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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I have read the report. As a councilmember I will work with my elected colleagues by doing what I’ve done my whole career, convening all parties together to hash out agreements. It’s imperative to the health of our government to listen and work with everyone, regardless of their views.
Here are a few policies I would pursue to curb property crime and address these issues in downtown:
- Prioritize bike and foot patrols in hot spots, and as resources allow, replicate parts of the 9 ½ Block strategy.
- Continue supporting and expand Seattle’s commitment to Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) to reducing crime through urban and environmental design and management.
- Work with my colleagues to create enough temporary shelter with wrap-around services to allow Seattle to enforce our no-camping laws. I don’t think shelter needs to be concentrated in one area or have a one-size-fits-all approach. I would advocate for some to the shelters to be built outside of Seattle, where land is cheaper and more abundant. For example, the state-owned surplus land at Fircrest in Shoreline would be one potentially well suited property. I was at an event where Tim Harris of Real Change mentioned that moving everyone out of the Jungle was an issue for treatment providers and outreach workers that now needed to search more areas to reach those in need. While I don’t agree with re-opening the Jungle, I do think that large shelters would serve the same purpose.
- If someone commits assaults and robberies they should face jail time. There should be more support for inmates in jail and pathways to housing and career support upon release to break the cycle of recidivism.
I have read the report numerous times, and sought counsel from public safety and other experts to better understand its arguments and conclusions, including the police chief, police officers, detectives, and prosecutors, as well as downtown residents, visitors and business owners. I have leveraged my strong relationships with human service advocates for their candid input. I have also reached out to the report’s critics and detractors.
While there are methodological and other research concerns which arise in a thoughtful reading of this study, it is important to note that it captures both a perception and reality that many feel is present in the City Center, and the neighborhoods of District 7. As a long term resident of Queen Anne, and in my previous life as a 32 year veteran of the Seattle Police Department, I witnessed similar degradation and dysfunction while serving as a police officer, the West Precinct (District 7) Commander, Assistant and Interim Chief of Police. Most recently, I have first-hand experience as the Chief Deputy and second-in-command of the King County Sheriff’s office, which oversees the operation of Metro Transit Police and Sound Transit police that serve the area but more importantly directly serve the 52,000 daily riders (and increasing) that patronize the transit systems.
I view our current situation with property crime to be a crisis. The economic drivers of this predatory criminality will not be solved overnight, and will require rigorous, long-term programs, inter-agency cooperation and initiatives. But the crime spree itself, to put it plainly, is a policing problem and challenge. Good old fashioned focused patrols, supported by crime pattern analysis and using the community’s eyes and ears – remember Block Watch – remain the most efficacious means to reduce and ultimately prevent property crimes. I was part of the comprehensive 911 patrol staffing and deployment analysis at SPD called Neighborhood Policing, and the key to having the capacity to undertake emphasis and proactive enforcement is adequacy of staffing according to a scientific model. It is clear we have neither staffing adequacy nor science behind our current police deployment system, a problem exacerbated by nearly a decade of Council inconsistency on budgeting to a baseline of 911 patrol resources.
If elected, I will come to my position with both experience and a track record of collaboration and inclusive leadership. I have been fortunate enough to work with myriad criminal justice agencies – both prosecution and defense – as well as businesses and business organizations – like the Seattle Chamber, DSA and BOMA – and, most important, all those who live, work and visit our city to enlist their ideas on how to address these complex challenges. My hands on experience shows me that meaningful progress is realized only through close and constant coordination between all involved and impacted public and private institutions, through cooperation and respecting all opinions. We must begin by passing unequivocal and enforceable laws, and ensuring clear pathways – including treatment and alternatives to incarceration – out of unlawful behavior. The absence of clear, enforceable laws and realistic policies – which include effective, humane alternatives balanced with responsibility and equitable consequences for criminal conduct – is the hallmark of our current Council, and therefore the focus of my reformist candidacy.
