Seattle’s support for the Ten Year Plan to End Homelessness — which holds that housing is the answer, and any new shelter is a step backwards — is routinely held up to justify the criminalization of survival. The city’s homeless sweeps, which label all homeless campers with the lowest common denominator assumption of criminality and addiction, have aggressively targeted those who resist Seattle’s overcrowded shelter system.
2,631 people were counted outside a past-capacity shelter system last January. 35 new beds have been added to offset the removal of public sleeping options at night. Most campers will remain outside of Seattle’s overcrowded shelters, chased from sweep to sweep until they are ticketed, fined, and bench warranted into jail or out of town.
Seattle Councilmember Tim Burgess has recently released a new plan to attack “social disorder” through more aggressive policing. Seattle, by the standards of any major urban area, is not a threatening city. In fact, crime rates are down. This is Seattle’s newest iteration of Giuliani’s broken windows theory, which defines the urban poor as indicators of social decay and treats them accordingly.
Tim recently had the unfortunate experience of witnessing a crack deal in Belltown at 7 am.
Last Friday morning I stopped at First Avenue and Battery Street (Belltown neighborhood) to drop off my laundry. It was just after 7 a.m. A group of eight people - six men and two women - were standing near the door of the laundry.
One man had wads of cash in both hands. He was dickering with one of the women over price. She protested, "too much," and "more than last time." Here was an open-air drug market, unfortunately a less than desired yet frequent example of commerce in our city.
You know, if you think it sucks having to deal with crack addicts while dropping off your laundry, try being a crack addict. Having worked in Belltown for fourteen years, I've learned that the crackheads that roam the streets in packs until around 7:30 rarely notice civilians. They exist in a world apart, usually typified by desperate poverty, a near complete absence of opportunity, soul-devastating addiction, and a truly shitty circle of friends. Unless you're part of their world, you can pass through large groups of them like a ghost. If you're not of their crowd, you don't exist. It's like being on the Borg ship before one is noticed.
Blogging Georgetown analyzes Burgess' Safe Cities Initiative and concludes that the new council member is using the language of fear to expand police power, primarily that which targets the poor. Being the self-involved sort of guy I am, when I read something like this, I go, "Damn. I wish I'd written that."
On a related topic, the Mayor wants a new jail for misdimeanants, at a cost of $110 million to build and about $19 million to operate. Never mind that upstream alternatives to incarceration have reduced the jail population by thirty-eight percent. The City seems to anticipate a crime wave, and I doubt it has to do with the DUIs and domestic violence perps they keep talking about.