KTTH OPINION

Rantz Exclusive: Seattle mayor establishing emphasis area, will jail suspects in Issaquah, at SCORE

May 2, 2024, 12:38 PM | Updated: 12:43 pm

Image: Seattle police officers respond to a recent crime scene. Mayor Bruce Harrell has ordered a S...

Seattle police officers respond to a recent crime scene. Mayor Bruce Harrell has ordered a Seattle police emphasis area for several of the city's neighborhoods. (Photo courtesy of KIRO 7)

(Photo courtesy of KIRO 7)

Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell has ordered a Seattle Police Department (SPD) emphasis area covering a large swath of Downtown, Belltown, and the Central District. It is slated to start going into effect this month.

The roughly 40-block radius, which extends along 3rd Avenue from Yesler through Belltown, will see more visible policing starting this month. And they’ll soon be able to book misdemeanor suspects thanks to contracts being worked out with two local jails that aren’t severely restricting bookings like King County.

The plan was outlined in an SPD email obtained by the Jason Rantz Show on KTTH. Neither the mayor’s office nor SPD responded to a request for comment.

What’s the big deal about the SPD emphasis area plan from the Seattle mayor?

The most important piece of the plan will involve the ability to book criminal suspects in either the South Correctional Entity (SCORE Jail) or Issaquah City Jail. The email reveals the Mayor’s Office is currently working on contracts to make this a reality.

It’s unclear how far along with the contract the city is. The 72-bed Issaquah City Jail will likely dedicate a smaller portion of its capacity than the SCORE jail to handle criminal suspects running amuck downtown, with few consequences. SCORE Jail is run by the cities of Auburn, Burien, Des Moines, Renton, SeaTac, and Tukwila. The facility is located in SeaTac.

Currently, the King County jail is operating under COVID-19 protocols due to, a spokesperson says, a lack of staff. But Dennis Folk, the president of the union representing correction officers, alleges they’re being kept understaffed intentionally. He exclusively told the Jason Rantz Show on KTTH that county Executive Dow Constantine, since the Black Lives Matter movement, has been purposefully treating criminals as victims, working to close jails and depopulate jails.

Some open questions about staffing, but…

Local business owners and members of the newly elected city council have sought a plan like this to address the rampant crime, particularly around the downtown retail core and near and around Chinatown-International District. Much of the crime is driven by homeless addicts and drug dealing. Businesses have closed and foot traffic has dropped considerably as a result.

With an emphasis patrol requiring extra officers, it’s unclear where they’ll come from and how vulnerable other parts of the city will be as a result.

SPD ended 2023 with under 425 patrol officers, and a number of vacancies the department is struggling to fill. A new contract, which would offer three years of backpay, is a boon for the officers. But it could also lead to more retirements once the 280 total police staff who are eligible to retire based on age and tenure earn the backpay they’re due.

More from Jason Rantz: SPD has under 425 patrol officers, 280 eligible for retirement

The last emphasis patrol, which was restricted to Pike and Pine on 3rd after a string of high profile crimes, included police from different precincts. But since there are already a disproportionate amount of crime in the emphasis patrol, it may not require many more staff than those who already find themselves responding to calls in the area. The bookings will be the most meaningful change, allowing the SPD to take criminal elements off the streets, even if temporary, rather than immediately releasing them to reoffend.

This is great news

This is likely to turn into a political issue as it’ll anger a small group of loud activists amplified by socialist Seattle City Council member and police defunder Tammy Morales. But, based on rhetoric from the new council, they should welcome the news.

Harrell has seemed hesitant to put into motion a substantive plan to tackle the crime crisis downtown. But some of the issues were beyond his control, like a county jail that won’t accept bookings and judges who are reluctant to put criminals deserving of jail behind bars.

Jason Rantz content: SPD lost 96 more officers in 2023, over 600 since defund

This plan will likely go a long way in confirming to business owners and residents than the mayor is finally ready to truly help address the downtown crises. A large portion of the problems can be attributed to a handful of suspects. The ability to actually offer consequences for the behavior, will help clean up downtown. Moreover, with consequences they may finally start saying yes to offers of help that the city routinely provides.

Listen to The Jason Rantz Show on weekday afternoons from 3-7 p.m. on KTTH 770 AM (HD Radio 97.3 FM HD-Channel 3). Subscribe to the podcast here. Follow Jason on X, formerly known as TwitterInstagram and Facebook.

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Rantz Exclusive: Seattle mayor establishing emphasis area, will jail suspects in Issaquah, at SCORE