Thursday, October 13, 2011

Seattle's New Plan to Treat Belltown's Drug Problem (Instead of Arrest It Away)

Posted by on Thu, Oct 13, 2011 at 1:30 PM

The Seattle Police Department, the King County Sheriff's Office, Seattle and King County prosecuting attorneys, the Defender's Association, the ACLU, local drug treatment centers, and downtown business and community advocates all agree: Continuously arresting and prosecuting low-level drug dealers, addicts, and prostitutes hasn't eliminated open-air drug markets or made Seattle streets any safer.

"One million people have been 'contacted' in downtown Seattle by SPD and King County deputies since 1999," said Department of Corrections spokeswoman Leslie Miller at a press conference this morning. Miller explained that only 2,800 people account for those million arrests. "It’s a revolving door. Communities get mad that they’re not seeing results—the results [will come from] alternatives to incarceration."

KC Prosecutor Dan Satterberg: You can force people to change. You can create the situation for change to occur and you can force that change.
  • KC Prosecutor Dan Satterberg: "You can force people to change. You can create the situation for change to occur and you can force that change."
And so on October 1, the city launched a collaborative new approach to dealing with low-level offenders. Called the Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD) program, it gives Seattle police officers the power to offer select low-level offenders they routinely arrest a choice: Jail or treatment. A chance to break the destructive, expensive cycle of arrest and incarceration.

"The LEAD program will give officers on the street the option to drive past the jail, past the courthouse, to treatment," explained King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg. "We believe now that drug treatment works, even if the original motivation for someone entering is simply avoiding incarceration."

In general, the pre-booking diversion program will accommodate between 100-120 individuals annually who don't have a violent criminal history and who aren't profit-driven drug dealers (i.e. people who clearly addicted to drugs and are most likely dealing drugs to pay for their own addiction).

Lisa Daugaard: People living a miserable existence have the opportunity to live a better life for themselves and their neighbors.
  • Lisa Daugaard: "People living a miserable existence have the opportunity to live a better life for themselves and their neighbors."
These people will be ushered into intervention programs designed by case managers from Evergreen Treatment Services, where they'll be offered the tools to make a better life for themselves—education opportunities, housing assistance, job training, and mental health and drug counseling, among other things. "A win would be changing a landscape that looks intractable," said Lisa Daugaard, the Deputy Director of the non-profit Defender Association, who has long championed the LEAD program. "The approach we’ve taken to date is the single most expensive way to address the problem—and it hasn't worked. It's time for a new approach."

The $950,000-a-year, privately-funded program will operate exclusively in Belltown over the next four years. The city will evaluate the program's effectiveness after two years. If it turns out to be as successful as the UK programs it mimics, "We’ll be able to expand it to other neighborhoods," says Mayor Mike McGinn.


Comments (21) RSS

Oldest First Unregistered On Registered On Add a comment
Utterly wonderful news. Thanks to everyone who worked so hard to get to this point.
Posted by gloomy gus on October 13, 2011 at 1:38 PM · Report this
hans millionaire 2
Finally, a community approach that treats individuals as individuals. The existing justice system is so obviously broken. the cycle of mental illness, homelessness, drug use, and criminal activity can be broken, if the community is willing to step up and fill the gaps in these peoples (our neighbors) lives.
Posted by hans millionaire on October 13, 2011 at 1:47 PM · Report this
Rotten666 3
It's nice to see that as a society we are beginning to turn that corner and treat addiction like a disease and not a crime. That's real progress.

If this policy doesn't get results we can do what the IRA did in the 70's and 80's: Shoot random drug dealers in the kneecaps until everyone gets the point.
Posted by Rotten666 on October 13, 2011 at 2:04 PM · Report this
rob! 4
A drug diversion program has been doing great work in my shit-hole town for the better part of a decade, thanks in large part to one terrific judge (the other one is a ringer for Rick Santorum).

How does that "privately funded" thing work exactly, though? Evergreen Treatment, a non-profit, is able to front the money to get started BECAUSE it's non-profit, and then it gets ongoing contracts for services? So raises all around and better offices and more contracts in the future? How is this not further privatization of government functions at ultimately greater cost, justified by saying that money is saved by handing buckets of it to a company (non-profit doesn't necessarily mean altruistic, bare-bones, self-sacrificing so much anymore) rather than jailing lawbreakers (which may very well be true, at least initially)? Is Evergreen Treatment part of the giant Asian conglomerate with lots of nursing homes?

Not meaning to cast aspersions unfairly, and I don't have any special knowledge in this area. Just saying it's worth a little skepticism from the follow-the-money standpoint, and continued oversight. It will certainly provide new hope for many people.
Posted by rob! on October 13, 2011 at 2:14 PM · Report this
Tingleyfeeln 5
Wrong, the solution is to legalize addictive drugs as prescriptions for addicts. Then the dealers quit hanging out there, and the addicts have only their bad behavior to blame for any legal problems. Also, open up safe places for the addicts to fix up. As long as they don't steal stuff (less reason to when your getting smack for free) or assault anyone, most of the problem goes away.
Posted by Tingleyfeeln on October 13, 2011 at 2:30 PM · Report this
Supreme Ruler Of The Universe 6

Constantine is saying the System is oppressing people and now Satterberg is releasing druggies to treatment.

