2. More than 52,000 daily transit riders from across all seven City Council districts use Third Avenue daily to get to and from their jobs in downtown Seattle. While Third Avenue acts as a front door to our downtown, it’s also the epicenter of the Seattle’s largest outdoor drug market. A recent report commissioned by DSA and neighborhood district partners has outlined a large amount of criminal activity across the city, including property crime, assaults and robberies, is being perpetrated by a small number of prolific offenders who cycle through the criminal justice system. Have you read the report? If elected to the Seattle City Council, what policies might you pursue to curb property crime and address these issues in downtown in order to make our streets safer for all? How might you work with your elected colleagues to enact these policies?
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The health and safety of all our neighbors must be the top priority of our City Council. We need a data driven, multi-faceted approach to effectively address this issue, but the traditional “lock them up” approach has proven too costly and ineffective in addressing crimes associated with addiction and mental health.
Most offenders are in and of jail on misdemeanor crimes and the nature of their crimes means they will spend little time in jail, and even if they did, the system isn’t set up to help them rehabilitate. It would be more effective to invest more funds in LEAD, which incentivizes “familiar faces” in criminal justice to get into the system of social services rather than go to jail (or face more limited sentences by committing to work within the LEAD framework). This proven system, working with social workers, the police, prosecutors, and other service providers, provides a system with limited gaps and higher accountability. It takes time to work (on average 18 months to really make good traction), but it is effective.
Because incarceration doesn’t benefit an offender with mental health services and medication-assisted treatment (something we need to implement if incarceration is going to reap real, long-term benefits), we need to be sure to have a path of providers waiting for people when they are released from prison. If there is any gap in support, those let out of prison/jail are much more likely to go back to their familiar lives on the streets and they will start the whole cycle over again, increasing petty crimes and burdening the system with people going through one, two, or six times. If we can limit the number of times people cycle through the system, the more the system will truly help people rehabilitate and at the same time cost taxpayers less.
LEAD works. It must be expanded to create an end-to-end system to stop misdemeanor crimes that impact our business committee and residents and provide real help for those experiencing homelessness, mental health crisis, addiction, or extreme poverty.