Yes, I have read the System Failure report. The report helps elevate real concerns about health and safety in our city. It is clear the status quo is not working.
First and foremost, we should make it a goal to prevent people from becoming prolific offenders in the first place. That means increasing behavioral health services and building financial resiliency of at-risk individuals and households. These services can lead to greater stability, thereby rendering a life of crime unnecessary.
Secondly, we likely need to make improvements to our criminal justice system. We must hold prolific offenders accountable because their actions have a deleterious effect on society. I admit that I do not have all of the answers for how to do this. I am inclined to offer alternatives to incarceration, where possible, but believe there need to be consequences.
Lastly, we should develop well-coordinated and regional responses to problems related to mental health, drug addiction, economic insecurity, and more. That’s why I am in favor of recent efforts by the City and County to address homelessness under a new joint authority. Greater coordination can improve our ability as a region to test and learn from new public policies — then focus greater resources on those policies that yield the best results.
Nobody in Seattle should be expected to tolerate being a victim of crime, and yes, I have read the report. First of all, the broad narrative of the report is certainly born out by my experience as a prosecutor in the Seattle Municipal Court. I can attest that I have seen many frequent flyer offenders cycle through the court only to return a few weeks later with a new charge.
I will briefly quibble, for the record, that the report suffers from a couple of inaccuracies and shortcomings that could have been addressed by contacting the City Attorney’s Office for comment. For example, citing incorrectly that the City Attorney’s Office did not charge an assault where urine was thrown at a nurse (we did), and only one name overlaps between our internal familiar faces list and the list compiled in the report. It is also difficult to discuss a report without any substantive recommendations.
That said, I have a long list of public safety reforms we can implement in the short and long term to make a substantive difference.
First, we need to commit to prioritizing police hiring and retention as a key budget priority. Public safety is a charter service of the City, and public safety starts with well-resourced community-based police officers. Most property crime is crime of opportunity, an opportunity presented by the lack of emphasis patrols from law enforcement. As we increase the number of police officers we should emphasize putting more officers onto the street conducted regular and routine patrols.
Second, we should prioritize proactive property crime enforcement. Undercover operations with decoy delivery packages or cars set-up by SPD with nearby surveillance officers can help build strong cases against professional property thieves, and deter future property crime.
Third, once prosecutors receive strong well-investigated cases, an emphasis on bolder and further reaching pre-file diversion programs needs to be our focus for resolving them. I am very proud of the work I have done in the Seattle City Attorney’s Office on the Choose 180 Program, an organization that provides mentorship, education opportunities, self-reflection, and community to young people (aged 18-24) as an alternative to the traditional accountability of jail and probation. Of the 245 we have referred to Choose 180 since September of 2017, only 8, or 3%, have reoffended. Most of the initial referrals are for some type of property crime, and are typically retail thefts. Early and meaningful engagement with young people just starting a career in property crime is critical to prevent recidivism and get them on the right track. The approach of Choose 180 is evidence based and works.
I would like to see a variety of additional pre-file diversion programs for different populations and peer-groups. For example, the carpenters and iron workers offer a program called Trade Related Apprenticeship Coaching (TRAC) which over the course of 16-weeks provides prison inmates with up to 460 hours of foundational training to pursue a career in the building trades after release. What if we offered a similar program on a pre-file basis, and declined a misdemeanor case in exchange for someone pursuing a career in the building trades?
Moreover, in the City Attorney’s Office, we are in the nascent stages of significantly increasing Legal Intervention Network of Care (LINC), which diverts people with significant behavioral health and substance abuse issues to in-patient emergency stabilizing care rather than the King County Jail. If people referred engage significantly with service providers our office will then decline to file charges. Pre-file diversions based on public health, employment, and mentorship reduce recidivism and get people the help they need. We need more of them.
