Filing of the city attorney, but also embezzlement, more cases; Registration rate at city shelters remains low

City Attorney Ann Davison

1. City Attorney Ann Davison’s office released a detailed report this week confirming what PubliCola reported earlier this month: in the first six months of 2022, its office only filed charges in about half of the criminal cases it reviewed, declining to pursue the charges. at a pace similar to that of his predecessor, Pete Holmes. Between 2017 and 2019, Holmes’ rate of decline ranged from just over 40% to just under 60%, only slightly lower than Davison’s.

Between January and June, the city attorney’s office denied about 51% of cases. This number includes cases from a backlog left after Holmes left, which resulted from a combination of the inability to file cases before the pandemic and an increase in uncleared cases in 2021, when the City Court of Seattle was not operating at full capacity due to the pandemic.

Excluding these cases, Davison’s rate of decline was lower (46% between January and March and 41% between April and June), but without further details on the cases the office considered in the backlog, or on the cases that arrived between April and June, it is difficult to draw long-term conclusions from this comparison.

Digging into the numbers in the report, the rate of domestic violence cases the office has dropped has steadily increased over the years and remains high under Davison (more than 60%) so far; One of the reasons for this, according to the report, is that victims of domestic violence often do not want to press charges against their abusers. Assault, destruction of property and harassment top the list of domestic violence cases for which no charges have been filed.

The report shows that Davison’s office resolved cases using diversion programs, such as Community Court, Mental Health Court and the Public Defender Association’s Law Enforcement-Assisted Diversion Program, at least as often as its predecessors, diverting hundreds of robberies, assaults, trespasses, and other cases to therapeutic courts or social services.

Davison’s office filed charges in a much higher percentage of new non-domestic violence and non-traffic criminal offenses (those committed in 2022) than Holmes – about half in the first quarter of this year and 37% in the second trimester. If this trend continues, it will mean that Davison chooses to press charges against more people charged with crimes like assault, robbery and trespassing, which are often crimes of poverty.

Portrait of Ann Davison

Perhaps most interestingly, the report shows that Davison’s office resolved cases using diversion programs, such as community court, mental health court, and the enforcement-assisted diversion program. Public Defender Association law, at least as often as its predecessors, diverting hundreds of robbery, assault, trespassing, and other cases to therapeutic courts or social services. Overall, Davison has referred about 750 cases to community court, more than 600 to LEAD, and about 180 to mental health court.

Earlier this year, Davison sought and was granted permission to deny access to community court to the roughly 100 people on his ‘high user’ list, which includes people with more than 12 cases (no charges) over the past five years. The City Attorney’s Office does treat this population differently: Contrary to its overall approach, the office has laid charges in 82% of cases involving this group, a decline rate of only 18%.

2. The Seattle Department of Social Services’ latest quarterly report on the work of the Homelessness Outreach and Provider Ecosystem (HOPE) team shows an increase in the number of people who have been referred to shelter by the HOPE team and have actually registered. in a shelter, which means they showed up and stayed at least one night. The HOPE team does outreach in encampments, primarily the regularly updated list of encampments in the city that they plan to sweep.

Between April and June, 173 people went to a shelter based on a referral from the HOPE team, representing 41% of the total number of people who received at least one referral. (Overall, the team made 458 referrals, including multiple referrals for some people). In other words, that means about 58 people took refuge on the HOPE team referrals each month last quarter. Figures are approximate, as some people who register with a shelter choose to remain anonymous, which makes them harder to track.

These numbers, while a slight improvement, continue to reveal that the majority of referrals to shelters do not result in shelter listings (and shelter, of course, is not housing) – people receive return slips but do not use them. This can happen for a variety of reasons: Leaving an encampment for shelter can involve a long walk across town, as well as tough decisions, like leaving an established street community or abandoning a pet.

Notably, the second quarter of this year also included the removal of a large encampment at Woodland Park, which Mayor Bruce Harrell identified early on as one of his administration’s top priorities. As we reported at the time, the city asked the Low-Income Housing Institute to set aside dozens of spaces in villages of tiny houses – a desirable type of semi-private shelter that has a very high enrollment rate – for people living in the park. Of 89 shelter referrals in Woodland Park, 60 were for tiny house villages.

The city also made a special effort to ensure those forced to leave during the highly publicized pullout, providing direct transportation to shelters for anyone who received a referral, which likely increased enrollment. overall. PubliCola asked HSD how many of the 173 registrations between April and June were from Woodland Park and will update this post when we hear back.

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