JASON RANTZ

Rantz: Seattle crime ‘free for all’ as cops can’t book most suspects over coronavirus

Mar 24, 2020, 5:22 PM
Seattle police, coronavirus...
(MyNorthwest file photo)
(MyNorthwest file photo)

The Seattle Police Department alerted officers that the King County Department of Adult and Juvenile Detention will no longer allow bookings for most misdemeanor charges due to concerns over the coronavirus. One officer calls it the coronavirus crime “free for all.”

Assistant Chief Steve Hirjak emailed officers Tuesday afternoon with the news that most misdemeanor bookings will no longer be accepted. The exceptions including Assault 4, DUI, restraining order/no contact violations, stalking, and communication with a minor.

One officer is sounding the alarm, saying this move can put you at risk.

Coronavirus crime spree?

With this new policy, arrests will still happen. But bookings will not, which means the suspect won’t go to jail awaiting a judge to set bail. At a time when prolific offenders have plagued the city, the concern is that a criminal will quickly re-offend when otherwise, due to incarceration, you would be temporarily protected from the crimes.

“Even smoking meth at a bus stop will not get you a trip to jail,” one officer told the Jason Rantz Show on KTTH.

The officer, speaking on the condition of anonymity as they’re not permitted to speak on record, said this move “means we will pull back and not respond to calls unless there is imminent danger to the public. It’s a free for all.”

Examples of crimes that won’t be booked include shoplifting, property damage under $750, animal abuse, discharging a firearm, prohibited carry of a weapon, obstructing a law enforcement officer, trespassing, and vehicle prowling.

Cop warns you’re on your own

The move is not unexpected. Law enforcement agencies across the country have stated they will cut down on bookings out of fear that someone with coronavirus may spread the virus in jails to fellow suspects or to staff members.

But some officers are saying this puts civilians at risk.

“Folks are on their own now,” the officer said. “SPD will be around, but don’t expect a response unless you’re being actively murdered. This is the biggest free pass given to criminals in years, and there have been many free passes doled out by [King County Prosecutor] Dan Satterburg and [Seattle City Attorney] Pete Holmes.”

King County Corrections: ‘We don’t have the ability to do social distancing’

In many cases, the only thing protecting you from a prolific offender is their time in jail awaiting trial. Francisco Calderon has become the face of Seattle’s prolific offender problem after his 75 convictions caught the media’s attention.

Quickly after his release from jail, Calderon re-offends, with crimes including sucker-punching a random passerby and throwing coffee in the face of a toddler.

“They might as well sound the purge alarms,” the officer said half-joking.

The SPD has not yet responded to a request for comment, but pointed to King County Executive Dow Constantine’s action taken on Tuesday. Constantine is suspending the Work Release Program, just one of many actions to reduce the number of people in custody.

The goal is to get the population at King County’s two adult correctional facilities to about 1,200 people. This is supposed to create more space for high-risk people who need to be isolated, and to provide single bunks for everyone in custody.

“We are working with every partner in the criminal justice system – courts, public defenders, prosecutors, corrections, and law enforcement – to maintain public safety and ensure the health and safety of everyone in our correctional facilities, including our employees who work on the front lines,” said Executive Constantine. “Quickly and safely reducing the number of people who are in custody will provide our healthcare professionals the space they need to follow recommendations by Public Health. These emergency actions reflect our values to protect the lives and safety of every King County resident.”

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. Follow @JasonRantz on Twitter.

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Rantz: Seattle crime ‘free for all’ as cops can’t book most suspects over coronavirus