New report asserts Seattle won’t prosecute nearly one of every two arrests

Sep 30, 2019, 2:16 PM | Updated: Oct 4, 2019, 12:46 pm
prolific offenders...
(Photo by Gustavo Caballero/Getty Images for UNITAS)
(Photo by Gustavo Caballero/Getty Images for UNITAS)

Seattle’s city attorney won’t prosecute approximately 50 percent of the non-traffic arrests brought to his office by police and then moves so slowly to file charges on the rest that hundreds of offenders disappear and never face jail time or diversion programs, according to a report released Monday by local business groups.

Seattle council not sold on Mayor Durkan’s plan for prolific offenders

Taking data from municipal court system, Seattle police and City Attorney Pete Holmes’ office, the System Failure 2 report asserts that the city prosecutor declines to file on nearly half of the referrals it receives (5,000 cases each year); takes more than six months to file charges on cases it does move forward; and declines to press charges 65 percent of the people who are suspected of crimes but not in custody.

Assembled by the same business groups who funded February’s System Failure Report, which focused on repeat offenders, the group’s overall conclusion is that the city attorney’s reticence over filing cases not only keeps repeat offenders on the streets and out of jail, it doesn’t get those who could use treatment routed into the system for help.

In a statement, Holmes said his office would push through more cases if it simply had more money.

“Nothing has changed since these issues were flagged in the business associations’ first report: it would take at least an additional $2 million per year for enough prosecutors and staff to consider all cases for filing within 48 hours of receipt, and seeing the cases through to disposition,” Holmes said in a statement shortly after the release of the report.

“I’d welcome the input of anyone wanting to develop a strategy for how to best increase funding for my office – hopefully this funding would be coupled with sufficient resources for Courts to fashion remedies that best minimize recidivism, substance abuse, and mental health issues.”

In all, the 40-page report, written by former city attorney candidate Scott Lindsay, concludes that “the City Attorney’s office is undermining Seattle’s $500 million investment in its criminal justice system, resulting in dysfunction that does little to resolve the chronic crime issues in Seattle neighborhoods.”

The report does not say, however, how Seattle ranks among other similar-sized cities when it comes to prosecution. In other words, is the 50 percent non prosecution rate an outlier or typical?

Advocates for the report said it doesn’t matter, more cases should be prosecuted regardless. During the past decade, the city prosecutor’s office steadily has been declining to prosecute cases, “from 17 percent of all misdemeanor non-traffic cases to 46 percent,” the report states.

Lindsay, the report’s author who worked in Mayor Ed Murray’s administration, decline to comment publicly on the work. But local business owners, including representatives with major retailers such as Uwajimaya market in the International District, confirmed that Lindsay surveyed store representative about crime.

Indeed, Uwajimaya is featured prominently in the report:

“Uwajimaya’s management states that they have seen a significant increase in theft and security incidents in the past six years and it has had a major impact on their business, employees and customers. They estimate they have between 10 and 20 security incidents per day,” the report says.

“Records show that Uwajimaya reports less than one incident to police per day. But even those reports show very little return for their efforts. Of the 261 cases that Uwajimaya referred for prosecution through the Retail Theft Program in 2018 (including detailed reports with an admission from the suspect, statement from security  and evidence collected), only 11 had resulted in a guilty plea or pre-trial diversion as of July 2019.”

Representatives for the popular Asian market could not be reached for comment.

Mayor Jenny Durkan released the following statement on Monday:

“Seattle is a great city, and one of the top places to live, visit, and work. But as we grow, people must be able to thrive and feel safe. We know that too many people cycle through the criminal justice system and do not get the help they need – this hurts both those individuals and their communities. Our growing city must address the complex intersection of behavioral health, substance use disorders, homelessness and the criminal justice system in new ways.

We know that different individuals may need different interventions, including diversion programs, treatment, and a criminal justice intervention. Many times the right intervention is not our criminal justice system – it’s a range of strategies and approaches to address the underlying needs of individuals.

While no single jurisdiction oversees all the tools, programs, or resources needed to address these challenges, we have a responsibility to work together and make meaningful progress. Earlier this year, I convened a High Barrier Working Group of jurisdictions to bring the responsible courts, prosecutors, and others across our region to develop pilot programs to address this complex challenge. After months of hard work, we agreed on four new pilot programs to be implemented in late 2019 and early 2020 upon Council approval.

My 2020 Proposed Budget would make significant investments in these new steps, continued investments in restorative justice and diversion, and add two additional Assistant City Attorney’s to the Criminal Division of the City Attorney’s Office. I hope that as City Council considers my 2020 Proposed Budget they will support these new steps and new resources so we can put this more focused approach into action.”

Candy Mike and Todd

guns, assault weapons, gun, 1639, 1639 gun initiative, gun tax...
Mike Lewis

Mike: We should not restrict guns but their owners are different story

If you are a commercial pilot or general contractor likely you understand the value of licensing; So why not license gun owners?
3 years ago
snow day...
MyNorthwest Staff

What’s better for kids: a school snow day or a two-hour delay?

The recent snow fall stirred up a debate: What's better for kids, a snow day or two-hour delay?
3 years ago
shoveling snow...
MyNorthwest Staff

Candy: Everyone should shovel snow as a chore

Shoveling snow is a unique experience here in the Pacific Northwest. Here are five reasons everyone should shovel snow as a chore.
3 years ago
Todd Herman

The theft of parental rights in Washington state is unconscionable and immoral

Quoting a law passed in Democrat-controlled Washington state originally designed to make sure girls could get secret abortions, insurance companies have been writing to parents informing them they no longer have any rights to be involved in crucial, life-altering decisions their kids want to make.
3 years ago
MyNorthwest Staff

Guilt tipping has got to stop

We are seeing tipping pop up in unusual places. I've seen new tip lines at a craft store, clothing store, and a 7-11 in the last few months.
3 years ago
Space Needle fireworks, New Year's Eve, seattle baby...
MyNorthwest Staff

Tell me I’m wrong: Everyone should have a New Year’s resolution

What is preventing us from reaching our fitness goals the rest of the year? KIRO Radio's Candy Harper weighs in.
3 years ago

Sponsored Articles

safety from crime...

As crime increases, our safety measures must too

It's easy to be accused of fearmongering regarding crime, but Seattle residents might have good reason to be concerned for their safety.
Comcast Ready for Business Fund...
Ilona Lohrey | President and CEO, GSBA

GSBA is closing the disparity gap with Ready for Business Fund

GSBA, Comcast, and other partners are working to address disparities in access to financial resources with the Ready for Business fund.

Medicare open enrollment is here and SHIBA can help!

The SHIBA program – part of the Office of the Insurance Commissioner – is ready to help with your Medicare open enrollment decisions.
Lake Washington Windows...

Choosing Best Windows for Your Home

Lake Washington Windows and Doors is a local window dealer offering the exclusive Leak Armor installation.
Anacortes Christmas Tree...

Come one, come all! Food, Drink, and Coastal Christmas – Anacortes has it all!

Come celebrate Anacortes’ 11th annual Bier on the Pier! Bier on the Pier takes place on October 7th and 8th and features local ciders, food trucks and live music - not to mention the beautiful views of the Guemes Channel and backdrop of downtown Anacortes.
Swedish Cyberknife Treatment...

The revolutionary treatment of Swedish CyberKnife provides better quality of life for majority of patients

There are a wide variety of treatments options available for men with prostate cancer. One of the most technologically advanced treatment options in the Pacific Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform at Swedish Medical Center.
New report asserts Seattle won’t prosecute nearly one of every two arrests