Belltown: 'From party town to violence in a heartbeat'

Belltown: 'From party town to violence in a heartbeat' »Play Video
Officers patrol Belltown as thousands of party-goers empty out of the bars at 2 a.m.
SEATTLE - The Belltown area is more dangerous now than it's been in years. Crimes committed there killed one man this month - and two other victims are still recovering in the hospital.

Just this weekend Seattle police launched a brand new Belltown crime initiative - and KOMO News got the exclusive look on the front lines.

KOMO News reporter Luke Duecy walked the beat with cops early Sunday morning. Here's his report:

"It was eye-opening - not because of the partying - but because it can be relatively calm one moment, and then change in a heartbeat.

"A call comes in ... and we're off - pushing our way through the crowd. All we know is there's a fight up ahead ...

"But the officers don't know if there's a knife or a gun. And when we get there - one suspect is on the ground - and his buddy pushes an officer.

"Cops ask the female victim, 'Are you all right?'

"It turns out she's OK. There are no weapons, but this guy's going to jail. He choked and punched a girl - broke her glasses - so the officers arrested him. Officers say it's just a typical incident.

"Welcome to Belltown at 2 a.m. after a Saturday night - when the clubs and bars close for the night and people flood the downtown streets.

"There's probably well over 2,000 people that will be spilling out.

"It's the first weekend of Seattle Police Department's new anti-crime initiative, and I tagged along to see for myself how Sgt. Brian Kraus and his fellow officers are doing to keep these streets safe.

"Just this month, two shootings rocked Belltown. One victim was shot in the head here on Second Avenue. Two weeks later on Fifth Avenue - Kelvin Owie was shot in the neck.

"So now, more than 20 extra officers patrol these streets each weekend night.

"There's even a mobile command post and floodlights to illuminate alleys - and especially the parking lots.

"Sgt. Kraus explains: 'We always watch the parking lots because what we find is if there's a fight - they go run to the car and get their weapons and then they come back looking for the people.'

"And with this many people - it's anyone's guess who's the troublemaker and who's just out having fun.

"Every Friday and Saturday night it gets like this - wild, unruly, potentially dangerous ...

"Sgt. Kraus says, 'What most people and even other precincts would describe as riots or just out of control - we just deal with on a daily basis.'

"But, while keeping everyone safe is No. 1 for these officers, I quickly realized these cops are up against a lot more.

"They have to be part medic, dealing with people who look sick are on the ground, and part tour guide, answering questions - and part public relations, even giving out hugs to people who want them.

"And while there are a lot of people who do nothing wrong and just have a good time - I saw plenty of people passed out or sick.

"And then there's always the guy who's urinating against a building or in the bushes. 'Would you like people peeing in your yard?' cops ask one man. 'No sir, no sir,' he answers.

"It's high-stakes babysitting. Because in the blink of an eye, it can go from calm - to another fight.

"We were just wrapping up for the night after 2 a.m. Sunday, when a dispatcher breaks in on the radio - and we're off again.

"It's another fight, another arrest. Hopefully it's the last one of the night. But next weekend, these officers will see it all - again."