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Barbed wire now surrounds three seized motels on Tukwila boulevard
Fences topped with barbed wire now surround three motels and a fourth business on Tukwila International Boulevard, following a raid Tuesday morning by hundreds of law enforcement personnel.
Multiple agencies served search warrants following a year-long investigation into drug sales and prostitution at the motels, which were seized by federal officials.
Four owners or managers of the boarded-up motels - the Boulevard Motel, the Great Bear Motor Inn and the Travelers Choice Motel – were arrested along with more than a dozen others as part of the seizure. The motels now will go through a federal forfeiture process.
Temporary housing was found by the City of Tukwila and social service agencies for 34 adults and 11 children who lived in the motels.
Support for the seizure of the three motels, where police have responded hundreds of times over the years, was overwhelming.
"We have been virtually deluged with phone calls and emails to City Hall," Mayor Jim Haggerton said Friday morning during an already-scheduled tour for City Council members and community leaders of the Tukwila Village site nearby.
"I would say that 99.9 percent of those calls were very positive," Haggerton said.
The three motels are a short distance from Foster High School and Showalter Middle School on South 144th Street.
“Student safety and well-being is a top priority for us, so we absolutely support law enforcement’s efforts to stop any and all illegal activity," said Tukwila School Superintendent Nancy Coogan in a statement, in which she thanked the police agencies for their actions.
"Our schools are zero-tolerance zones, and we need the same expectation to extend throughout Tukwila to keep our children safe and healthy," she said.
The officials visited the three sites and spoke with the community resource officers whose station is nearby.
Signs in red, white and blue make it clear the properties are under the control of the U.S. Marshal's Office, which has constant security at the properties.
Federal and city officials pointed out that part of the planning for the raid was a commitment to housing and food assistance to the displaced families or individuals not tied to criminal activity.
The City of Tukwila is arranging housing and food for those individuals screened first by the Police Department and then by the city's human services staff, Haggerton said.
Some of the displaced children also attend Tukwila schools.
"We have people working on the ongoing needs of those people so that nothing is overlooked," Haggerton said.
Tukwila's assistant police chief, Bruce Linton, who helped lead Friday's tour, said there have been numerous indications, from signs to emails to honking horns, that the community appreciates the police action.
"I haven't heard any negative repercussions as a result of the operation," he said Friday.
The Police Department will continue its Crime Reduction Initiative that is designed to reduce criminal activity on the boulevard and throughout the city, he said.
The hours-long search and seizure the motels Tuesday was watched by numerous onlookers and those driving by on the highway.
Coletha Albert of Tukwila watched the police work for hours, saying she was witnessing history being made.
"It puts Tukwila on a better path than the one that it was on, because with this here, it was like a cancer," she said Tuesday while standing across the highway. "And there was nothing else for it to do but to metastasize throughout the whole community."
The raid, she said, was "drastic assertive surgery" that will remove the cancer and give the community a chance to heal.
Also watching Tuesday was Chuck Riess, a member of the Tukwila International Boulevard Action Committee that has worked for years to improve and nurture the boulevard.
He pointed out that Tukwila Village will include a large retirement community.
"There's no way that that would have been successful with that going on here," he said. "That's why I see a big positive."
The committee has plans all along the boulevard, too, he said.
In the end, he said, the boulevard will be "a beautiful community."