Seattle City Attorney: Time to create ‘accountability in the public safety system’

Mar 17, 2023, 4:01 PM | Updated: 4:16 pm
Seattle City Attorney...
Seattle City Attorney Ann Davison. (KIRO 7)
(KIRO 7)

The Seattle Attorney’s Office reported it had prevented more than 750 police referrals in Ann Davison’s first year as city attorney, an 11% reduction in the annual average of incoming cases from the Seattle Police Department (SPD).

“We have helped stop some of the recurring victimizations of many neighborhoods. We were tracking people with a high number of referrals from police, and referrals are only just part of the context that happened,” Davison said on The Jason Rantz Show. “Any police referral could be many crimes, so we’re talking about a number of referrals, but it could be in the thousands of crimes that have been stopped. And it’s really just to show that we are trying to put back real-time accountability in our public safety system.”

She credits her office’s success to the High Utilizer Initiative program she started last year. The program identifies individuals responsible for repeat criminal activity across Seattle, and aims to dramatically reduce their public safety impacts.

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Davison and her team identified 118 individuals who were 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.

“Why does this system work?” Rantz asked.

“To me, it really did not need additional dollars,” Davison replied. “It’s just people being smart and working together by partnering with other policy partners, with [the] Seattle Police Department, with the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, informing the jail, and making sure people understand this is what we’re trying to do.”

Davison cited that, despite the attention some felony-level crimes receive, approximately 80% of the crimes her office is dealing with are misdemeanors.

“It was important to slow down and pay attention to what has been in the past described as these low-level offenses,” Davison said. “They really are impacting neighborhoods and small businesses and individuals.”

Davison also stated most of the repeat offenders chose to leave voluntary centers for outpatient treatment, creating a high need for improved in-custody treatment options.

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“That type of an approach was just not working for this population,” Davison said. “[For] the people that are engaged in repeat frequent criminal activity, that is causing a disproportionate amount of harm and impact on neighborhoods, we need to be strategic with our resources, so we are not having to cycle people continuously through that process. We need to be swift and certain with what we’re doing.”

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Seattle City Attorney: Time to create ‘accountability in the public safety system’