Dear U District Community Member:
On February 25, several of Seattle’s neighborhood business districts, including the U District, transmitted a report to municipal elected officials that analyzes the impact of prolific offenders in our city.
“System Failure – Report on Prolific Offenders in Seattle’s Criminal Justice System” was commissioned by neighborhood business districts in Pioneer Square, Chinatown/International District, SODO, Downtown, Ballard, the University District, and Seattle’s tourism industry. It analyzes a sample of 100 individuals with high-frequency levels of criminal activity (four King County Jail bookings within the past year), community impact, root causes of problem behaviors, and why Seattle’s criminal justice system fails to reduce their recidivism. Report data was compiled from publicly available databases.
Why was the report conducted?
The report follows up the neighborhood public safety forum last fall where prolific offenders were discussed among residents, elected officials, criminal justice system representatives and police. The neighborhoods took it upon themselves to investigate further.
Neighborhood business leaders across the city want to understand why public safety conditions have not been improving and to document prolific offenders’ impact
Offenders with dozens of state and local criminal cases, some compiled in just a few years, are repeatedly returning to Seattle’s busiest neighborhoods and inflicting more crime
A large amount of criminal behavior seems to be carried out by people who have been cycled through the criminal justice system with little impact on their behavior
Neighborhood businesses, residents and visitors are asking for help in the face of thefts, assaults, and other crimes
Key Report Findings
A substantial portion of the criminal activity that has the greatest impact on Seattle’s busiest neighborhoods is committed by a relatively small number of prolific offenders who have a large number of criminal cases in Seattle and King County courts. This data aligns with the Seattle Police Department’s SeaStat which addresses crime hotspots based on analysis of crime data and community reports of incidents
Many individuals profiled in the report have 10 or more bookings into jail in the past year and 50 or more criminal cases over a multi-year span
Prolific offenders repeatedly victimize Seattle’s busiest neighborhoods as they cycle through the criminal justice system, creating ongoing public safety hazards and possibly causing harm to themselves
Many are drug-addicted, have mental health problems and do not, or cannot, comply with the terms of their sentences and deferrals. They continuously cycle through the criminal justice system with no changes in their behavior, and are repeatedly returned to Seattle’s streets to commit more crimes and may often pose harm to themselves and others
Many prolific offender crimes involve theft to pay for drugs
Prolific offenders frequently manipulate the system to evade jail bookings
Case filing delays hamper Seattle’s retail theft program; it takes the city attorney’s office an average of six months to file theft cases from major retailers, allowing offenders to remain on the streets in the interi
For several years, our organizations have raised concerns about growing public safety challenges in our neighborhoods. And many of you, your customers and visitors are asking for help in the fac of thefts, assaults, and other crimes.
Based on this report, Seattle’s criminal justice system is not meeting its obligation to protect public safety in our communities
We fully support a policy that includes alternatives to incarceration and access to behavioral health treatment - but for that system to work there must be accountability for outcomes within the justice system and for the people who continue to repeatedly cause harm in our communities
The answer, we believe, is wholesale reform of our city's criminal justice system that facilitates greater accountability in dealing with prolific offenders effectively and humanely
What are the neighborhood business districts asking for?
We expect our municipal leadership to begin working on a long-term solution, and take immediate action to reduce the impact these prolific offenders have upon our neighborhoods
This issue is of paramount importance to our organizations and the tens of thousands of businesses, residents, and visitors that we collectively represent. As such, we are committed to working together collaboratively with you in the days and weeks ahead
Seattle’s neighborhoods are in need of immediate relief from the impact of these prolific offenders – we need the criminal justice system to demonstrate accountability
We want to work with Mayor Durkan to fix this broken system, improve outcomes for these offenders and improve public safety throughout the city
We understand that this is a complex issue. By no means do we consider ourselves experts in criminal justice reform. However, as leaders of our respective neighborhoods, we are acutely familiar with the results of this system failure
We have shared this report with Seattle’s elected officials, including the mayor’s office, city council, city attorney, municipal judges, and others – and we have asked Mayor Durkan for her leadership in finding long-term, sustainable solutions to this issue. We hope you’ll raise your voice as well.
Please send your comments via email to the city officials listed below. It is critically important that we take this opportunity to have our views on public safety known to the elected leadership of our city:
Mayor Jenny Durkan, Jenny.Durkan@seattle.gov
Pete Holmes, Seattle City Attorney, Pete.Holmes@seattle.gov
Honorable Ed McKenna, Presiding Judge, Seattle Municipal Court, Ed.Mckenna@seattle.gov
Seattle City Councilmembers:
Mark W. Crawford
Interim Executive Director
U District Partnership 1415 NE 45th Street Suite 401
Seattle, WA 98105