There has been some major finger pointing over who is to blame for the increase in disorder in Downtown Seattle. Mayor Ed Murray and city officials have faced increased pressure from downtown businesses and residents to clean up the downtown area. Whatever the cause, the mayor and prosecutor are now working together, and have developed a strategy to address downtown crime, focused on a targeted section between Stewart and Union streets, and First and Fourth avenues.
As far back as January, in an email exchange between the mayor and his staff, the mayor acknowledged his administration lagged behind in responding to increased street crime and disorder in the downtown area. “We've heard again and again from people who work downtown about their employees being assaulted,” said Murray, “That's just unacceptable.” However, the mayor's special assistant on police reform and public safety, Scott Lindsay, blamed the county prosecutors for the problem.
Lindsay put the blame on King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg, writing “the increase in street disorder is largely a function of the fact that heroin, crack and meth possession has been largely legalized in the city over the past several years as the County Prosecutor significantly raised the bar to prosecuting drug possession.” Lindsay drew a link between the policy to decriminalize drug possession and the rise in shoplifting, car prowls, aggressive panhandling, street robbery and property crime.
Prosecutor Satterberg countered that his the county prosecutor's office was not the cause of the problem. Instead of more prosecutions, what the city needed was more social and mental health services, in addition to more police officers. Satterberg also disagreed with Lindsay's contention that the prosecutor didn't file drug cases, citing more than 1,800 drug cases countywide last year.
Now the city will undertake their “9 ½ Block Strategy” to tackle crime in a small section of downtown Seattle, where much of the city's crime is concentrated, to coincide with an increase in police presence. Lindsay called the plan a “concerted, multi pronged approach” to break up the open-criminal activity. The city will even open up a storefront operations center on Second Avenue, as a shared space where police, prosecutors and social service providers will be able to work together.
Of Seattle's 900,000 police calls last year, 10,000 came from this small section of downtown, including a cluster of assaults in the area's drug markets. In reaction, the new strategy was developed in conjunction with the city, police and Downtown Seattle Association. Part of that plan includes outreach to help the homeless and others. The strategy will also include moving bus stops, newspaper boxes, and restricting alleyways traditionally used by drug dealers. “We have a responsibility to make sure this is a safe city,” said Murray, “We have a responsibility to help people in need, we have a responsibility to stop criminal activity.”
If you are arrested for an alleged crime in Downtown Seattle, or if you have any questions about other criminal charges, including possible penalties, fees and costs, contact the law office of Coleen St. Clair at (206) 578-2200.