Police try to discourage repeat young loiterers at Third and Pine

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Police say there's no want for police presence at Third Avenue and Pine Street in downtown Seattle.

But they agree there's more to be done to shoo away large groups of young people who loiter there and create headaches for police and merchants.

"We still have work to do, and everyone has to hold hands in these efforts," said Seattle police Capt. Jim Pugel. "Things are working OK, but they can always do better."

Still, the police and a downtown development group expect Third and Pine to look a lot different by next year, thanks to some changes in the landscape.

Business owners have complained for years that the groups of dozens of mostly young people who congregate at the intersection hurt business and make life miserable by committing crimes and hassling people. Now many of the young regulars have been tied to Mardi Gras violence, including the teen accused of beating a man to death.

As a result, the intersection has been relatively quiet because police say many of the regulars are trying to avoid arrest for Mardi Gras crimes. But the groups will return, police and merchants agree.

Pugel said the police have recently stepped up their presence in the area, with more foot patrols, bike officers and plainclothes cops. Cameras are stashed around the area to videotape crime.

"The department is doing about as much as it can right now, with the available resources and within the law," Pugel said.

But police have been urging more, such as encouraging judges to ban people from the area as part of their probation, Pugel said.

"That's one of the frustrations with our officers, that they are always arresting these guys over and over again," Pugel said.

In fall, however, construction will begin on a 65-unit affordable-housing building above the McDonald's. When done, it is hoped, the intersection will be more neighborhood and less hangout.

"The more eyes and ears you have who are living there, looking out their windows, makes a big impact," said Bill Dietrich, director of the Metropolitan Improvement District, part of the Downtown Seattle Association.