Editor’s note: The print version of this column incorrectly identified Mr. Westneat’s column title. It has been updated.
What’s worse: For the right-wing media to highlight rising crime in Seattle, or for the left-wing media to ignore it as if it’s not a problem? Seattle Times writer Danny Westneat’s answer is “to agree to confront it head on” in his Aug. 21, 2022 column, “Seattle Needs Therapy To Get Past Defund The Police”.
Westneat cites these statistics: “through July, property crime is up 25% compared with two years ago. Violent crime is rising still faster, up 34%. Shootings are up 100%.”
Westneat lays the blame at the feet of the “Defund the Police” campaign. It’s an unfortunate term that probably lost Democrats millions of votes in the 2020 elections. Had it been reframed it might have gained them votes instead of losing them.
“The big liberal idea is to send in teams of social workers instead, and there’s some big news on that out of Denver. Namely, it works,” Westneat writes.
A study, carried on by Stanford researchers, shows that sending in teams of social workers instead of police “can tangibly reduce crime,” he continues. During the Denver study, vans of social and mental health and workers and paramedics responded to 911 calls in a select number of downtown parts of Denver. The rules followed in the study were that these response teams could only respond to calls dealing with “public intoxication, person down, trespassing and public disorder.” If there was any violence, the police answered the call.
Based on the study, crime in the targeted precincts dropped 34%. More importantly, other more violent crimes also decreased. During that period of research, the van teams responded to 750 calls, but there were 1400 fewer crimes reported than in the six months prior with all the variables like weather and season taken into account.
Serious crimes like aggregated felony assaults, gun crimes and robberies neither rose nor fell during the period of study. This demonstrates that police are still needed. So, the solution is not either/or. It’s both.
Unlike Seattle, Denver didn’t push a “defund the police” campaign. The Seattle City Council cut 13% out of the police budget (about $54 million compared to its 2020 budget). In contrast, Denver added financial support (a 6% increase over 2020) to the police budget and more money for the van teams. In Denver, one third of the 911 calls were made by Denver police for the van teams.
In contrast, the Seattle police are resisting changes by delaying a study of 911 calls, frustrating the city council. Westneat reminded his readers that the police lied about the 2020 riots, fabricating a Proud Boys rally that never occurred. Lack of trust between the police and the council seems to be mutual. Anger still exists from 2020. Instead of rebuilding trust, nothing is getting done.
Cities like Denver, Albuquerque, Austin, and others have created van teams while Seattle has treaded water. Meanwhile, Homestreet Bank, with its 950 employees, is considering moving out of its 56-story office building downtown (at Sixth and Union) where it has had its business for 100 years. Employees don’t feel safe coming to work or riding public transit. Their CEO is listening to their concerns. If this move occurs, it will be a major loss to Seattle’s tax rolls. It will also further diminish Seattle’s reputation in the eyes of the nation and give progressives a black eye for their stupid decision to “defund the police” rather than using less inflammatory language and finding moderation. The police reaction to the 2020 riots and their anger over being viewed as systemically racist reflects their “doubling down” to valid public criticism rather than reforming themselves.
Proverbs 13:10 states: “Only with pride comes contention, but with the well-advised is wisdom.” It seems Seattle needs more “well-advised” leaders who are wise, both in City Hall and in the Seattle Police Department. Don’t hold your breath. Seattle government is sick and needs therapy.