Capitol Hill drug arrest drop trails big plunge downtown following diversion program

drug arrest density

A concentration of drug related arrests on Capitol Hill since 2011 is part of the rationale behind expanding LEAD. (Image: SPD)

As the number of 911 calls involving drugs on Capitol Hill has declined in recent years, the decline in drug-related arrests has not kept pace. According to a recent report commissioned by the Seattle Police Department, drug-related calls for service declined 34% from 2012-2014 while drug-related arrests only declined 10%.

The trend is particularly interesting when compared to downtown, where drug-related calls for service rose 13% while drug-related arrests declined by 40% in the same time period.

The report didn’t attempt to identify reasons for the discrepancy but researchers said a successful downtown drug diversion program may be a factor. SPD commissioned the Council of State Governments study in order to determine how best to expand Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion — a successful downtown strategy for keeping non-violent drug offenders out of jail.

By looking at crime trends since 2008, researchers determined that Capitol Hill’s commercial core (primarily Pike/Pine and Broadway) ranked among the top three highest concentrations of drug-related 911 calls, arrests, and jail bookings along with downtown and Pioneer Square. It’s the statistical basis the city and county are using for expanding LEAD to Capitol Hill sometime this year.

By expanding LEAD to Capitol Hill, the SPD report said the service areas would cover 2.5% of Seattle’s land area — an area that covers roughly 60% of the city’s drug‐related calls for service and about half of the city’s drug‐related arrests.

By expanding LEAD to Capitol Hill, the SPD report said the service areas would cover 2.5% of Seattle’s land area — an area that covers roughly 60% of the city’s drug‐related calls for service and about half of the city’s drug‐related arrests.

LEAD was launched in Seattle in 2011 and has since been replicated in cities across the country. It works by placing drug use suspects into counseling before they’re booked into jail. Typically, an officer will call a LEAD outreach worker to assess a drug user they think may be a good candidate for the program (no warrants or violent criminal history). The outreach worker then schedules a crisis assessment offered through Evergreen Treatment Services.

Results from the program have been promising. LEAD participants were 87% less likely to be incarcerated after entry than those who didn’t participate, according to a 2-year study (PDF) of the program recently completed by the University of Washington. They also had 58% lower odds of a subsequent arrest.

The Public Defender Association and the Capitol Hill Community Council have been among those advocating for the program to expand beyond downtown.

Along with the expansion of LEAD, East Precinct officers will soon be teaming up with social outreach workers to bring another downtown program to Capitol Hill.
Known as the Multi-disciplinary Team program, outreach workers contracted by the Metropolitan Improvement District go on patrol with officers to offer a range of social services. In addition to ongoing individual assistance, MDT workers can provide city and regional bus tickets, motel vouchers, connections to homeless shelters, and other social services.

The programs are funded through a combination of city, county, and private sources. LEAD and MDT were allocated a combined $1.7 million in Mayor Ed Murray’s 2016 budget, although no actual increase in funding was required for the expansion. According to Mayor’s office, the programs will use carryover money from last year to begin operations on Capitol Hill.

Meanwhile, Capitol Hill has seen an increasing share of the city’s trespass calls in recent years as numbers in downtown have declined. In the first quarter of 2012, 13.6% of the city’s trespass incidents occurred in Capitol Hill’s East Precinct, while 49.3% occurred in the West Precinct, which includes downtown and Belltown. In the first quarter of 2014 East Precinct’s share rose to 26.8% while West Precinct’s dropped to 36%. Trespass enforcement is the most significant measurable policing category involving homelessness. On Monday morning, City of Seattle and King County officials, including Mayor Murray and King County Executive Dow Constantine, were set to announce new actions to address homelessness in the region.

LEAD Expansion Data Presentation

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4 thoughts on “Capitol Hill drug arrest drop trails big plunge downtown following diversion program

    • I guess but also dropped following my daily coffee, when I rubbed my tummy, on days that end with y, etc. The diversion program isn’t up here. Yet.