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Yes Virginia, downtown Seattle is getting rougher due to nanny-state thinking

Discussion in 'Off Topic' started by ATCclears, Aug 29, 2013.

  1. ATCclears

    ATCclears Seattle area, WA Well-Known Member

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    Downtown crime shocks New Yorker | Local News | The Seattle Times

    It was on a plane to Seattle, from New York of all places, that Stuart Marvin first heard about our city’s dirty secret.

    People were flying in for a conference. One of their group, who had gotten to Seattle the night before, had already been physically accosted on a street downtown.

    “He had told them the streets are unsafe, and they were nervous about walking around downtown,” Marvin says. “I said: C’mon. Seattle? We’re New Yorkers. How scary can Seattle be?’ ”

    Well plenty, apparently. Marvin, who was on that plane to move out here, has now lived in downtown Seattle, on First Avenue near Pike Place Market, for six weeks. His early impressions of our city, at the street level, are not good.

    “I’ve never experienced anything like this,” he says. “And it’s not like I’m from Des Moines.”

    Marvin, 56, says the sidewalks and alleys of every block of Belltown and the downtown shopping district feature some level of human misery or low-grade street crime, at all times. He’s astonished, he says, by the pervasiveness of the homelessness, mental illness, public urination, panhandling, drug use and drug dealing, all out there mixing with Seattle’s condo and office-tower boomtown.

    “It’s bad,” he says. “I see the mayor was saying it’s not that bad. He must not live downtown.”

    Now I have to say what the New Yorker is reporting doesn’t exactly match my own experience. But I also wonder if I’ve been here too long to see. When I came to Seattle in the 1980s there were prostitutes lined up on Pike Street from the Market to Second Avenue. So by comparison it’s shiny clean today.

    But it’s true Seattle’s grit can shock outsiders. The city isn’t dangerous (it has a lower violent-crime rate than New York). But Marvin’s point is it feels dangerous. Like many New Yorkers, he’s an evangelist for how Rudy Giuliani and later Michael Bloomberg transformed New York in part by focusing on the little things.

    “Giuliani had zero tolerance for the open drinking, the peeing in public. His theory was you go after that small stuff to help with the big stuff. It worked in a big way,” Marvin says.

    Of course New York has now pushed no tolerance to its constitutional limits, with its “stop and frisk” policy.

    But in Seattle we have more of a “do as you please” policy. Example: During a recent 15-month period the cops here gave out 850 citations for open drinking, camping on sidewalks or peeing or pooping in public. But more than 750 of those tickets were ignored. Even people who have defaulted on three or more such nuisance citations — suggesting they have serious problems — are not facing any legal threat from the city. The city attorney last week said he would be open to charging them. But he hasn’t, and clearly has zero enthusiasm for doing so.

    In his defense, it’s a tricky business. When drugs or mental illness is involved, jail often does no good. That’s Seattle’s stated goal: to move beyond trying to arrest our way out of these problems.

    Marvin says New York also has the social services and the community courts that give nonviolent offenders rehab instead of punishment. But looming over the offers of help? A raised hammer.

    “Seattle’s got to get tougher,” Marvin said. “You go up to the police here and say ‘There’s a guy smoking crack over there,’ or you say ‘Hey, there’s a guy peeing on my doorstep,’ or worse, and they say ‘Our hands are tied; there’s nothing we can do.’

    “People here seem to accept it. That this is just the way it’s going to be.”

    He’s got a point, Seattle. Maybe it takes a hardened New Yorker to feel what we have become numb to.

    Danny Westneat’s column appears Wednesday and Sunday. Reach him at 206-464-2086 or dwestneat@seattletimes.com
     
  2. Caveman Jim

    Caveman Jim West of Oly Springer Slayer 2016 Volunteer

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    I hate all big cities no matter where they are, I have always lived in the country (but I ain't a cowboy).
     
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  3. U201491

    U201491 Well-Known Member

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    The simple truth is:
    The more leftist liberal a city or state becomes the higher the crime rate and murder rate goes.
    Just the facts that are indisputable.
     
  4. Oregonhunter5

    Oregonhunter5 2C IDAHO Well-Known Member

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    Been bad in cities since man existed.
    Seattle sucks.
     
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  5. U201491

    U201491 Well-Known Member

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  6. michaels

    michaels oregon Active Member

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    Just for fun.

