Top Seattle leaders largely silent on report on violent repeat offenders

SEATTLE - In the past two weeks multiple people have been randomly attacked in the streets of Seattle.

They are unprovoked and violent.

It speaks to the heart of a report that came out in February called System Failure.

The report looked at a sample of a 100 repeat offenders, and the work was commissioned by organizations representing thousands of businesses.

The data shows that all of the 100 repeat violators they studied were all drug addicts and homeless. About 40 percent had severe mental illness.

That report showed the damage the perpetrators were causing to themselves and to the community. Since last month’s report, 40 of those 100 offenders have been booked into jail again, a total of 43 times.

In that same span of a month, Q13 News has repeatedly been asking top city leaders for interviews. They have all declined.

Some community leaders say that kind of silence is unacceptable.

For years, we’ve called it a homeless crisis, a broken record that keeps spinning out of control, but now community leaders say we need to change the dialogue.

“It’s time to have more nuanced conversations about our drug problem and about our mental illness problems,” Lisa Howard with Pioneer Square Alliance said.

Howard hoped the February report would change the way the city deals with violent repeat offenders.

“We are in crisis mode and we need a response,” Howard said.

Or perhaps even just an acknowledgment that public safety is in jeopardy in Seattle.

“People are getting hurt on our streets almost every day,” Howard said.

Howard represents 850 businesses, and she says she is getting emails daily from people fearful about random assaults and harassment.

On Tuesday in Ballard, a man assaulted several people outside a 7-11 on NW Market Street. A police report says the suspect hit one man in the head with a milk crate. The same attacker smashed a car in the process. The assault was unprovoked, according to police.

Last week a man tried to throw a complete stranger over an overpass onto I-5 traffic, 40 feet below.

The victim, a woman, told police she was walking along Madison Street on March 11 around 9 a.m. when the man grabbed her and tried to throw her over the railing. She said the man asked her if she wanted to go over the edge.

She gripped the railing until witness intervened and saved her from the suspect.

The suspect is Jonathan Wilson, and court records show that it was his fourth assault since September.

On Friday, the owner of Emerald City Guitars tackled and chased after a suspect who pulled a gun on him and his employees. Owner Jay Boone told Q13 News that he would have never done something like that before. He says his actions are a culmination of mounted frustrations.

He says his store has called 911 close to 100 times over the last year.

“I don’t know how much of this we can take,” Mike Steward with the Ballard Alliance said.

Stewart says there has been little response to the report and the concerns addressed.

“Today we haven’t heard a single response from Pete Holmes, the frustration is growing,” Stewart said.

City Attorney Pete Holmes has not responded to Q13 News. However, his spokesperson says they are working on a response. City Council members were not interested in talking on camera as of Wednesday.

We have also repeatedly requested a sit down with Mayor Jenny Durkan.

On Wednesday Q13 News asked for 5 minutes after an affordable housing event with the mayor, and her spokesperson said the mayor was too busy and that they would circle back around with us in another month.

It’s the same amount of time that it took 40 out of 100 repeat offenders highlighted in the System Failure report to re-offend and be booked into jail again.

“Sure we can’t solve this problem by just making arrests. However in certain instances when we are talking about violent crime, arrests need to be made,” Stewart said.

Although no one on the council wanted to talk in person, council member Sally Bagshaw released a statement on Wednesday.

It reads in part:

“These are symptomatic of the larger public health problems resulting from mental illness, poverty and addiction. These problems drive the person trying to survive as well as impacting the victims from whom they steal.  Based on every bit of evidence and studies we see,  the spin cycle of these crimes will keep recurring unless we collectively address the root causes and stop doing what's ineffective.  I am angry that we have a road map for system improvement but seem unwilling to invest in the justice reforms we know will make a difference. Over the past decade, our police, City Attorney, King County Prosecuting Attorney, judges and other criminal justice leaders have identified ways to stop the spin cycle of crimes/jail/release.  Many of these recommendations have been tried like Dan Satterberg's "180 Project".. The good news is that attitudes are shifting in support of a public health model rather than the "lock 'em up" model.  The bad news is that the speed of systemic changes has been glacial.”