure, I think this estimate is on the low side and put the actual size at about 220 acres.  But given the fact there are no standard definitions of what The Jungle really is, I'll use the 100 acre figure.

This may sound small to some, but compare the 100 acre size of The Jungle to Seattle Center, the home of the 1962 World's Fair and the site of the Space Needle.  This park is only 72 acres in size with just only 17 acres of open space.

The Jungle is actually made up of two parts, The Caverns and The Jungle.  The Caverns are technically the spaces under the I-5 overpasses while The Jungle is the extremely dense growth that abuts these concrete spaces.  Most residents just use the one term to describe both.  Here is a great interview with one local Beacon Hill resident who did his own clearing of Jungle brush to chase out a local prostitute who was turning tricks in the weeds.  This YouTube video shows you how dense the growth actually can be, especially the ivy which is everywhere these days.

The effect on the residents of the neighborhood of Beacon Hill is obvious.  They feel like they are under perpetual attack from unseen forces that blend into the undergrowth.  The anger many feel is white hot.  Here is a typical comment found from a Beacon Hill resident on YouTube:

I wish I never moved to this neighborhood. At the top of the hill, anything you don't lock up will get stolen, whether a gas can or a motorcycle cover. It makes me want to put poison on my stuff, and leave it out in the open for them.
One Beacon Hill resident that did not want to "put poison on my stuff and leave it out in the open for them" was David Koenigs.  A former director of the St. Vincent de Paul Society in Seattle, Koenigs and his wife purchased a Beacon Hill fixer-upper and decided to invest their time and money back into their community instead of just talking about the homeless problem like so many others did without offering any solutions.

Koenig hired two homeless men from The Jungle to work on his rehab and live with him while they finished the construction.  You can guess what happened next.

In December 2005, Koenig was stabbed, strangled, and beaten to death by the men he tried to help.  These men promptly stole whatever they could from the home, including his car, before they were arrested in Oregon and sentenced to long prison terms.

The murder, violence, and drug dealing in The Jungle is not new.  Here is the story of man being murdered there in 2008.  Here is another news story describing life in The Jungle from 2003.

Nothing has changed there.  It's only gotten worse.  Plus we now have mini-Jungles sprouting all over Seattle as every patch of undergrowth is now used as a haven for crime or a campsite for drug addicts and psychopaths.  Two examples include Seward Park in South Seattle and 14-acre Kinnear Park in Queen Anne which has become the headquarters of a Honduran gang which uses the location to sell drugs and also hunt squirrels which they seem to enjoy eating.  (I'm not making this up.)

Seattle has no plan to conquer The Jungle and rescue the residents of Beacon Hill and Seattle from the madness of having a lawless criminal encampment within its borders.  Today I read Seattle's bicycle addicted mayor has hired one of his bicycle hack cronies at $95,000 a year to help design bike lanes for the city's streets, a move most people consider sheer madness.

Instead, City Hall should spend the money to bulldoze The Jungle once and for all and develop the site for the lawful residents of Beacon Hill, instead of allowing this filthy unsafe place to fester for yet another generation of murder victims to find.