    Any of the above commentators ever live in Seattle?
     
  7. One-Eyed Ross

    One-Eyed Ross Winlock, WA Well-Known Member

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    Medical Historian Examines NIMH Experiments in Crowding - The NIH Record -July 25, 2008

    "As the scientist observed, a social hierarchy developed: One despot male and 9 females claimed the two defensible pens with only one ramp provided; 60 others crowded into the other 2 pens with two ramps. Calhoun found that “rodent utopia” rapidly became “hell.”

    He described the onset of several pathologies: violence and aggression, with rats in the crowded pen “going berserk, attacking females, juveniles and less-active males.” There was also “sexual deviance.” Rats became hypersexual, pursuing females relentlessly even when not in heat.

    The mortality rate among females was extremely high. A large proportion of the population became bisexual, then increasingly homosexual, and finally asexual. There was a breakdown in maternal behavior. Mothers stopped caring for their young, stopped building a nest for them and even began to attack them, resulting in a 96 percent mortality rate in the two crowded pens. Calhoun coined a term—“behavioral sink”—to describe the decay."

    For those not familiar with the experiment and study, it goes a long ways towards explaining what is happening in modern society...
     
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  8. ogre

    ogre Vancouver, WA Well-Known Member

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    It reminds me of King Rat.
     
  9. ATCclears

    ATCclears Seattle area, WA Well-Known Member

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    Yes, I used to both live and work in Seattle.

    Peter
     
  10. michaels

    michaels oregon Active Member

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    Well, I guess one out of five isn't bad.
     
  11. One-Eyed Ross

    One-Eyed Ross Winlock, WA Well-Known Member

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    Well, except King Rat was about a POW camp, so...anything to survive. Living in a box like the rats were, with increasing population but no more room is like living in any large city in the world. Pretty soon they wind up living in their own filth (both literal and figurative.)
     
  12. Oregonhunter5

    Oregonhunter5 2C IDAHO Well-Known Member

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    Why would I live in a place that I think sucks?
    It's like Somalia. Would you live there?
     
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  13. michaels

    michaels oregon Active Member

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    Hunter, the point of my question is to make people think.

    It's kind of like, how can you REALLY know what's going on if you've never been to, or lived in a place.

    Sure, it sounds like Somalia sucks, but I can't really tell you how it sucks.

    Further, the people reporting, what is their agenda on the reporting?

    Look, it's always fun to bash a place, because of "what you heard"

    But what if what you heard isn't even close to the truth?

    Just saying.

    I have family from NYC, and they are horrified by what has happened to the place.

    To the point where they ALMOST miss the muggings.

    But they're still horrified by what has happened.

    And, from the stories I've heard from family, it's a cool head, street smarts, and a mean left hook that will protect you.

    Yes Virginia, even against a gun.
     
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  14. U201491

    U201491 Well-Known Member

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  15. ATCclears

    ATCclears Seattle area, WA Well-Known Member

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    Downtown street offenses going unpunished | Local News | The Seattle Times

    Downtown street offenses going unpunished
    What’s at the root of the downtown Seattle crime problem? One cause may be that the police aren’t writing tickets for low-level street disorder infractions and the city attorney isn’t prosecuting them.

    Tova Hornung was walking past Westlake Park downtown this summer when she saw a large group of young people with pit bulls and skateboards, smoking pot. One young man started swinging his skateboard as she passed, threatening another when he wouldn’t share his dope.

    Hornung, who lives in Seattle, approached a group of bicycle police officers nearby and asked, “Why aren’t you doing anything? Isn’t there a law?”

    “No,” she said she was told by the officers. “There’s nothing we can do.”

    Hornung wrote to Mayor Mike McGinn, explaining what she’d witnessed and asking him to enact laws that would allow the police to move along bad actors who she said were “taking over downtown.”

    The mayor wrote back that his Center City Initiative sought to “help officers connect persons in need on the street with human services and housing providers.” The email didn’t mention that the city does have incivility laws that prohibit people from blocking the sidewalk and drinking and urinating in public.

    The three laws are civil infractions for which the police can write tickets. After three tickets go unpaid or the offender doesn’t show up for court, the police can forward the case to the city attorney with a request to file a misdemeanor criminal charge of failure to respond.

