Seattle police union leader questions the veracity of RV dwellers
Jan 21, 2016, 5:04 PM | Updated: Jan 22, 2016, 5:43 am
(Courtesy Cathy Mabee)
KIRO Radio’s Don O’Neill has been knocking on doors of the RV’s parked around the city and has been very vocal about his belief that residents inside are criminals, not homeless people.
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Seattle Police Officer’s Guild President Ron Smith is of the same general opinion.
“When you’re living in RVs with brand new bicycles sitting out in front of them, and people are peddling stolen goods out there, I question if that is somebody who is in need of services or if that’s somebody who’s a vagabond and wants to be a mobile criminal,” he told “The Ron and Don Show.”
Smith said he wasn’t aware of any crime analysis being done that looks at the anecdotal evidence indicating the RVs coincide with criminal activities in the areas in which they’re parked, but says “I think somebody needs to take a look at that.” He’s also unaware of any written directives asking officers to disregard traffic laws or rules for these often dilapidated vehicles.
Don said he spoke with an RV dweller who claimed there’s a man in Ballard renting out RVs to the homeless, and when someone dies or overdoses inside, others rotate through the vehicle. He said officers approached the man during their talk and offered the man, who was bleeding from the nose from apparent drug use, options for services but that he wasn’t interested.
Smith agreed with Don’s assertion that the truly homeless are often utilizing the multiple missions and religious organizations that offer shelter and free meals, and that not everybody is looking for help.
“There’s a distinction between somebody who’s truly down on their luck,” he said. “…Then there are some who are out there and that’s the way they want to live.
“If somebody doesn’t want it, what are they supposed to do?” Smith asked. “And then they’re back dealing with those same services where these people are loitering and making a nuisance for themselves.”
Smith also complained about the lack of officers, noting that the SPD has roughly the same number of officers staffing the city as in the 1970s, despite an additional roughly 150,000 residents.
“With all of the changes in the city, all of everything, and we have bare-bones patrol squads out there and people can’t get any discretionary time off because there’s not enough officers for minimum staffing and it’s beyond me what’s taking so long,” he said.
Smith added that he is still waiting on a staffing study that he says the City Council ordered and was supposed to be published in July. His suspicion is that the study came in and the Council realized they needed way more officers than they wish to pay for and that they sent the study back to be changed. Smith is waiting on a Public Records request for all iterations of that report.
“I’m gonna find the smoking gun here, I think,” he said.
“It’s time for them to come up with some money to get the right amount of police officers on the streets to provide the proper public safety services.”