System Failure – Report on Prolific Offenders in Seattle’s Criminal Justice System

CALL TO ACTION: Public Safety

On February 25th, 2019, several of Seattle’s neighborhood business districts transmitted a report to municipal elected officials that analyzes the impact of prolific offenders in our city.

“System Failure – Report on Prolific Offenders in Seattle’s Criminal Justice System” was commissioned by neighborhood business districts in Pioneer Square, Chinatown/International District, SODO, Downtown, Ballard, the University District and Seattle’s tourism industry. It analyzes a sample of 100 individuals with high frequency levels of criminal activity (four King County Jail bookings within the past year), community impact, root causes of problem behaviors, and why Seattle’s criminal justice system fails to reduce their recidivism. Report data was compiled from publicly available databases.

Key Report Findings
• A substantial portion of the criminal activity that has the greatest impact on Seattle’s busiest neighborhoods is committed by a relatively small number of prolific offenders who have a large number of criminal cases in Seattle and King County courts. This data aligns with the Seattle Police Department’s SeaStat which addresses crime hotspots based on analysis of crime data and community reports of incidents
• Many individuals profiled in the report have 10 or more bookings into jail in the past year and 50 or more criminal cases over a multi-year span
• Many are drug-addicted, have mental health problems and do not, or cannot, comply with the terms of their sentences and deferrals. They continuously cycle through the criminal justice system with no changes in their behavior, and are repeatedly returned to Seattle’s streets to commit more crimes and may often pose harm to themselves and others
• Case filing delays hamper Seattle’s retail theft program; it takes the city attorney’s office an average of six months to file theft cases from major retailers, allowing offenders to remain on the streets in in the interim

For several years, our organizations have raised concerns about growing public safety challenges in our neighborhoods. And many of you, your customers and visitors are asking for help in the face of thefts, assaults and other crimes.

Recommendations
• Based on this report, Seattle’s criminal justice system is not meeting its obligation to protect public safety in our communities
• We fully support a policy that includes alternatives to incarceration and access to behavioral health treatment – but for that system to work there must be accountability for outcomes within the justice system and for the people who continue to repeatedly cause harm in our communities
• The answer, we believe, is wholesale reform of our city’s criminal justice system that facilitates greater accountability in dealing prolific offenders effectively and humanely
We have shared this report with Seattle’s elected officials, including the mayor’s office, city council, city attorney, municipal judges and others – and we have asked Mayor Durkan for her leadership in finding long-term, sustainable solutions to this issue. We hope you’ll raise your voice as well.


• Based on this report, Seattle’s criminal justice system is not meeting its obligation to protect public safety in our communities
• We fully support a policy that includes alternatives to incarceration and access to behavioral health treatment – but for that system to work there must be accountability for outcomes within the justice system and for the people who continue to repeatedly cause harm in our communities
• The answer, we believe, is wholesale reform of our city’s criminal justice system that facilitates greater accountability in dealing prolific offenders effectively and humanely
We have shared this report with Seattle’s elected officials, including the mayor’s office, city council, city attorney, municipal judges and others – and we have asked Mayor Durkan for her leadership in finding long-term, sustainable solutions to this issue. We hope you’ll raise your voice as well.