System Failure: Report on Prolific Offenders in Seattle’s Criminal Justice System
By: Downtown Seattle Association
Over the past several years, DSA and other neighborhood business organizations have raised concerns to public officials about growing public safety challenges across the city. Many of our members and ratepayers have asked for help in the face of thefts, assaults and other crimes.
Earlier today, we delivered a report to city officials regarding persistent crime in our neighborhoods. Entitled, System Failure — Report on Prolific Offenders in Seattle’s Criminal Justice System, it was developed over the past few months using publicly available databases.
The report was commissioned by neighborhood business districts in Downtown, Pioneer Square, Chinatown/International District, SODO, Ballard, the University District and Seattle’s tourism industry. It analyzes a sample of 100 individuals who have committed frequent criminal activity (four King County Jail bookings within the past year), community impact, root causes of problem behaviors, and how Seattle’s criminal justice system fails to reduce their recidivism.
We anticipate the news media will report on these findings in the hours and days to come, and wanted you offer some context — and ask for your help — as this story unfolds.
- A substantial portion of criminal activity with 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.
- Many are addicted to drugs, have mental health problems and do not, or cannot, comply with the terms of their sentences and deferrals. They cycle through the criminal justice system with no changes in their behavior and are repeatedly returned to Seattle’s streets to commit more crimes. They often pose harm to themselves and others.
- Case-filing delays hamper efforts to reduce rampant retail theft. 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 interim.
This report is now in the hands of Seattle’s elected officials, including the mayor’s office, city council, city attorney, municipal judges and others. We have asked Mayor Durkan for her leadership in finding long-term, sustainable solutions to this issue. While the report does not propose specific recommendations, we support a policy that includes alternatives to incarceration and access to behavioral health treatment.
We urge you to contact city leaders listed below with the following messages:
- We demand accountability for outcomes within the justice system and a greater focus on the people who continue to repeatedly cause harm in our communities.
- Seattle’s neighborhoods are in need of immediate relief from the impact of these prolific offenders.
- The criminal justice system is also failing to serve the needs of these prolific offenders.
- We fully support a policy of 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 that reduces the number of people who continue to repeatedly cause harm in our communities.
- The answer is wholesale reform of our city’s criminal justice system that facilitates greater accountability in dealing with prolific offenders effectively and humanely.
CONTACT CITY LEADERS
- Mayor Durkan:
- City Attorney:
- Honorable Ed McKenna, Presiding Judge,
Seattle Municipal Court:
- City Council: