Barnett and Kaushik: A Debate About What Works and What Doesn’t in Addressing Street Crime


Editor’s Note: Everyone in Seattle seems to be talking about crime these days. That includes Mayor Bruce Harrell, who a week ago held his second major press conference on crime within the span of a single month. This time, flanked by the police chief, the City Attorney, the US Attorney, a representative of the Drug Enforcement Agency, and the Chief of Staff at the King County Prosecutor’s Office, Harrell said elected leaders were moving with urgency to tackle crime on the streets of Seattle, particularly in downtown hotspots like 3rd Avenue around Pike and Pine. 

While the mayor did emphasize that the response to growing crime and street disorder would include compassionate interventions, he and the other speakers emphasized arrests and criminal prosecutions of bad actors in these hot spots. The Seattle Times headlined his message as, “Harrell says he ‘inherited a mess,’ will solve crime issues by putting arrests first, social services second.”

On the latest episode of the Seattle Nice podcast, moderated by KUOW reporter David Hyde, PubliCola editor Erica Barnett and Post Alley writer and public affairs consultant Sandeep Kaushik dissected Harrell’s message and current state of our criminal justice system. What follows is a transcript of that conversation, lightly edited for space and flow.

David Hyde: Hello and welcome to the latest edition of Seattle Nice. I’m David Hyde, a politics reporter with local NPR affiliate KUOW. And today, a new day, Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell is announcing a new crime fighting effort. He’s calling it “Operation New Day.”

Mayor Bruce Harrell clip: “I’m joined this morning by leaders from across the law enforcement spectrum and public safety spectrum to share the results of what we’ve raised as Operation New Day. And to share our commitment to working together toward a safer thriving Seattle.”

David Hyde: We’re here to debate the merits of Operation New Day. Former Stranger reporter turned political consultant and Bruce Harrell fan Sandeep Kaushik. Hi, Sandeep. And Sandeep’s longtime friend, former colleague at the Stranger, editor and publisher of PubliCola and less of a Bruce Harrell fan, Erica Barnett.

Erica Barnett: Yeah, the jury’s out.

David Hyde: Alright, just before we get into it, for anybody new to the podcast, believe it or not, Sandeep and Erica are friends, friends who often disagree. And for folks who find that sort of thing valuable, especially now in this politically fractious time, please donate. We’ve got a Patreon page, Seattle Nice on Patreon. We’re getting up there in terms of the folks who are starting to donate. Any amount, whatever amount is right for you whether it’s $5 a month, $10 a month. $1 a month, 50 cents a month. Anything is great. Anything else to add?

Sandeep Kaushik: [Donate] $1 million a month? That would be good. 

David Hyde: Maybe you could do that. 

Sandeep Kaushik: You get to hang out with Erica and I if you pledge $1 million a month. 

David Hyde: You could sleep in the Lincoln Bedroom. Yeah, absolutely.

David Hyde: Alright, so the topic, Operation New Day: this effort’s going to include at least six new police officers, additional patrol support. But first of all, for folks who don’t really know this 3rd and Pine area, where is it? Why is Bruce Harrell focusing his efforts there?

Erica Barnett: 3rd and Pine is location in downtown Seattle. It’s been a perennial hot spot. There’s a McDonald’s there. There’s a check cashing place. There used to be a Macy’s nearby. That area has just been a hangout place for people to sell drugs and sell fenced goods. 

And occasionally, there have been, over the years, a spate of shootings, and we’re kind of experiencing one right now. There have been two shootings in the last week and a stabbing in the vicinity. So it is periodically a location that the police in Seattle decide to crack down on. I’ve been here more than 20 years covering the city. And this happens periodically. Whoever the mayor is will come in say, “We’re going to put a ton of police on this corner, we’re really going to finally deal with it. It’s worse than it’s ever been!” And the police come in for a little while, and the crime moves elsewhere. And then the police go away and it comes back. That’s how I would describe the cycle over the last 20 years. Probably before [too]. That’s just what I’ve seen.

Sandeep Kaushik: It is worse than it’s ever been. You know, you actually go down there now… one of the small businesses down there just announced that they were shutting down because they didn’t feel safe anymore. 

David Hyde: Piroshky Piroshky. Have you been there?

Sandeep Kaushik: I’ve never actually been in Piroshky Piroshky.

Erica Barnett : That might be one reason it’s closing down, along with a lot of other things like COVID.

Sandeep Kaushik: Maybe I didn’t go in because there were always people shooting up in the entryway! I used to work down there on 3rd Avenue and it wasn’t that bad back then. But the [Piroshky Piroshky] owner said there were two incidents, one, the shooting right outside of her door, and then the next day she comes in and there’s people shooting up in her doorway. And you know, you’re not going to get a lot of customers when there’s junkies shooting up in your doorway.

Erica Barnett: But we used to work in a place together where there’s a junkie shooting up in the doorway every morning when we came to work. I mean, the idea that this is like some new thing, that people are suddenly gravitating to this location. When this is a historical fact that it has been a hotspot in the city for decades.

Sandeep Kaushik: That is true. But again, I think olf the situation for the people who are actually living and working down there. They will tell you it has never been worse. Right? And I have heard that there are residents in the buildings there, a lot of them low income folks, who are feeling completely terrorized and unsafe from the level of criminal activity that has spiraled out of control in that 3rd and Pine, 3rd and Pike area right now.

David Hyde: So Harrell’s going to bring six cops in there with additional patrol support. This is so called hotspot policing. Right? And Erica, you’re skeptical?

Erica Barnett: Well, it’s never worked. It’s never worked in any sustained way. Because what happens, and we saw the same thing in a nearby neighborhood at 12th in Jackson, which was, I think, a more dramatic example of tons of people hanging out, and committing low level crimes. Cops came in, they’re still there. They did a hot spot action. 

And from everything I’ve heard, first of all, the city doesn’t know where they went. But from the reporting we’ve done, they went around the corner. I mean, that’s what the businesses there say. They say, “We see the same people, they’re just around the corner where the cops aren’t.” So I’m sorry to sound hippie dippy, Sandeep, but unless you address the underlying problems that are causing people to be smoking fentanyl on the street, then you are not going to address the fact that people are selling fentanyl to people, and the fact that people are stealing stuff from Target to feed their addiction, because addiction is expensive. 

You’re just going to keep moving the problem around and I think six officers… Not to say that the Seattle Police Department  can afford to put more, much more than that, because they are incredibly understaffed, according to what they consider adequate staffing to be. But I don’t think 12 officers or 20 would actually fix the problem either, because you’re just not addressing the root causes of why we have that situation perennially at that corner.

Sandeep Kaushik: Somehow, I don’t think you’re actually sorry to sound hippie dippy, first of all. But secondly, hotspot policing does work. Does it create some displacement? Absolutely, it does. Right. And as you pointed out, they cleaned out 12th in Jackson, which was a hellscape, a couple of weeks ago. And I don’t think there’s any question some of that activity may have gone around the corner, some of that activity went to 3rd and Pine, which, in the last two weeks, has become visibly much, much worse. And there was a commensurate sort of spike in violence in that kind of micro geography. As we just mentioned, there have been two shootings and a stabbing. 

But to your point, I do think some of the activity that was happening at 12th, and Jackson did move over to 3rd and Pine. That said, when you look at criminological studies about hotspot policing, it does have an impact on reducing crime, it doesn’t just move it around. If you disrupt patterns of criminal behavior that are occurring in these concentrated nodes, crime goes down. 

Erica Barnett:  And then why hasn’t it gone down then since we’ve done this over and over and over and over and over and over again, we do this all the time. And usually, it’s been with more.

Sandeep Kaushik: This is exactly what we haven’t done, because for the last two years… There’s just kind of a narrative on the left that Seattle has been experimenting with mass incarceration and doing all this stuff. And none of it has worked. You know, but the last few years, we haven’t been doing mass incarceration. We’ve been doing…

Erica Barnett: You heard it here first: Sandeep was for mass incarceration!

