Dori: Prolific offenders come here for drugs, but Satterberg says we can’t prosecute possession

Feb 28, 2019, 5:46 AM
crime, prolific offenders...
A Dori Monson listener snapped this photo on his way to work at 7 a.m. downtown Seattle in August 2018. (Contributed photo)
(Contributed photo)

The number of crimes committed by one small group of people dubbed ‘prolific offenders’ in Seattle is absolutely shocking — 100 criminals have committed 3,500 crimes here.

KIRO 7 talked to one of these vagrants, Travis Berge, who said that he enjoys shooting meth from dirty needles and seeks out cops to shoot up in front of. I’ve told you for years that people are shooting up heroin and using other hard drugs right in front of police officers and the cops are doing nothing about it. Why? King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg has said we will not prosecute people with personal possession amounts, so it’s a waste of the cops’ time.

Jenny Durkan said that the city needs more resources to deal with these prolific offenders. You have more than enough money, City of Seattle. You spend $100,000 per homeless person per year. This is not about a lack of resources. It is about a lack of political will.

RELATED: Politicians who attract drug vagrants put Seattle’s women at risk

KIRO 7 also reported that a guy named Jeremiah Crouch who has been booked 71 times — he went into a Queen Anne 7-11 just days after being released from prison and held up the employees at knife-point. He was reportedly upset that he couldn’t buy cigarettes with food stamps.

Why are we giving food stamps to somebody who has been booked 71 times? Why do you and I have to give this guy handouts when he has that kind of criminal history? I don’t know how he would eat without food stamps, but I know that I don’t want to be forced to pay for it. I am happy to donate money to Union Gospel Mission, where this guy can go get free food if he wants to make an effort to turn his life around with addiction treatment. He can get meals and a bed, as long as he takes positive steps forward.

But back to my original point, Crouch, the alleged 7-11 robber, has two dozen convictions — not charges, not allegations — since 2001. That’s about every nine months that he gets convicted of a crime. And he’s still out and about. He is one of the 100 prolific offenders.

A hundred people have committed 3,500 crimes, and we just let them out on our streets to threaten honest, taxpaying residents and business owners. And what’s so heartbreaking is that these business owners who create jobs, create a tax base, are the backbone, the economic engine of our society, and they’re just despised by the entire city council. The council will do everything to provide for the addicts, but they won’t provide any relief for the noble business owners among us.

Not only are small businesses in this day and age trying to compete with online retailers, but they’ve got to compete with big box chains. It’s a tough gig. And when you compound it with city leaders who put these serial thieves back out on the streets, it just gets impossible for these business owners. It makes me very sad for them and it makes me angry for us, at our lack of political leadership.

If we had leaders, we could do something about it, but we don’t. And so, it is the drug vagrant criminals who are in charge around here.

King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg

King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg, as you may remember, told us a few months ago that his office will not prosecute personal possession amounts of any drug here in King County. His office has long said that it doesn’t have the resource to prosecute some low-level crimes.

Satterberg told me on Wednesday that his office must focus on serious violent crimes and the high-value property crimes committed by repeat offenders.

“I have the same number of prosecutors today that I had 10 years ago,” he said. “I have not been able to grow my staff … despite the fact that we have 250,000 more people in our county than we did 10 years ago.”

In fact, he lost 51 employees during the 2008 recession, positions that have not been re-added. I am certainly an advocate for the prosecutor’s office getting more resources. Look at the city positions our politicians keep adding to local government. The prosecutor’s office should get its share of these increases.

Satterberg said that if his officer were to prosecute personal possession of drugs, each case would take about a year, and require half a shift from a police officer to get the criminal arrested and booked.

“At the end of the year, they would resolve with a guilty plea to a gross misdemeanor, and no offer of help to anybody,” he said. “We estimated to taxpayers a cost of about $3 million a year to process those cases, and for no purpose that satisfied public safety or that offered any help to people with drug addiction.”

As an alternative, he said, that $3 million in taxpayer funds will go toward expanding the LEAD program throughout the county, which offers services to people caught with small amounts of drugs rather than jail time.

I have no problem with the LEAD program. I think it makes a lot of sense. But I do know that the word is out that Seattle is the best place to move to if you want to live a life on the streets using drugs. Look at how many high-profile crimes have been committed by homeless people who came here from other states. The Ballard car dealership rapist was from Texas, and the Golden Gardens rapist was from Arizona. I told Satterberg that we are attracting the worst drug dregs from around the country because this is the easiest place to be a drug addict.

“I don’t know if that’s true across the board,” Satterberg said. “You found a couple of stories.”

He doesn’t see the drug addicts as “very mobile,” arguing that the people who can “barely get through the day” probably aren’t functional enough to get themselves across the country. Satterberg said that it comes down to a lack of funds, and to prioritizing what is done with the funds that are available.

“I don’t think people should have to put up with burglaries and car thefts and car prowls,” he said. “We do prosecute those cases.”

He said that police need to have a different response to “the very lowest-level crimes where the root of the issue is a mental health issue.”

“Police have the same authority to make arrests that they’ve always had,” he said. “We’ve done nothing to change that.”

Satterberg said he is aware of the presence of Travis Berge, the man who told KIRO 7 he shoots up with dirty needles in front of cops, having seen Berge at his Third Avenue cardboard “home” before.

“He’s clearly got a lot of issues, no doubt he’s a frequent utilizer of the courts, of the jails, of the hospitals, of the emergency services,” Satterberg said. “He is going to end up with some sort of horrific medical condition because of his indiscriminate use of the syringe, and so he’s going to end up costing the taxpayers of our community a lot of money, and he’s created a lot of chaos on the streets, and people I’m sure go out of their way to walk around him.”

Satterberg said that shooting up in front of a police officer will not get you sent to jail. Police will not waste time and funds arresting someone who will not be prosecuted. If he were arrested, Satterberg said, it would take three months for police to send the case to prosecutors, by which time he would have been released, and would need to be tracked down by Satterberg’s office — not an easy feat when someone doesn’t have a permanent address.

“He needs some significant psychiatric support, some other help, it’s not going to be found in the jail,” Satterberg said. “For a moment, it will make people feel better to arrest him and put him in jail, I suppose, but it’s not a long-term solution for him.”

I may not agree with Satterberg on how to deal with low-level drug crime, but I do agree with him that the prosecutor’s office is vastly underfunded. I think that our priorities at the budget-making level are pretty upside-down right now. A city has to have enough resources to prosecute criminals and keep its residents safe.

Dori Monson on KIRO Newsradio 97.3 FM
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Dori: Prolific offenders come here for drugs, but Satterberg says we can’t prosecute possession