Fourth, as Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes recently stated in a public statement, “I have envisioned for years an office where sworn, trained prosecutors have the capacity to review all police reports within 24 hours and make charging decisions within 48-72 hours–simply because justice delayed is justice denied.” I share Pete’s aspiration in this regard, and I would prioritize it as a Seattle City Councilmember. The Criminal Division of the Seattle City Attorney’s Office processes 14,000 criminal referrals a year with 32 prosecutors. We are constantly underwater and need more staff. In the meantime, I would support a dedicated retail theft prosecutor being funded to exclusively work with businesses, Retail Theft Program Officer Chris Shean, and loss prevention officers to make sure retail theft cases are being processed in a timely manner. Additionally, I would encourage employers to emphasize long term retention of loss-prevention officers, to retain contact information for loss prevention officers after they resign, to authorize overtime for loss prevention officers (And other witness employees) when testifying, and to contractually promise to pay loss prevention officers for their time testifying on cases after they have left the office. All of these have been issues from retail theft cases I personally have prosecuted.
Fifth, behavioral mental health is one of the biggest public health challenges we face as a State. Western State Hospital is no longer federally certified, and people referred for involuntary treatment to King County languish on Seattle streets instead. In some instances, and without the ability to appreciate the wrongfulness of their actions, our community members with behavioral mental health conditions violate the social contract and commit crimes. We need more capacity to address behavioral mental health.
I fully support efforts in the Legislature to pass HB 1593, which would create a 150 bed behavioral health teaching hospital at the University of Washington. This idea, based on my training and experience as a prosecutor, would do more than any other program to get people the treatment they need in a modern and therapeutic setting. As a City Councilmember, I will work with the Legislature to site this teaching hospital, either someone on the UW Montlake campus or Northwest Hospital. I will make it unequivocally clear that any environmental impact statement, permitting, design review, and other essential City requirements will be expedited. We need to do everything in our power to meet the public health crisis of untreated behavioral mental health.
According to the “System Failure” report, just 100 of the most prolific repeat offenders “resulted in 3,562 criminal cases, including theft, burglary and assault. All displayed signs of homelessness and substance abuse. Thirty-eight people suffered from mental-health issues.” Yet our City Attorney and city policies have enabled this continued lawlessness. When people “get away with it”, they keep doing “it”.
The law allows misdemeanors to be punished by up to 364 days in jail. While we don’t want to criminalize homelessness or mental illness, we need to hold people accountable for bad behavior, particularly when it involves assault. There is a sad fact that many of these crimes involve stealing to get money for drugs. That’s why we have to put a far, far greater emphasis on drug treatment, instead of enabling addiction. Taking chronic offenders off the street and into mandatory treatment programs is much more effective and humane.
Yes I have read the report of the top prolific offenders. It is important that everyone living in Seattle feels safe, as they deserve to be safe. In order to curb property crime we need to start by supporting our police. If police officers continue to arrest the same individuals whom are continuously re-released back into society, it becomes harder to re arrest the same individuals. Our city attorney needs to prosecute the offenders and we need to have services in place that will monitor the offenders and get them the treatment they need. That means having mental health and addiction treatment centers with available space. I stand by if someone is not competent to stand trial they are not competent to live out on the streets by themselves. We need to ensure that the prolific offenders have access to behavioral treatment and case workers to support them in their treatment. Case workers need to build a trust with a patient and thus we should ensure that when someone is incarcerated they have a caseworker that will follow them throughout their release and through treatment.
I have definitely read the report. In October of 2017 I was attacked by a violent repeat offender. I never got some of their names because the police only named two in their report. An independent witness stepped in, pulled the men off me, and chased them down. I remember thinking there is no way the police will ever catch these men. Then, I found they did. I was extremely relieved. The men were stopped by several officers while urinating in the middle of the sidewalk with an open bottle of Tequila in their pocket. (all on video)
They admitted to attacking the independent witness and myself, yet the police chose to release them before even coming to the scene where I was waiting in an ambulance.
