Why is Seattle’s property crime rate so high?

Last week, I crunched recent FBI data showing that Seattle’s per capita property crime rate is #1 among the top 20 cities in the United States. On Saturday, the Seattle Times reported that story on its front page – curiously quibbling that Seattle would be ranked #2 behind Memphis if we analyzed the top 25 cities.

Clearly, we have a property crime problem in Seattle. On Sunday, Pete Holmes, the incumbent City Attorney, who has been in office for eight years, claimed on Twitter that he was proud of his record addressing property crime. No, I’m not kidding.

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Seattle Property Crime Highest in the Nation Among Top 20 Cities

Three weeks ago, the FBI released crime data for every major city and metropolitan area in the United States. The data shows that while Seattle has very low rates of violent crime compared to other cities, Seattle has the highest property crime rate per capita of any major city in the United States. That is 4 times the property crime rate per 100,000 residents of New York City, and 2.5 times the rate of Boston or Los Angeles. 


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Holmes’ Solicitation of Campaign Donations from the City’s Outside Counsel Contractors

Two weeks ago, Seattleites learned that the City Attorney overspent his office’s budget on outside counsel and litigation costs by $13 million. This weekend, the Seattle Times reported that spending on outside counsel has increased by 400% in the last three years: 2014 -- $1.6m, 2015 -- $4.4m; 2016 -- $7.3m. According to the City’s Budget Director, Holmes’ increase in outside counsel spending left a gaping hole in the budget and meant less money for essential services and programs. 

The Times also reported this weekend that Holmes solicited campaign contributions from many of the attorneys working on contracts for the City Attorney’s Office. In Holmes’ own words: “We hire a lot of lawyers and I call a lot of lawyers [for donations].” Holmes insists that this is all above reproach. I disagree. Holmes’ solicitation of campaign contributions from attorneys working on City contracts worth hundreds of thousands of dollars creates the appearance of pay-to-play politics and undermines the integrity of the office. 

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Holmes’ $13.4 million Budget Gap and $820/hr Outside Counsel Costs

The big budget story of the 2018 proposed budget is a huge, gaping $13.4m over-spend in the Judgment and Claims Fund managed by the City Attorney’s Office. According to Budget Director Ben Noble, as interviewed by David Kroman, "the cost over-run in the Judgment and Claims Fund was the biggest single financial challenge we faced” in assembling a proposed budget. 

The Budget Office proposes that the City will pay down this budget gap from the General Fund -- $12m in additional appropriations from 2017 and $1.4m added to the budget for 2018. That means there was less money available for new initiatives, including homelessness services and responding to the heroin epidemic.

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Scott Lindsay calls on City of Seattle and City Attorney to Support Pilot Supervised Consumption Site and Intervene in Lawsuit Against I-27

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On Monday, a local organization called Protect Public Health filed a lawsuit to block I-27, an initiative banning King County and Seattle from piloting two proposed supervised consumption sites. The lawsuit is right – under state law, the King County Board of Health has exclusive responsibility for responding to public health crises. Management of public health is not an appropriate question for the initiative process.

As a crucial stakeholder in trying to mitigate the heroin epidemic, the City of Seattle should intervene in the lawsuit in support of the plaintiffs. Every city should retain its ability to chart its own course to protect public health and serve the most vulnerable. 

In late 2015, I proposed the creation of the Seattle-King County Heroin and Opiate Addiction Task Force to bring health professionals, first responders, and law enforcement officials together to make recommendations improving our response to this crisis. Mayor Murray and Executive Constantine formally launched the Task Force and I served as a member. The Task Force made recommendations on new prevention initiatives, expanded treatment options, and user health programs to save lives. The recommendations the Task Force sent to the King County Board of Health were approved by a 12-0 vote and were also supported by the Executive and Mayor.

As the former public safety advisor to the Mayor of Seattle, I witnessed first-hand the public health crisis and public safety strain created by the heroin epidemic. On a daily basis, fire fighters, police officers, business owners and residents responded to people overdosing in public places. In the last three years, over one hundred people have died of an overdose on the streets of Seattle and many more deaths have been narrowly averted.

In May, I took a trip with elected officials from New York and California to see Vancouver, B.C.’s supervised consumption site, called Insite. While there, we witnessed medical professionals respond to people who overdosed at the facility. If those overdoses had occurred in a back alley, park, or bathroom stall, odds are that some would have died.

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Insite is by no means perfect, and there are things that I would do differently, but it’s an important start. The status quo – people using drugs in public places and dying in record numbers without basic medical attention – is simply not working. We need to try innovative approaches to this crisis and that’s why I support a pilot supervised consumption site in Seattle.

Importantly, the American Medical Association is calling for supervised consumption pilot programs. The time has come to try something new. Seattle must preserve the right to do so, even if other cities exercise their rights to not permit supervised consumption. 

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The Seattle Times endorses Scott Lindsay!

The Seattle Times announced their choice for Seattle City Attorney and chose Scott Lindsay over the incumbent. "The status quo is not working," the Editorial Board plainly stated. We couldn't agree more.

The editorial continues,

"Scott Lindsay presents the first serious challenge to Holmes’ incumbency, and he makes a persuasive case that he would better use the office to be a progressive but tougher force to upend the status quo. Voters should give Lindsay that chance."

You can read the whole endorsement here.

If you agree with the Times that Scott Lindsay is the best choice for Seattle City Attorney, please help our campaign spread the word by sharing this endorsement article on Facebook or Twitter

 



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Proposed Ordinance Creating Special Exemptions from Safety and Parking Laws for Residential Vehicles Is Step in the Wrong Direction

I recently received a copy of a proposed ordinance that will be introduced by Councilmember Mike O’Brien in Seattle City Council this week. The bill would exempt vehicles used as residences from almost all vehicle safety laws and parking restrictions. As a candidate for Seattle City Attorney who previously worked as the head of the Navigation Team to help people living in encampments and vehicles transition to safer alternatives, I think it is important for the public to be fully informed on this legislation.

As drafted, this proposed ordinance is a major step in the wrong direction.

In short, the bill says that if a vehicle is potentially being used as a residence then it is exempt from enforcement of the city’s safety codes (e.g., prohibitions on junk vehicles that are not street safe, oversize vehicles parked on neighborhood streets, etc.) and most of the city’s parking restrictions (e.g., 2-hour parking limit, commercial load zone, etc.).

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