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Seattle has a prolific homeless offenders problem—one made worse by a light on crime approach championed by progressive activists in elected office. The consequences have been dire: Innocent residents and visitors being physically assaulted by criminals with lengthy rap sheets, while the homeless, many dealing with addiction or mental health problems, remain on the streets.
The latest incident to bring attention to Seattle’s progressive leadership problem stems from a leaked video showing a topless dancer giving lap dances at a publicly-funded conference on homelessness last week. How anyone thought this was appropriate tells you how out of touch this city and county can be. However, before that, there was another incident that received much less attention.
Right before Thanksgiving, a homeless man with a lengthy criminal record randomly assaulted a defence attorney outside the King County Courthouse in downtown Seattle. The suspect is Frank Hypolite and he has been arrested on the same block five other times.
As a consequence, presiding judge James Rogers issued an emergency declaration to close the entrance where these assaults keep occurring. After negotiations with the Seattle Police Department, the entrance was reopened this week. The police chief promised increased patrols. But this won’t make a dent in the problem.
Seattle doesn’t have a policing problem in this regard—even with dangerously low staffing numbers. The problem? Criminals don’t serve jail time.
Seattle’s activist city attorney, Pete Holmes, and the county’s prosecutor, Dan Satterberg, refuse to prosecute many crimes allegedly committed by the homeless. They say it lacks compassion to throw someone in jail if they’re dealing with untreated mental illness or addiction.
While there aren’t many voices asking to “criminalize the homeless”—the typical refrain from left-wing activists—there needs to be some consequences for violent behaviour. By releasing homeless criminals back onto the streets, not only are they failing to help get their issues treated, they’re also creating sitting ducks out of passers-by and visitors.
One prolific offender, Francisco Calderon, has an astounding 75 convictions for a variety of crimes, including a recent assault on a toddler. Calderon, who is dealing with mental illness according to his sister, threw a cup of coffee in the child’s face. However, a judge earned public condemnation from Holmes after daring to put Calderon in jail for punching a man in Seattle. This is compassion? Tell that to Calderon’s victims.
Then there is the public defecation. Businesses have recently cried out for help from the city as homeless use sidewalks and business entryways as toilets.
“I’m tired of the defecation, the urination, drug use, accosting customers,” hotel general manager Jeff Gouge of The Arctic Circle Seattle told KOMO-TV. Last week, security footage caught a homeless man defecating outside the window of the hotel restaurant.
“We had someone, just an hour ago, on the other side of the entrance urinate right on the side of the building,” Gouge told the station. “It’s happening too much.”
The problems go beyond the intersection of homelessness and mental illness. It’s also a drug problem.
King County prosecutor Dan Satterberg will not prosecute drug addicts or users caught with up to a gram of a controlled substance, though cops say it’s much more than that. As a result, not only have we seen an increase in overdose deaths, drug dealers roam free.
Speaking to the Washington Post, Satterberg declared he will vigorously prosecute drug dealers. Except it’s hard to prosecute drug dealers who are smart enough to evolve with the policy. Cops have repeatedly told me that dealers will carry fewer products. After they sell out of heroin or meth, they’ll go back to wherever they keep their stash, restock on the product, and go back to dealing. It’s a policy that was adopted in nearby Snohomish County. But after months of the policy failing, their prosecutor, Adam Cornell, announced he’s nixing it. And a new Sheriff was elected, primarily on a message of being tougher on crimes.
What’s worse, in all this, cops have lost any leverage they might have over a drug user they catch. Knowing they won’t be prosecuted, Seattle cops can’t leverage jail time to get information out of the user, to find out who is selling them their product. As a consequence, drug deals are done in the open, ironically impacting the area directly surrounding the King County Courthouse the most, and more users are staying addicted.
But we’re told, over and over again, that this is compassionate. That it’s the social-justice way of dealing with crime. Which, as it turns out, means not dealing with crime at all. Who exactly wins with this approach?
Jason Rantz (@jasonrantz) is a Seattle-based talk show host on KTTH 770 AM.