Good news out of Seattle, for once. The city’s most prolific criminals will no longer be eligible for an automatic get-out-of-jail-free pass.
won election in November on a campaign of restoring order to a city losing control of the streets. Now she’s won a notable victory with a new agreement that will increase the chances that repeat offenders face consequences.
The new deal revises a 2019 agreement that let Seattle’s notoriously lenient Community Court handle some two dozen misdemeanors, including theft of up to $750 in goods, residential trespass, and property destruction. The accused were typically released with a referral to support services and sometimes an assignment for a life-skills class or community service. We recently wrote about
who in recent years has been referred for prosecution to the Seattle city attorney 46 times.
The revised agreement excludes those who have had 12 or more charges referred to the city attorney for prosecution in the past five years, including one in the past eight months. Their cases will instead be heard in Municipal Court, where judges can require bail and impose jail sentences.
Ms. Davison pushed for the revisions after learning that a mere 118 individuals were responsible for more than 2,400 crimes in Seattle over the past five years.
Prolific criminals qualified for Community Court regardless of their rap sheets, and they had four tries—often involving multiple misdemeanors—before being pushed into Municipal Court. Excluding cases involving domestic violence and traffic offenses, the Community Court was handling 55% of all crimes referred to the city attorney by police for prosecution, Ms. Davison’s office reported.
Ms. Davison’s proposal met significant resistance from the Community Court and the city’s Department of Public Defense. But she asked Municipal Court judges to intervene, and they finally approved the revisions. Seattle still has a long way to go to be a safe city, but the voters are beginning to see some results from their democratic intervention.
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Appeared in the May 24, 2022, print edition as ‘Crime and Punishment in Seattle.’