Sandeep Kaushik: I’m, I’m NOT for mass inaction, which is really what’s actually happened. So, here, this is the most telling thing: I was talking with somebody working at the city in a significant position, just today. And that person said to me, “How many people do you think right now are in jail having been convicted of a misdemeanor crime in the city of Seattle?” And the answer is zero. Yeah, zero! And what that says, is that over…

Erica Barnett: That’s going to be the result of this as well. They’re not going to be arresting people and putting them in jail for misdemeanors in this action. They’re not even proposing that. 

Sandeep Kaushik: So I think this is going to be the test. Right? I think when the mayor stood up there today with the City Attorney, with the representative of the Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, with the DEA, with the US Attorney, and said, we’re going to get a handle on crime on our streets, that’s putting a marker down and I think he and they will be held to that standard. I will tell you, I think one of two things will happen: either this era of what I call radical permissiveness in Seattle, where we arrest way fewer people, and even the ones we arrest we charge way fewer of those, and then even if they go to trial, almost nobody spends any time in jail anymore in Seattle for these crimes no matter how many times they commit them. Or how much disruption or problem they’re causing, how many people are victimized or hurt, they don’t go to jail anymore. Either that’s going to end, Or I will tell you there will be a political backlash in Seattle in 2023, one that will dwarf what happened last fall.

Erica Barnett: So you’re describing a situation that corresponds precisely in every respect to the time that COVID has been having an impact on the city, and on every single city across the nation that is seeing the exact same identical problems as Seattle, Both from not being able to hire cops, to having an increase in low level crime, particularly in downtown areas that have been emptied out because office workers are not working downtown. 

So I think to pretend that this is some kind of unique horror, you know, that has been caused by Kshama Sawant being on the Council, or whatever it is, is just to sort of put blinders on and ignore the entire rest of the country that is experiencing the exact same identical effects. And I think that we ignore the rest of the country to our peril, just the same way we ignore history when we say, well yeah, we’ve tried hotspot policing before, but I don’t think it works. Even though you can go back in the Seattle Times archives right now, and read dozens of stories about this exact corner and this exact same solution not working.

David Hyde: I did a little bit of research on this. Since we keep talking about hotspot policing. There’s a Planet Money story from last year where they interviewed an NYU economist, Morgan Williams, who did a massive research project on 242 cities over a really long period of time, 1981 to 2019. One of their conclusions was that black communities are simultaneously being over policed, and under policed. 

And Sandeep, one of the things that they found was that adding more cops to the streets, leads to more arrests for low level crimes for disorderly conduct, which disproportionately affects black communities across the United States. But Erica, this study also found that it led to fewer arrests for serious crimes and a drop in serious crimes, including homicides. And what they were saying in this study was that it’s not arresting people that reduces serious crime, it’s just simply having cops around. And so at least what Planet Money says – this is 242 cities over a 20 year period of time – that policing hotspots works to lower the serious crime rate. I think there’s evidence in that study, at least, that suggests that both of you are a little bit wrong here.

Erica Barnett: Well, I think it depends on how you define hotspot policing, right? And I haven’t read that study. But I will say that if hotspot policing means having a certain number of beat officers on a spot on a corner in a neighborhood, that is very different than what the city of Seattle is doing, and what I’m talking about.

David Hyde: What they’re saying is hiring more cops overall lowers the homicide rate. And the city is doing that. Well, it’s what the city says it wants to do. Right, and this hotspot approach works to lower the serious crime rate. But the same study says that we’re dumb to be arresting people for petty crimes, we should be using more of our manpower power to solve serious crimes. Unlike what Sandeep and Ann Davison think we ought to be doing. So I think there’s something in that study for everyone.

Erica Barnett: But I do have to push back. Because I don’t think that what you’re describing, as you’re describing it, is the same thing. I think you’re talking about having a lot of officers, investing a lot of money in police, which is something cities have done between 1981 and 2019. And putting those officers on a beat. I mean, that’s something that has been tried too. Policing, by the way, it’s changed a lot since 1981.

David Hyde: It’s a 2021 story. So we’re [not talking about] ancient information. 

Erica Barnett: No, I know. But you’re talking about longitudinal data about stuff that’s changed over that time. But in any case… We are not in a situation where it is possible to hire as many cops as we are even funding, because people are not applying for those positions. And when they do, it takes a really long time to get them up to speed and ready to actually be on the beat and be in patrol cars. 

Sandeep Kaushik: I somewhat agree with Erica here in that I think Seattle’s in somewhat of a unique situation, because I do think we have embarked on a semi-unacknowledged experiment in abolition. I think [abolitionist City Attorney candidate Nicole Thomas-Kennedy] already kind of won the [last] election before it happened, because we’d stopped prosecuting anybody for misdemeanor crimes! 

Now, is there evidence historically in lots of other cities where there was overpolicing of minor crimes, and this led to biased and racist policing and outcomes? Absolutely, that’s true, and that’s been a hallmark of the war on drugs. I mean, I look back to when I was doing drugs in the ‘90s in D.C. and saw it firsthand, right, in the housing projects in Southeast D.C., and absolutely, there was racism built into that kind of policing. And that’s something we need to watch out for and make sure it’s not happening here. 

That said, the experiment we’re in right now is the mirror opposite of that, and this experiment is: What happens if we don’t prosecute, if we decriminalize all minor criminal activity in a city? And to Erica’s point earlier, COVID is a big driver of this, absolutely. But the ideology that has driven this agenda existed pre-COVID. COVID just allowed an opportunity to accelerate a series of changes in our policing and criminal justice system that are very directly responsible for the chaos that we’re seeing on our streets right now. And for the spike in crime and the political backlash that is brewing here. 

Erica Barnett:  A few things. When we talk about a spike in crime, I think we need to separate spikes in crime in specific areas like 3rd and Pine from [crime] overall in the city. Overall in the city, property crime has been pretty steady, violent crime is up, and, in particular, shootings are up. And I think it’s much more useful to look at what is causing shootings, and look at who is being shot and why. And I don’t think that we’re at a point where we’re doing this now. 

Are we not doing anything about misdemeanors? That’s ridiculous. I mean, right now, we have a City Attorney who has pledged to clear the backlog of thousands of misdemeanors that have occurred because courts have not been meeting, because we have been, again, in a global health crisis and economic crisis and crisis that has that has caused it to be impossible for court to be in session. So just to say that we’re not doing anything as the city swoops in and arrests dozens of people is just contradicted by the facts of just today. 

I will say, though, this idea that we can solve everything at the arrest level – 16 of the felony charges that were alleged [at 12th and Jackson], I think about 10 of those 16 people have already been released. And that’s not by the City of Seattle, that’s not by hippie dippy Lisa Herbold or the socialist City Councilmember. The King County prosecutor’s Office, who was standing there today behind Bruce Harrell saying. “This is the right approach.” And then they released almost all of these folks directly back out on the street…

Sandeep Kaushik: I think that’s a real problem, I do think the problem extends beyond the city of Seattle and its government. And I do think that the King County Prosecutor’s Office has gone too far down this hippie, dippy, touchy-feely road that Erica Barnett and her friends have been pushing from the left for the last couple of years.

Erica Barnett: We just don’t run the jails. I mean, there’s just simply not enough [jail space] to implement your solution of arresting and jailing everybody…

Sandeep Kaushik: I’m not saying arrest and jail everybody, but I am saying if it’s the 20th or 25th time you’ve committed a crime and been arrested and all the alternatives that have been tried, have failed…

Erica Barnett: We don’t try alternatives! I mean, that is a myth…

Sandeep Kaushik: We do try alternatives. We totally try alternatives!

Erica Barnett: You want to say we live in this…

Sandeep Kaushik: I mean, we have, like, JustCare…

Erica Barnett: I was just going to say, you’re going to say justCare, run by the same organization on a shoestring that serves about 150 people at a time and is full. So no, we don’t have programs for everybody. Like I don’t offer like this wonderful suite of amazing services to everyone who gets arrested. That’s just not reality.

Sandeep Kaushik: The Stranger had this, I think, unintentionally hilarious story just today where their reporter went down to 3rd and pine and interviewed people. One of the first people she interviews, it’s like, “Oh, yeah, they gave me public housing, but I’m still out here, you know, dealing drugs.” And the second person she talked to was like, “Oh, yeah, I was in public housing, but I got kicked out and I didn’t do anything and I don’t know why, but I’m out here buying stolen goods.” And so the idea that we don’t in the city of Seattle attempt interventions? We do and we should. And we should emphasize those. I think [Mayor] Bruce Harrell said that [too].

Erica Barnett: If we did that there wouldn’t be 40,000 homeless people on the streets…

Sandeep Kaushik: If they don’t work, and they don’t always work, there are cases where people probably need to go to jail. Or not even probably, they do need to go to jail! And the fact that we don’t put them in jail anymore, we have sent a signal on our streets that anything goes, you can get away with anything you want, and you’re not going to go to jail. That’s an experiment that is headed towards a very ignominious end.

Erica Barnett: One of the things that I think is most disturbing about these periodic hotspot crackdowns and is becoming, I think, more disturbing – as we do have occasionally a program or two that will actually help people or try to help people – is that people point to the existence of that program. And Bruce Harrell did it today. He didn’t get the name of the program quite right. He called it” the Care Team,” but he was talking about JustCare. And that serves people who are involved in the criminal justice system. 

And I think it’s a very good program. It’s incredibly expensive, and it’s facing a funding cliff, and it might get defunded this year. So at most that serves 150 people at a time. And then everybody says, “ Well we’re doing that! So that’s great! We have a program, people have an option, they’ve been offered that, and if they don’t take it, then we just need to arrest them and throw them in jail.” I just think it is doomed to failure. If we’re going to say, we offer this alternative to people and they don’t take it without sort of some getting a foot on the ground of reality and saying this is not at scale, it’s not for everybody. And we need other alternatives. Besides, you know, the one or two options that we have for a few people.

Sandeep Kaushik: I think it’s hard to deny that there is a relatively small population of people that is responsible for a disproportionate amount of the street crime…

Erica Barnett: Yeah this is what Scott Lindsay, the City Attorney candidate, said seven years ago, when they were doing the last version of this.

Sandeep Kaushik: Yeah. And we have not in any, in any sustained way… I mean, I think we’ve directed programs like LEAD and JustCare at them. But we have not in any kind of sustained way concentrated on those people that wash out and the interventions don’t help, and they’re out there causing a significant amount of social dislocation and unrest. We do need to then have a component of the system that separates them out from society. I mean, otherwise, we end up with 3rd and Pine, we’re 12th and Jackson. 

Erica Barnett: Which we’ve had forever!

Sandeep Kaushik: Not at this scale, and not this bad! I will also say, you brought up this point a few times, that property crime has not shown a sharp uptick. But when you dig into the numbers of property crime, first, let’s talk about shoplifting. Like the big retail stores, [the ones] that are hit 25 to 50 times a day, they have all entirely stopped reporting shoplifting, because it’s so frequent, and the cops show up. And they have their own security guards anyway, so if they catch somebody, they kick them out and tell them not to come back. [But] they don’t report those crimes anymore. And even if you had a baseline of the amount of shoplifting that was being reported in 2015, when there was less shoplifting in Seattle [than now], I would dare say, crime in Seattle is not up 10 percent. It’s up more like 30 percent or more. So the reason people perceive crime to be a lot worse is because it is a lot worse! That’s the reality! 

Erica Barnett: I mean, most people in Seattle are not, most people who are sitting there watching KOMO News and watching Fox in their homes in Phinney Ridge, or Magnolia, are not spending a lot of time hanging out on the street corner at 3rd and Pine or sitting in that McDonald’s at 3rd and Pine. That is just a fact. So the perception that they have is entirely based on what a third party reports to them about how horrible it is. And if you were telling me that you really believe that most people have first hand experience, and know exactly, and are perceiving this based not on KOMO news – Seattle is dying, everything’s worse than has ever been, please never leave your couch and keep watching tv for the rest of your life… You know, I just don’t buy it. I think that perception is in huge part fed by the media. And I think the media, particularly television, has a huge incentive to portray things as worse than they are and scarier than they are.

