Public safety report cites downtown 7-Eleven as ‘epicenter’ of crime and homelessness

Homelessness is everywhere — it’s on our streets, it’s in hidden camps across the county… and it’s in the parking lots of our convenience stores.

The 7-Eleven near 2nd and Division has become a hot spot for many homeless people.

“It has become a place where people know they can sell and purchase drugs,” Spokane Police Public Information Officer Terry Preuninger said. “It’s become a place where people have chosen to congregate.”

Over the past year, the Spokane Police downtown precinct has arrested 33 percent more people for drug-related crimes. There are several parts of downtown affecting that increase, but police say that 7-Eleven is the epicenter.

Shawnna Holcomb is a manager at Clark’s Cleaners, which is right by 7-Eleven on South Division. She said she’s worked there for 24 years, but the last couple years have been far different than the rest.

“Now I’m seeing a different element, it’s a little more drug use and it’s more open now,” Holcomb said. “It wasn’t open before.”

Spokane Police said they have responded to roughly 450 calls this year just to this 7-Eleven. Those calls aren’t all drug related; they could be for trespassing, theft, or even just a medical call.

Nonetheless, businesses like Clark’s are feeling the impact.

“A gentleman came through the side of a lady’s car and tried to grab her purse,” Holcomb said. “She’s currently going to our other store because she does like our service and likes our business but doesn’t feel safe.”

In a recent public safety briefing, Spokane Police said they’ve spent the last three weeks focusing on this area and a one-block radius in all directions.

In that public safety report, police noted the housing projects just a block away, saying: “With two more large housing projects under construction just a stone’s throw away from the current five we’re already dealing with, the outlook is dim that it will ever improve without consistent enforcement.”

The report cites 7-Eleven as the root of the issue.

Even so, that didn’t stop Emily Ridler from opening Latte’ Daa coffee shop right down the street.

“We were pretty skeptical about getting involved because of the riff-raff around here, and we thought about it long and hard and have faith we can turn it around,” Ridler said.