New prolific offenders report looks for reasons behind Seattle dysfunction

Oct 1, 2019, 10:45 AM
Prolific offenders...
A second report on Seattle's prolific offenders continues to shed light on the city's justice system. (Pexels)

A new report asserts that Seattle’s city attorney doesn’t prosecute roughly half of the non-traffic arrests brought to his office by police, and moves slowly to file charges on the rest. Among those who helped compile the report was the Downtown Seattle Association, which weighed in on its conclusions Tuesday.

“We want to fix the system,” DSA President and CEO Jon Scholes told KIRO Radio’s Dave Ross and Colleen O’Brien. “What we’re doing now is not working — we’re going in the wrong direction.”

Scholes is part of the same group that released the now-infamous “prolific offenders” report in February, that detailed a revolving door of repeat criminal offenders cycling through Seattle’s court system.

Having now released two parts in a series they’re dubbing “System Failure,” Scholes and the Downtown Seattle Association first looked outline the problem, and then the root causes.

“The first report clearly shows that we have a dysfunctional criminal justice system. The second report uncovers what we think is a large reason for that dysfunction in the system,” he described.

Report asserts Seattle won’t prosecute almost half of arrests

Taking data from municipal court system, Seattle police and City Attorney Pete Holmes’ office, “System Failure 2” 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.

“There’s no excuse for that length of time for filing,” SoDo Business Improvement Area’s Erin Goodman — whose organization also helped publish the report — told KIRO Radio’s Candy, Mike and Todd Show.

“We need a better system — right now it feels like it’s broken,” Uwajimaya head Denise Moriguchi agreed. The popular market in the International District was featured prominently in System Failure 2.

In the wake of all this, city leaders have cited a need for additional funding and more manpower as some of the driving factors behind the issues outlined in the report.

Mayor Jenny Durkan also responded by proposing the addition of two attorneys to the city attorney’s office.

“I think it’s money well spent,” Scholes noted, crediting Durkan for the move. “I appreciate the mayor’s leadership on this issue and some of the things that she’s put in her budget.”

Despite movement from the Mayor’s Office, though, Scholes still has concerns about a lack of action on the part of City Council.

Seattle failing at stopping ‘prolific’ homeless criminal offenders

“Just last week, in response to the mayor’s recommendations in her budget to deal with a lot of these issues, we’re already seeing the City Council raise a number of questions around what we think are pretty common sense investments,” he said.

Ultimately, the hope from Scholes, the Downtown Seattle Association, and other Seattle businesses, is to figure out a better way forward.

“Let’s figure out a new appropriate place for individuals that continue to cycle through our system. Let’s make sure they get the help they need, and we hold them accountable. Right now, everybody in our city’s paying the price.”

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New prolific offenders report looks for reasons behind Seattle dysfunction