Shane Harms/ Ballard News-Tribune
Walgreens has not hired a security guard despite recent armed robberies. Meanwhile, stores with pharmacies and competitors of Walgreens have hired security personnel.

Ballard Walgreens pressed to hire security guard after armed robbery

After asking many stores in the area to hire a security officer, a Ballard woman now is urging Walgreens (5409 15th Ave N.W.) to do the same, especially after a recent armed robbery.

Janet Calkins lives four blocks from the Ballard QFC and eight blocks from the Bartell Drugs and Walgreens at 15th Avenue N.W.

Calkins said she called the Kroger Corporate office last year and urged them to get a security officer at QFC after a rash of robberies and assaults. She also said she spoke diligently with the Bartell Drugs management about hiring a guard.

“These stores need security officers to protect the customers, but more importantly the staff,” said Calkins.

Calkins said guards were hired at both stores. A Bartells representative could not confirm that they hired a guard because of Calkins, nor could they even confirm they have a guard because of security disclosure issues.

“They (QFC and Bartell Drugs) are doing their part but Walgreens is a problem. The employees are petrified. There’s been so many mishaps you wouldn't believe. … I would hate to see someone killed. I really think something bad is going to happen, and they don't care enough about their employees. Workers and attendants are petrified.”

The Ballard News-Tribune is still waiting on a public records request for all the incidents specific to that Walgreens location. The request was filed with SPD over three weeks ago.

Over the last few months Calkins has been asking the Walgreens management to hire a security guard, especially after last July when a suspect threatened pharmacy workers with a bat and made off with prescription narcotics.

“You have to have security in there. There’s no way around it, and I’ve been fighting tooth and nail to get it in there.”

Calkins says that she shops at that Walgreen because they carry her favorite soda, Twist, and she can’t find it anywhere else. However, she says she doesn't feel safe in or near the store. Her fear arises from what she calls the “rats” or degenerate criminals and vagrants she claims have flocked to Ballard in the last few years. Calkins has worked for a Labor Union, Local 440 for the past 11 years and also works Ballard Place. She’s also a grandmother. She says that in her over 30 years of living in Ballard, she’s never seen the crime so high.

Walgreeens option

Calkins attributes the perceived rise in crime to more homeless individuals and drug abusers seeking new resources in Ballard. Calkins mentioned Swedish Hospital’s addiction recovery clinic (detoxification), the City sanctioned Ballard Nickelsville encampment and the new Urban Rest Stop – the latter two recently opened this year.

“I don't have anything against homeless people, I just think we are over doing it. … I lived here a long time, and I can’t stand what they’ve done to Ballard. They’ve knocked down beautiful Ballard and it's changed our community drastically and not in a good way.”

So has crime increased in Ballard?

Data from the SPD Crime Dashboard shows that from January of this year to July, there were 43 robberies in Ballard compared to 33 robberies during the same period in 2015. In 2010 there were 32 total for the year.

Also, data shows that there have been intervals in assault rates in the Ballard area for the last few years. Up to March of this year there have been 23 total assaults (All assault categories including body force, child and weapon). During the same time last year there were 19.

According to Calkins she has been speaking with the Walgreens District manager about getting a security guard at the store. She says that what she’s heard from them is that having a guard in the store “gives the wrong message,” to customers.

The Ballard News-Tribune corresponded with Walgreens media handler, James Graham. Graham could not confirm Calkins assertion about a guard sending the wrong message, however he shared Walgreen’s stance on security at that store:

“We utilize security personnel when we determine that such a measure is appropriate for a specific store.  We also make extensive use of security cameras and strategically situated lighting, inside and out, time-delay safes, theft-deterrent store fixtures, informational signage, and close cooperation with local law enforcement authorities,” wrote Graham.

“We have an excellent relationship with the Seattle Police Department.  We also provide various forms of training for our employees and counseling as needed. The security enhancements I’ve described here are all plainly visible to visitors to our stores.  Other enhancements and programs are not so visible and are confidential, although our employees are aware of them.” 

BNT inquired about the recent armed robbery and crime history at the store.

“We do closely monitor all security issues but do not publicly disclose such information, including facts that might be used as evidence in an investigation and prosecution of an offender. … We do not disclose statistics of that kind, but we monitor security closely because public safety and security are vitally important.  We want our customers and employees to feel and be safe.”

Graham did not comment specifically on whether Walgreens would hire a security technician for the store.

“It’s possible your questions are prompted by a concerned customer.  If that’s the case, please let them know we would be happy to talk to them about our safety programs.”

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