    But over the past four years, City Attorney Pete Holmes has filed only two failure-to-respond charges against chronic street offenders, and the number of tickets written by police for incivility has plummeted. Public-drinking citations fell from 2,262 in 2007 under Holmes’ predecessor, Tom Carr, to 271 this year, through July.

    McGinn — in a long-running feud with Holmes about a variety of issues, including the handling of a settlement with the Department of Justice over excessive use of force within the Police Department — blames Holmes for the downtown crime issue as well.

    “I think what has been going on, quite bluntly, our officers are not going to write tickets if there’s no ultimate consequence for writing the ticket. That’s just not a good use of their time,” McGinn said when asked what direction he gives police about law enforcement downtown.

    Holmes said that before the issue took a political turn, police asked him to file charges in just two failure-to-respond cases this year, and that his attorneys prosecuted both.

    “It they’re saying there’s no point in writing tickets, that Pete Holmes doesn’t prosecute, that’s simply untrue,” he said. He also noted that police can make arrests on the spot for crimes such as assault and drug dealing.

    Interim Police Chief Jim Pugel said the drop in citations has several causes, including more patrol officers on the street giving more warnings and getting offenders to stop the problem behavior. But he said lack of prosecution is a factor, as well as lack of clear direction from city leaders.

    The chief said police are not just standing around downtown.

    “We are enforcing the law,” he said.

    Seeking a balance

    At the heart of the issue is an approach seemingly shared by McGinn and Holmes to steer offenders toward social services rather than haul them all to jail.

    McGinn often points to his Center City Initiative and its social-service model for intervening with problem offenders downtown, saying enforcement-only approaches to downtown street disorder in the past had failed.

    He cited the City Council’s effort early in his administration to enact an aggressive panhandling ordinance, and said that he had rejected the suggestion then that police needed to “hand out more tickets to people who are poor.”

    Holmes also said he doesn’t want to repeat the expensive cycle of arrest, incarceration and prosecution that in the past released offenders back onto the streets within days and did little to change behavior.

    Lisa Daugaard, policy director for the Public Defender Association, said the goal of the Center City Initiative is to offer a continuum of services targeted to an individual, including housing, drug treatment and mental-health care, but also arrest when that’s appropriate.

    She cautioned that, a year in, the initiative is still only a conversation and hasn’t yet produced any policy recommendations or programs.

    Other advocates for the poor and homeless say that the strategy of providing social services to those willing to accept them depends on having services to provide.

    According to city budget figures, the federal government has cut about $33 million in social-services funding since 2010. City leaders have added back $15 million, less than half the deficit.

    “It shouldn’t surprise anyone that we see the consequences on the street,” said Tim Harris, founding director of Real Change. But without adequate funding and with the initiative still taking shape, he said, “we have not yet arrived at that balance between social-service interventions and more traditional police enforcement.”

    Tensions at the top

    The August shooting of a Metro bus driver by a chronic street criminal with drug and mental-health issues brought the conflict between Holmes and McGinn into sharp relief.

    With the mayor under pressure to do something about downtown crime, Pugel forwarded to Holmes a binder with information about 28 offenders who each had ignored three or more citations for drinking or urinating in public or blocking the sidewalk, and asked Holmes to prosecute them.

    Holmes returned the binder, saying the police had not documented that alternative approaches to criminal charges — including social-service outreach — had been attempted and had either failed or been refused.

    “To meet the high burden of turning civil offenses into criminal offenses, it is important that law enforcement document the chronic nature of the violations, the efforts to gain compliance, and the result of human services or other outreach,” Holmes wrote in returning the case files.

    Holmes said, though, that his office is continuing to work with police to gather the supporting evidence needed to bring charges against some of the 28.

    City Councilmember Tim Burgess, the former chairman of the Public Safety Committee and a former police officer, said he reviewed the 28 files forwarded by police and agreed with Holmes that the casework was sloppy.

    But he also acknowledged that the police and Holmes are not on the same page.

    “There’s a lot of frustration among the rank and file over the city attorney and the feeling that he’s too lax and lenient about prosecuting crime,” Burgess said.

    Seattle Police Officers’ Guild President Rich O’Neill noted that while Holmes hadn’t prosecuted any low-level street disorder cases until this year, he has brought misdemeanor assault charges against three police officers and considered them against a fourth since 2011.

    “We write a ticket, and the person crumples it up and throws it in the garbage. There is no consequence,” O’Neill said.