These are the End Times.

Will Clint Didier show up in Westlake next?
Posted by Supreme Ruler Of The Universe on October 13, 2011 at 3:05 PM · Report this
leek 7
Hey, this Leslie Miller is not responsible for Random Filler! :(
Posted by leek on October 13, 2011 at 3:24 PM · Report this
A million downtown Seattle drug arrests in 12 years? That's 230 a day. That cannot be correct.
Posted by DOUG. on October 13, 2011 at 3:36 PM · Report this
rob! 9
Re: 4, Evergreen Treatment Services appears to be stand-alone. I had a relative in an Evergreen Healthcare nursing home at one point, and was told it was owned by Evergreen Shipping in Taiwan. This appears to be untrue; Evergreen Healthcare is described as an "employee-owned" company based in Vancouver, WA—again, apparently unconnected to ETS. Also unrelated: Evergreen International Airlines, an air-cargo company based in McMinnville, OR; and Evergreen International, a pray-away-the-gay non-profit based in Salt Lake City.

My concerns about the leap from incarceration to privatization, bypassing possible state/county administration, remain, along with my best wishes and hopes for success.
Posted by rob! on October 13, 2011 at 3:58 PM · Report this
My main concern about Evergreen is the misguided notion that love is, in fact, soft as an easy chair.
Posted by gloomy gus on October 13, 2011 at 5:15 PM · Report this
You people are crazy. Making excuses for criminal drug dealers is not the answer. Trial. Hopefully, conviction. Throw them down a deep hole. Same for the users. Yeah, the users. They are not "victims". They are the same animals that prowl your cars, shit in public, burgle your houses, and hassle you for money. The sooner you sheep in Seattle realize this, the sooner you lives will be safer.
Posted by ButtercupSprinkles on October 13, 2011 at 6:29 PM · Report this
Tingleyfeelin said, " Also, open up safe places for the addicts to fix up. As long as they don't steal stuff (less reason to when your getting smack for free) or assault anyone, most of the problem goes away."

Appeasement. Yeah. Ask the Brits and Neville Chamberlain how that worked out....

Posted by ButtercupSprinkles on October 13, 2011 at 6:32 PM · Report this
some vigilante libertarians should purchase truckloads of super strength crack and leave it on every corner in every major city/trailer park. Put the dealers out of business; do the same with weed and cure mexico. pure geenyis.
Posted by porchedge on October 13, 2011 at 7:04 PM · Report this
now that Meinert has to pay sick time for his employees he's too broke to get a haircut and is forced to walk around looking like it's 1984. poor fella.
Posted by legacy builder on October 13, 2011 at 7:41 PM · Report this
treacle 15
It's well known - among those to investigate these things at least - that creating options other than incarceration directly allows more people to exit addiction, after which they return to society and their community as more positive, experienced people. Also, it's much cheaper for taxpayers than the constant cycle of street-jail-street-jail-. So I'm very glad to hear this news. (Very odd quote under the Satterberg image though. Curious choice.)

@11 - De-humanizing people is a war tactic. "Nips", "Huns", "Ragheads", "Animals" ... De-humanization is the first step towards the destruction of a person.
What sort of community do you want to live in?
One that dehumanizes?

One that hates?
Posted by treacle on October 13, 2011 at 10:02 PM · Report this
rob! 16
*Snerk* @10.
Posted by rob! on October 14, 2011 at 12:16 AM · Report this
@15. I like how you twisted my statement to appear racist by adding in slurs. Typical. As far as the type of community I want to live in? One that has no junkies, or prostitutes, or slingers, or clucks, or car prowlers, or any of the other elements that smug Pollyannas like yourself seem to love to make excuses for. Until you are victimized by them. Or they decide to use their drugs or squat in your yard/garage/stairwell/carport. Then, you call 911 at the speed of light, and, after the Police have removed the element from your immediate environment, you call to file a complaint against them.
Posted by ButtercupSprinkles on October 14, 2011 at 2:17 AM · Report this
KittenKoder 18
The problem with this is that treatment is also a revolving door, and it costs tax payers money as well. So it's not really a solution.
Posted by KittenKoder on October 14, 2011 at 5:41 AM · Report this
@18 Jail is a revolving door. Treatment works for a lot of people, and even those who relapse learn skills that teach them how to recover from a relapse. Many studies have shown that treatment is more cost-effective that incarceration.

However, the proposal currently on the table to the governor will cut ALL adult treatment in WA, except for pregnant women . . . which would make this plan a challenge.
Posted by Lursa on October 14, 2011 at 6:35 AM · Report this
evilvolus 20
@18 - Aren't you the one constantly berating people for pointing out problems without providing solutions?

Also: "treatment is a revolving door and is a waste of money" when compared to prisons is probably at the top of my Stupidest Things I've Read All Week list. But you've still got 15 hours to top it, so get on that.
Posted by evilvolus on October 14, 2011 at 9:02 AM · Report this
All street level dealers should be given a choice between jailtime and working at the Five Point Cafe.
Posted by chocolatecherry on October 15, 2011 at 7:59 AM · Report this

Add a comment