Seattle City Attorney launches partnership to address prolific offenders
It was no secret that Seattle’s new City Attorney, Ann Davison, had different ideas on how to address criminal activity than her predecessor Pete Holmes, who held the office for 12 years.
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That became even more apparent when she announced the hires for leadership positions in her office, which included Scott Lindsay – a one-time candidate for city attorney who is widely known for publishing two Systems Failure reports (links here and here) on the issue of what’s became known as the prolific offender issue, which indicates that the same people, who are often dealing with behavioral health issues and/or living homeless, are responsible for the majority of most of the city’s low-level crime.
On Tuesday, Seattle City Attorney Ann Davison announced a new High Utilizer Initiative. The program will identify individuals responsible for repeat criminal activity across the City of Seattle, and aims to dramatically reduce their public safety impacts. To ensure these individuals have access to critical social safety programs, the City Attorney’s Office will prioritize the cases of High Utilizers and work in coordination with public safety partners and service providers.
The move comes after Davison’s office identified 118 individuals responsible for over 2,400 cases referred to the office over the past five years, including more than 1,000 theft cases, 409 assault charges, and more than 100 weapons violations.
They include individuals such as Dylan Jackman, who has had 18 cases referred to the city attorney’s office since moving to Seattle 15 months ago and engaging in near daily shoplifting at north end retailers, often threatening staff.
Under the new initiative – a partnership with the King County Jail and Prosecuting Attorney as well as Seattle police — the agencies were able to coordinate and detain Jackman on outstanding warrants, expedite case filings against him, and aggregate multiple cases as felonies. This kind of cross-departmental approach will help take more prolific offenders like Jackman off the streets, according to Davison’s office.
As part of this partnership, the King County Jail has agreed to allow misdemeanor bookings of a limited number of high utilizers.
“The King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office is grateful for the partnership with Seattle City Attorney Ann Davison and her team, and we’re confident it will continue,” King County Prosecuting Attorney Dan Satterberg said. “We know that the community wants immediate action that holds prolific offenders accountable, and we’ll keep going to court each day with a focus on preserving public safety and supporting victims. The challenge for the municipal court, and for our community, is finding resources to help address the root causes of the behavioral health problems that are leading a small number of people to be frequent utilizers of the court system.”
“Seattle’s repeat criminal activity, much of it perpetrated by relatively few individuals and often out in the open on our city’s streets, not only negatively impacts our struggling businesses but also community members, neighbors, workers, and anyone who visits Seattle,” Police Chief Adrian Diaz said. “I am confident the High Utilizer Initiative will not only add another layer of accountability, but will also help identify those most in need of behavioral and health services.”
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The goal of this initiative is to coordinate high utilizer efforts between the City Attorney’s Office, SPD, the King County Prosecutor’s Office, King County Jail, and service providers to improve outcomes for these individuals and reduce their effects on safety in Seattle. The City Attorney’s Office will maintain the list of high utilizers and coordinate between key stakeholders.
The High Utilizer Initiative follows some similar recommendations made by the 2019 High Barrier Individuals Working Group, organized by Seattle and King County.