    “But the city attorney has shown an aggressive willingness to charge police in minor incidents. The DOJ is critical of minor incidents escalating into use-of-force. If it turns out on video looking bad, we get asked, ‘Why are you stopping this person?’ What’s an officer supposed to do?”

    Burgess said the mayor and police chief need to give clear direction to officers about enforcement of low-level street disorder.

    “There needs to be clarity about what we’re trying to accomplish. That’s lacking today,” he said.

    Councilmember Bruce Harrell said that without a consistent approach to downtown crime and disorderly conduct, behavior won’t change. “Whether we’re making enough arrests or charging enough crimes needs to be resolved. If we’re failing to enforce the laws, they become meaningless. We don’t want that.”

    Lynn Thompson: lthompson@seattletimes.com or 206-464-8305. On Twitter @
     
  16. AMProducts

    AMProducts Maple Valley, WA Jerk, Ammo Manufacturer Silver Supporter

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    I wonder if this is what's needed in downtown seattle?

    [video=youtube;HnPZ1yuoFIc]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HnPZ1yuoFIc[/video]
     
  17. ATCclears

    ATCclears Seattle area, WA Well-Known Member

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    It may come to that.

    Peter
     
  18. 2506

    2506 Seattle Well-Known Member

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    But overall, crime dropped citywide 6.9 percent in the first seven months of this year compared to those same months last year, according to a city council analysis of violent crime and theft. Crime is down 12.4 percent since 2009. Murray is wrong about violent crime, too, which is down less than 1 percent since last year and down 6.5 percent since 2009. Those declines are even more pronounced when accounting only for serious violence, which is down 4 percent since last year and 9.5 percent since 2009, according to data from the Seattle Police Department.

    If you look at the seven policing beats covering what is considered downtown—including the retail core, the central business district, Belltown, the International District, Pioneer Square, and Lower Queen Anne—serious violent crime has dropped 5 percent since last year. If you include South Lake Union, it's down 8 percent.

    In fact, major crimes, as classified by the FBI's uniform crime-reporting standards—including murder, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, larceny, and vehicle theft—are at their lowest levels in Seattle for 30 years.

    Online Crime Maps - Seattle Police Department
     
  19. AMProducts

    AMProducts Maple Valley, WA Jerk, Ammo Manufacturer Silver Supporter

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    I think what really comes into play here are the "quality of life crimes", I remember last time I had to drive into the city to drop off my buddy's girlfriend (he had to run off to work on an emergency) and we were talking about how I "hate the city". I had three specific gripes:

    1) Aggressive, drunk homeless people
    2) Lack of Parking
    3) Traffic

    So I'm driving over 520, to get off at the first offramp. As I'm approaching the offramp the free flow of traffic suddenly halts, I almost rear-end someone and then the person behind me almost rear-ends me. I look at her and say "point 3". So it takes about 10 minutes to clear the offramp, at which point as we get to the top of the off-ramp we find out why there was traffic, it's a drunk homeless guy wandering around in traffic while swilling on a bottle of booze and screaming at passing motorists to give him a dollar. I look at her, and say "point 1". At which point she erupts defensively saying "come on, it's really not that bad".

    I follow her directions to get to her apartment, I notice that the street she lives on seems to be your standard issue seattle 3-lane street. It has 1/2 a lane on either side for parking, and 2 lanes for traffic. However due to the fact that the street is clogged with parked cars it's now down to 1 lane. Oh and dead ahead is a truck unloading something (looked like someone's apartment) completely blocking the street. At which point she announces "oh you can just let me out here", I look at her and say "Is this your apartment building?" "oh no, that's about a block down, past that truck that's blocking the street" I give her the look again and say "congrats, that was points two and three".

    She gave me directions to leave, and I havn't felt the need to go back since. I moved to seattle because I like trees, the last thing I would want to do is live with a bunch of jerks.
     
  20. 45 for me

    45 for me Oregon Well-Known Member

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    The country bumpkins do like to complain about the 'slums' of the city. I guess it's all what you want. The city has much more to do in terms of entertainment. Food and drink is better and more diverse. Things are open later. The high paying jobs and business are there. There are also all of the problems mentioned. Parking, bums, noise, traffic, etc. The final arbiter of this is property values. It cost more to live in the city because more people want to live there. If you don't like it, stay home. You may not want downtown, but it doesn't want you either. That will help with some of the traffic:thumbup: