SEATTLE – City Attorney Ann Davison is launching a new program dubbed the High Utilizer Initiative to identify offenders responsible for repeated crimes across Seattle and reduce their impact on public safety.
The program has already identified 118 individuals who have been responsible for more than 2,400 criminal cases over the last five years throughout the city.
Of the 118 individuals the program has identified, each of them has 12 or more referrals from police to the city attorney's office in the last five years and at least one referral in the last eight months. Most of these cases involve theft, trespassing, assault or weapons charges.
Davison’s office said that the initiative will work to coordinate the city attorney, the police department, the King County Prosecutor’s Office, King County Jail and service providers to try to enhance the outcomes for these repeat offenders while also reducing their impacts on public safety.
The city attorney’s office will keep a list of the “high utilizers” and coordinate with its partners.
The initiative comes as the city, along with many major cities across the country, saw a dramatic spike in violent crime over the last two years.
Seattle’s downtown core around Third Avenue has received significant attention in recent weeks after a number of shootings, including one that left a 15-year-old dead, and a number of businesses closed down due to the increased criminal activity.
Seattle police have since moved in a mobile precinct to the area around Third Avenue and Pike Street as part of its Operation New Day, but questions around making a sustainable change persist, with Mayor Bruce Harrell saying he hopes to bring a sense of justice to the city while also getting help for those experiencing drug addiction and homelessness.
Davison says her new program will help in this effort by making sure repeat offenders have access to certain programs in coordination with service providers and public safety partners.
"I am committed to rebuilding our City’s accountability system. Through our High Utilizer Initiative, we will directly address the individuals who create a disproportionate impact on public safety in Seattle,” Davison said. “High-utilizers have fallen through the cracks of our social safety net and criminal justice system and cannot be ignored. My office will prioritize these cases and continue to advocate for both accountability and behavioral health and substance use interventions to help stop the cycle of addiction, crime, and human suffering we are seeing on our streets.”
Interim Chief Adrian Diaz with the Seattle Police Department said in a statement that much of the repeat criminal activity throughout the city is perpetrated by a small number of people, something he’s said before in addressing public safety.
As for the significant increase in violent crime, Seattle has already seen 118 shootings and shots fired incidents through the first two months of 2022, according to police data. That's nearly double the number compared to last year and nearly 50 more than 2015, which saw the next highest on record at 70 through the first two months of the year.
According to Diaz, violent crime increased overall by 20% from 2020 to 2021.
In a statement Tuesday, Diaz said, “I am confident the High Utilizer Initiative will not only add another layer of accountability but will also help identify those most in need of behavioral and health services."