The city of Seattle is a strange place. There’s really no other way I can think to phrase it, really. This is a city that allowed the CHOP to exist for far too long and even encouraged it by placing concrete barriers to help secure the area…right up until they decided it was too much of an embarrassment to let it remain.
To say the city’s leadership may not be playing with a full deck is putting it mildly.
Now, they’re considering a proposal that may actually make the city even less safe.
The Seattle City Council is considering new legislation that would create a legal loophole that would make substance addiction, mental illness or poverty a valid legal defense for nearly all misdemeanor crimes committed in the city.
The council’s consideration of the plan has occurred with virtually no public discussion about the proposal, which has been included in the municipal budgeting process. The council has not, so far, conducted a standalone meeting to discuss the idea.
Scott Lindsay, the former public safety advisor for the city, said Seattle would be in a class of its own if it ultimately enacted the ordinance.
“I’m not aware of any legislation like this anywhere in the United States (or) even globally,” he said Monday. “All cities have criminal codes to protect their citizens from criminal acts. This would essentially create a legal loophole that swallows all those codes and creates a green light for crime.”
That’s putting it mildly.
See, of the three “defenses” described, the only one that kind of makes sense to me is mental illness. Those who are mentally ill may not necessarily even understand what they’re doing. We already have an exception in the law for such a thing, though it’s severely limited in how it can apply. Perhaps expanding that might make a bit of sense…if those people were going to get treatment instead of being put back out on the streets.
As for poverty or substance abuse…holy crap, that’s weapons-grade stupid right there.
Of course a lot of crime is perpetrated by people with substance abuse problems. They rob people to support their drug habits. This has been well-known for some time. Now, though, Seattle is considering giving these people a free pass for it so long as they don’t pass some arbitrary threshold between misdemeanors and felonies.
Further, a lot of people blame their criminal activities on poverty. They say they sell drugs because they’re poor and need money. They steal because they’re poor and need money. They’ve long argued that their poverty forces them into crime.
The fact it never seems to force any of them into a freaking job is what’s surprising.
Yet here’s a problem that I don’t think Seattle has considered. The line between misdemeanor and felony can be razor-thin. There’s a point where stealing X dollars is a misdemeanor, but stealing X+1 is a felony. Does anyone really believe that those who figure they can get off because they’re using drugs or because they’re poor will count their stolen money and return the excess?
No, they won’t. Yet they’ll still feel empowered to commit crimes because they know they can get away with so many of them. They’ll be emboldened to carry out more and more crimes because they know they can walk.
What happens when someone gets killed by one of these people who should have been in jail but wasn’t because he played the “I’m just a poor boy, nobody loves me” defense?
Maybe then people in Seattle will wake up to what they’ve elected to lead them.