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Rantz: Cops explain how to stop violent crime in Seattle

Downtown Seattle was rocked by a gang-related mass shooting that left one woman dead and seven injured, including a nine-year-old kid. Politicians have been quick to offer solutions, though none of them meaningfully address Seattle crime. Now, cops are weighing in.

Quickly, Mayor Jenny Durkan turned this into another opportunity to blame the generic, catch-all of “gun violence.” She’ll never pass up an exploitable opportunity to attack our constitutionally protected right to bear arms. Ironically, the gang violence we see in Seattle is exactly why we should consider arming ourselves.

Seattle City Councilman Andrew Lewis proposed a 24-hour community storefront in the area, staffed with non-commissioned officers. This is well-meaning and can help addicts or the mentally ill, but this won’t stop the violence.

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These “solutions” are meant to placate an activist community that has little interest in tackling the underlying problems leading to the Seattle crime. Indeed, these activists enable problems to continue.

Lost in the discussion is what Seattle patrol officers think we should do. They’re the only ones with daily interactions with these criminals. They know what can be done to stop the scourge of gang and drug-related violence. More importantly, they know which policies don’t work. But their voices are ignored in a city that mistreats officers.

They won’t be ignored here.

I spoke with a number of Seattle officers and a King County Sheriff Deputy, all mid-career and veteran officers. I asked them to provide, in their own words, what should be done to tackle Seattle crime. They have a lot to say. You’ll notice some trends that we’ve called out in the past but are completely ignored by Durkan and the council: enforcing the law and putting pressure on Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes and King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg to actually do their jobs.

Police Officer #1: Go after the drug dealers, take out Seattle crime

The problem downtown is not a new problem, but one that has been there for years. The first and hardest thing would be to get a prosecutor on board to actually charge and hold the suspects once they are arrested.

Now, lets say this actually happens. The project is very simple. You do what SPD has done in the past with success. Get your narcotics and Major Crimes unit, along with ACT and bikes, to conduct a one month operation. Target everyone selling narcotics and trafficking in stolen property.

After you have purchased the narcotics, you identify all the parties involved and write up a probable cause certification. Once you have probable cause for multiple suspects (say 30 or more), you bring in resources from all around the department and you arrest everyone you can find.

You set up undercover officers in the area. Once the undercover locates a suspect in which we have probable cause, you send in an arrest team. Once you arrest them, you search them. What do drug dealers have on them? More drugs and oftentimes guns. You add the charges to your probable cause certification and you book them into jail and pray to whoever you believe in that they do not get out in the next 12 hours.

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Now, word is going to get out about this and people are eventually not going to come downtown for fear of being arrested in this sting. But here is where the fun part kicks in. While doing this operation for the last month, you have followed these suspects back to their residences and now know where they live.

You set up on the houses and nab them the second they walk out the door. Or, even better, you see them inside and you write a warrant to go in and arrest them. While inside you will likely see guns, drugs, stolen property and other illegal items. You then modify your warrant and collect all of the evidence and book them into King County Jail and once again pray to whoever you believe in that they do not get out in the next 12 hours.

This project will take many hours, but overall it is not very difficult so long as you are willing to spend the time and resources on the problem. SPD has units specifically designed to do these types of operations and has in the past.

The reason they are not done more often is because they cost money from overtime, narcotics purchases, fuel, and more, and very seldom do they come with any significant jail time. Once again this is not hard on the police side but we can only do so much. We need follow up from the courts and that right there is not the most challenging thing that we have no control over.

Police Officer #2: The street enables Seattle crime

The blade (1500 block of Third Avenue) draws in addicts like moths to a flame. That wouldn’t be a problem, except for all of the issues that come with an open air drug and stolen items market. The first that has been made graphically clear is violence. Drug markets come with violence. This is because in black market activities, dealers can’t trust those who enforce rules with enforcing rules within their illegal behavior. For example, a drug dealer can’t come to us and say, “hey, I had a pound of meth stolen.” I’d have some follow up questions.

So, they turn to enforcing their rules themselves. When you have several people and factions competing for turf, there is bound to be conflict. This comes in forms of assaults or robberies.

The blade is a target-rich environment for dealers. The City has unwisely decided to allow essentially every service for drug addicts to be in this area. REACH, LEAD, needle exchange, all shelters, supportive housing: All are a few blocks from this area. This area is the biggest enabler of counter-recovery relapse. The street is an enabler.

I won’t get into how these systems are failures, except to say that I’ve had several arrests where accomplices met and started a new dealing routine at drug court or in REACH programs.

Also, it’s a transit hub. Anyone from anywhere can get to Third and Pine. Aurora? Sure. SoDo? You bet.

