Justice Reform

Seattle: A City in Ruins, Part 1: Addiction to Crime

Seattle, a city once beautiful, thriving, and a hotspot for tourism, is now a collapsing swarm of trash and decay, according to the recent documentary, Seattle is Dying. This once gorgeous city now looks like the backdrop of a post-apocalyptic world. Mountains of trash pile up on the sidewalks, parks, and under overpasses. Small villages of camping tents can be seen everywhere. It is not uncommon to see the inhabitants of these tent villages consumed by their own demons or madness, ranting and raving in the streets. Downtown Seattle is especially plagued with this darkness, as shopping trips with family are a thing of the past. In this new third world city in ruins, everyone has become used to it. It has been normalized. People are dying in the streets and no one cares. Compassion has twisted into apathy. After seeing the destruction done to such a thriving city, one might wonder, how could this happen?

Seattle spends around $1 billion on their homeless problem, but this is proving to be superfluous. The property crimes in Seattle last year amounted to an astonishing 5,258, while New York City only had 1,448. Crime is rampant in Seattle, and there are almost no repercussions. Of a list of 100 repeat offenders in Seattle, 100% of them had a substance use disorder and were homeless. Less than half of them were evaluated for mental health issues. On average, they each had 36 criminal cases and 7 jail bookings in the last year. Many of the people on the list are unapologetic of their behavior. One of these homeless offenders, Travis Berge, hasn’t been arrested for more than a year. He is proud of the lengths he’s gone to acquire the drugs he is addicted to, and shameless of the citizens he’s hurt along the way. He feels that the justice system has shown him “deference and love” and feels that he will not be arrested again. This system has a 100% failure rate, and there seems to be no action taken.

Scott Lindsay of Public Records stated that “if you take someone into jail, don’t give them meaningful help, and then put them back into the community, they’re just going to commit the same crimes in the same places.” Our criminal records show that is exactly what’s happening. In 2006, for every 100 reports received, 25 of them were not filed. In 2016, for every 100 reports received, 46 were not filed. Nothing happened to reprimand these crimes. Of the remaining 54, one third were dismissed. Only 18 of 100 reports resulted in convictions, but after plea deals and lenient sentences, few people are held accountable.

Shouldn’t these problems be easily solved by the justice system and police officers? Seattle police officers are afraid to speak out. They are absolutely terrified of losing their jobs, pensions, and support for their families. Anonymous police officers filled out a questionnaire by KOA News about their thoughts on the state of their city, and what is being done to fix it. The responses are frightening and heartbreaking. They are angry at their judicial system that seems to favor cheesy plea deals and ridiculously low sentences that put these felons back on the streets in days. They feel powerless and believe they can no longer enforce the law they were sworn to protect.

One police officer, Todd Wiebke, made a great effort to find common ground between him and the homeless dwelling in Seattle. He showed compassion, respect, and encouraged the public not to give up hope. However, his belief that Seattle could be saved was tarnished when he was given the order to impound an illegally parked RV that homeless people had been living out of and was then chastised for following those orders. He quit the next day. He states, “The only thing I can equate it to is that we’re running a concentration camp without barbed wire, up to and including the medical experiment of poisoning these people with drugs.” There were weapons and drugs in every camp. People in Seattle now feel secure keeping drugs on them. The police were no longer necessary to this new lenient system. According to Todd Wiebke, the only solution to life in Seattle right now, is just to move.

According to the statements of the anonymous Seattle police officers, this is not so much a homeless issue as it is a drug issue. “Homelessness and drug use have become such politically charged issues. Politically charged in that the city, including S.P.D. administration, have ceased to be interested in policing this population. In a misguided attempt to help this population, the city has allowed the streets to be essentially taken over. The city is falling apart and becoming more unsafe due to politics surrounding low level criminal activity and homelessness. We don’t want to screw over the homeless population, we just want the ability to police them.”

Ari Hoffman is on the committee of a cemetery that has been desecrated by homeless camps and drug paraphernalia. This should not be happening in a civilized modern society. He has found prostitutes, drug dealers and countless homeless camps on the cemetery grounds. The gravesites are riddled with needles and there is crystal meth on the tombstones. Many citizens share his frustration and are backing him on his run for city council. He hopes to fix Seattle, but so much change is needed to replace what has been broken in this now fragile and hopeless city.

The crisis in Seattle has been deemed to be caused by homeless, but drugs are the starting point, and there is nothing officers can do about it. It has gotten to the point where any homeless person on the streets is in some phase of addiction. Substance abuse is the driving factor of why many of the homeless are still trapped in their lives of eating trash and living in tents. It’s easy to feed their addictions here. The legal amount of drugs allowed on your person in Seattle is 3 grams. That’s enough for 30 doses. Crack cocaine, heroin, and meth use are on the rise. Unless someone who is found to have low level amounts of drugs on them happens to have a warrant for their arrest, they are never taken to jail. The criminals of Seattle have realized this, and they are using it to their advantage. It is not uncommon to see recreational use of these hardcore drugs in open air. Drug dealers only carry less than 3 grams on them, and they are untouchable. “It is impossible to combat the open-air drug market in this city,” states one of Seattle’s police officers.

Drug dealers get arrested and nothing happens to them. They go free, they go on to sell more drugs and ruin more lives. The disregard for humanity with the action of selling life ending drugs needs to be acknowledged, and these dealers and addicts need to be locked up and rehabilitated, or this vicious cycle will continue, and Seattle will die.