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Study: Seattle failing at stopping ‘prolific’ homeless criminal offenders

A homeless encampment in Seattle during the snowstorm. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

Former Ed Murray staffer Scott Lindsay published a study earlier this week, claiming that “prolific” homeless criminal offenders are repeatedly victimizing Seattle’s neighborhood businesses.

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The study analyzed 100 people with “a high frequency of criminal activity in Seattle,” and the impact those people have had on public safety in the city’s busiest neighborhoods. Its conclusion: Repeat offenders are moving through a revolving door in the criminal justice system.

“A substantial portion of the criminal activity that has the greatest impact on Seattle’s busiest neighborhoods is committed by prolific offenders who are well known to Seattle police officers, and have a large number of criminal cases in Seattle and King County courts,” the study reads.

Lindsay defines that as anyone with 10 or more bookings into jail over the past year, and over 50 criminal cases over multiple years.

The study dug into recent bookings into King County jail, identifying a sample-size of 100 offenders. Those offenders combined for 3,562 criminal cases in the state of Washington, 1,612 misdemeanor cases in Seattle Municipal Court, and 636 total bookings into King County Jail in the last year.

These offenders are predominantly white (66 percent), male, (78 percent), and carry “indicators” of homelessness and substance use disorders (100 percent).

The offenders surveyed were also found to frequently harass the same businesses on multiple occasions, typically stemming from thefts to obtain money for drugs.

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“In the most extreme cases, a single individual was responsible for near constant harassment of a business or public establishment over an extended period,” the report claimed.

To close, it posits that the criminal justice system has failed “the defendants who most often interface with it,” noting that Seattle has a long road ahead to fix what the study describes as a systemic problem.

“This report is intended to start the difficult conversation of how and why our criminal justice system is not working for prolific offenders and the neighborhoods that they victimize,” it concludes. “There is no simple answer. The hard work still lies ahead. But only by understanding the problem can we hope to fix it.”

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