We need our prosecutors to do their job. Dan Satterberg and Pete Holmes are on the tail end of a disastrous experiment in legalizing drugs and pushing unproven, underfunded, and ineffective “diversion” mechanisms.

Why does LEAD have such a great success rate? They cook the numbers. Once you’re in LEAD, you don’t get arrested for following offenses, thus eliminating future jail bookings. By measuring reduction in recidivism via jail bookings, you get an astoundingly high number of “non-recidivism.” You don’t get a change in actions or activities — just stats. And hey, if we can shove stats down your throat to distract from reality, Seattle politicos will jump at the chance.

Then there’s the peripheral issues that come with the drug trade. Property crime is chief among them. You can fence jeans from Macy’s, a vacuum from Target, a belt from Nordstrom, a cell phone from a car prowl, luggage from Bergman’s at Third and Pike for a commission that can be used for drug purchases from select dealers.

All property crime is connected to drugs. All of it. Addressing an open trade of drugs is paramount in addressing property crime.

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Then, violence. Our prosecutors routinely give conditional releases, low bail amounts, or straight up don’t follow through on their duty to prosecute VUFA/PSF arrests. These arrests are dangerous for officers to undertake, and are felonies for a reason.

Before we make new gun laws, we must enforce the ones on the books. If we don’t, why do we need more laws if our prosecutors are going to ignore them? Look at one of the blade shooters from last week — he was released on conditional releases (basically, don’t do it again or else!) and low bail amounts.

Now, they have decided to hold him on $500,000 bail … wait, what? Why is this different from the other times officers arrested him with guns after he had been convicted of a felony? Oh, that’s right … because now that something awful has happened, their feet are being held to the fire.

You’ll see emphasis for a few weeks. Nothing will change, and the emphasis officers will shift to other areas or fade away. They won’t make arrests, patrol will still be short staffed, and people will forget about it. In February, the block will be the same, and in two years or so, another shooting will happen, and the city will wring its hands and do the same introspection theater it’s doing now.

Police Officer #3: Change your mindset on Seattle crime

In order to begin to address Seattle’s current difficulties concerning public safety, it will take a multiple-strategy approach with various governmental and non-profit agencies, as well as the community coming together to not only establish order and civility, but to provide assistance for those in need.

I believe the problem has out-grown the capabilities that the police department alone can handle, or that we, the residents of Seattle can emotionally process. The solution will have to be the perfect balance between the application of logical and structured policies, while taking into consideration the values that we hold close here in the Pacific Northwest.

Improving Seattle’s public safety will require the cooperation between different agencies to create a solid foundation to start. To begin addressing our concerns, I don’t believe there is a “one size fits all” approach or one policy in particular that will resolve Seattle’s current issues. The first thing we need to address is our mindset. In order to alter the way that we view public safety, there will need to be compromise.

We as a community, need to come together for the greater good and put aside our individual political views. Can we achieve better gun laws, help the homeless and fight for the environment while making Seattle safe and addressing our public safety concerns?

I believe it’s possible.

It’s disconcerting that throughout the process of trying to achieve all of these social equalities, we have actually done the complete opposite. Seattle has become unsafe for women, and unwelcoming for immigrants who are seeking both emotional and physical safety. The city has developed a violent environment for our unhoused neighbors and quite frankly, it has become the kryptonite of environmental preservation.

Let’s start with the basics. Stop the violence, stop trashing the environment in our beautiful region, forget the political motives, and instead let’s hold each other accountable. The solution to a stronger city, and better public safety starts with each of us.

Sheriff’s Deputy: There must be consequences for criminals

The level of lawlessness at Third and Pine cannot be described to someone who has never experienced it first hand. There are absolutely zero consequences for this anti-social behavior. As law enforcement, our hands have been tied by “progressive politics.” Criminals need to be held accountable. They don’t care about being arrested because they know they’ll be out of jail in quick order. We need the support of not only our administrations but the prosecutor’s office.

I believe the tide is turning where the community is sick and tired of tolerating this unsafe and unsanitary environment. We allow open drug dealing, drug use, gambling, and for people to loiter and drink on the sidewalks all day.

Stop and frisk has worked for New York, now they’ve walked back that policy back and the streets are even more dangerous. Let’s enforce laws that deal with public disorder, then let’s prosecute the offenders. If we make the streets of downtown undesirable for addicts to loiter, there will be no incentive for the drug dealers and gangbangers to set up shop.

We need a prosecutor and judicial system that is ready to quash this criminal element so people can safely enjoy the streets of Seattle.

Listen to the Jason Rantz Show weekday afternoons from 3-6 p.m. on KTTH 770 AM (or HD Radio 97.3 FM HD-Channel 3). Subscribe to the podcast here. Want more analysis of Seattle crime stories? Follow @JasonRantz on Twitter.

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