They did not run a background check on anyone. They did not follow proper protocol or SPD policies either. They misclassified the case on their GO database as nothing a disturbance—a practice I now know they do frequently. The only injury mentioned in the report was how one of the men broke a nail.
I did a background check on the individuals listed. One of them has more violent assaults than I can even list on a few pages. Despite having multiple DUI’s, these repeat offenders drive a black BMW and are drug suppliers (this is discovered from an urban camper who is familiar with the individuals). Within two months of this assault, the same repeat offender was arrested twice for assault and another time for DUI/Hit and Run. None of the men are in jail. They go in, they come right back out.
There is a notion amongst the public that we need more police officers. I can tell you directly from my experience that the SPD is one of the most elusive departments of this City. It does not matter how many police officers we have if these officers see themselves as above the law and operate under an Office of Professional Accountability
(OPA) that does not have the ability to oversee them. In every OPA interview, there is an SPD guild member sitting in and listening to make sure every officer has the same story if there is a complaint. I think that is one of the reasons that so many good officers are leaving.
There is another part to this. The police respond and write the report. That is step one. Then, the report goes to the City Attorney’s office and the City Attorney decides which cases to prosecute. It is more profitable for them to prosecute cases that come with high fines, tickets, and other charges than it is to prosecute violent crimes, drug-related crimes, or property crimes. The City Attorney’s office also created a drug-diversion program which has essentially made it impossible for judges to sentence and penalize violent offenders. Judges must go off what the District Attorney says and the District Attorney goes on what the SPD report says. If we do not have good police officers that actually protect us, it will not matter how many we have.
I would work with my colleagues to address this issue by ensuring we are all committed to leading Seattle by ensuring all departments are on the same page. Departments must all be more transparent. They need to operate more collaboratively and less independently. Every department needs to be be on the same page. Departments and officials must compromise when its necessary, but more importantly departments must stand united and committed to resolving the problems we all clearly see.
All public officials need to take responsibility when they make a mistake. We all make mistakes. For some reason the City would rather waste everyone’s time and money pointing fingers to evade responsibility than just admit they made a mistake or their plan failed. We learn through failing only when we acknowledge it.
The City Council needs to put our political affiliations aside until we create a plan we are all supportive of that will work. This will be difficult if we elect more bureaucrats into City Council. They are great at talking, but they just don’t get anything done. We need team of A players who are really talented and solution-oriented in a variety of ways. I think that if we elect a team of A players who truly represent the diversity amongst this City, we will have no problem working with each other because many of us have never had that chance before.
Yes I have read the System Failure report. We need to hire more police, prosecuting attorneys, and guards at our jails to be able to adequately process the people committing crimes and getting them off the streets. This is a solution for all of Seattle. We also need Permanent Supported Housing for after they have served their time or they will be back out on the streets. My years of serving on the QA Community Council, two levy oversight committees, and 30 years running a business has given me the experience to work with anyone to create solutions.
I have read the report. I find it disturbing. I live downtown, a block from Third Avenue and Pike. I understand quite clearly the problems we have in this area. I have been told repeatedly that we shouldn’t worry when people are shot in our neighborhood because they are shooting at each other, not the residents and tourists. Cold comfort. I would take a number of steps to change what I have been told for a decade is a “fact of life” that is unavoidable and has always been. First, the SPD should lease a storefront on Third between Pike and Pine to set up a substation. Second there should be constant foot patrols in the area. Third, we need to stop calling some crimes “low level” and making excuses for non-enforcement. They are not low level crimes to victims. Fourth, we need to stop making jail, and treatment/services separate concepts. We can offer addiction or mental health treatments in jail and remove this notion currently held by the City and County prosecutor offices that there is a choice that needs to be made between treatment and jail. Criminals need to serve time. And incarceration is an excellent opportunity to begin solving addiction issues. Finally, the failure to address this issue downtown discourages use of public transit. I know many people that work in downtown offices. They dread waiting for the bus. They refuse to cross Third Avenue to go to lunch. This has to end.