Sandeep Kaushik: I in a strange way, I agree with you on one point, which is that I think until pretty recently, in significant parts of the city, like where I lived in Phinney Ridge, or you mentioned Magnolia, Fremont, say, Wallingford, where neighborhoods are filled with well-to-do privileged white progressives who in their own neighborhoods and vicinities don’t have to experience what it’s like on 3rd and Pine. And the reality of that was in their own kind of clueless, privileged way, they could pretend to be Che Guevara and be, like, “Oh yeah, I’m down with NTK! I’m telling Nikkita [Oliver], ‘Yeah, let’s stop prosecuting any crimes! Because of course, I don’t see anything bad happening in my neighborhood. So why not?’” 

And who suffers the brunt of this is the poor people living in the apartment building at 3rd and Pike or 3rd and Pine, it’s the communities of color that are suffering from the gun violence, disproportionately. But this is, I think, what is now changing in Seattle. We were talking about this earlier today, but Ken’s Market in my neighborhood, the other night a crew of people smashed their way in and then came in with a forklift and smashed a bunch of stuff and hauled off the ATM machine. It’s the second attack that I’ve noticed of significance at Ken’s Market [recently] in Phinney Ridge. And I think, now that this sort of spike in crime is spread into these privileged, progressive white neighborhoods. I think shit’s gonna change tout suite, right? 

Erica Barnett: The idea that Phinney Ridge is a bastion of progressiveness, I mean…

David Hyde: Che Guevara, Che Guevara!

Erica Barnett:. So, I don’t know who your neighbors are Sandeep, maybe on the left and the right of you are the leftiest, hippiest hippies of all the of all the homeowners in Seattle. But, the fact is, there’s a huge audience for this narrative. 

And there always has been [an appetit] for this narrative that Seattle is terrifying, that Seattle is the most dangerous place you could imagine living, that everybody’s fleeing to the suburbs, nobody goes to the city anymore. It’s too crowded. And I just encourage people to actually get out in reality.  I mean, you can look at the crime stats, you can look at the crime report that the Seattle Police Department, in seeking more police officers, put out to show how terrible crime is. And you can look at the stats in that, you can go to the FBI’s more detailed crime analysis and find out more about the specific crimes that are actually being committed here in Seattle. And I mean, you know, is crime up? Yes, I don’t deny that. But I just think that trying the same solutions we’ve always tried is going to produce the exact same result that we always get. And that’s it. That’s it.

Sandeep Kaushik: Look, I do think the politics of crime and criminal justice and policing are, that the tide is receding whiplash, fast, right? I’m mixing metaphors in saying that but the political tide is shifting really, really rapidly on these issues in cities like Seattle. And we’ll see what happens. I mean, to the point you were making a couple minutes ago, when you said, “Yeah, they’re having press conferences, and yeah, now, our politicians all of a sudden are touting the fact that they’re making arrests again.” And so we’ll see how much of that they actually do. And we’ll see what the results of it are, whether things get better or not. 

Erica Barnett: I also think I mean, I want to go back to a point I made about policing. There is a fundamental problem here, which is that, no matter what the city does, I mean, even offering hiring incentives to police did not work to hire the number of police they want. This is a problem nationwide. So either we’re going to put everybody on patrol and stop investigating anything, which is what’s already happening. You know, the police have taken a lot of the detectives off of detective duties, put them on patrol. 

So we’re not investigating crimes, we’re just arresting, and patrolling. We can do that for a while. But if the idea is to send a bunch of cops up to Ken’s Market to just be patrolling around there, and to send a bunch of cops to permanently be in all kinds of other locations all over the city, we’re going to run out of cops pretty darn fast. And so this is a more fundamental problem than standing up in front of the cameras and spouting a bunch of rhetoric about policing and about arresting people. Because at the end of the day, I mean, Bruce Harrell’s going to be a disappointment to people who think that it’s his job to hire 500 more cops. And Ann Davison’s going to be a disappointment to people think it’s her job to prosecute everybody for misdemeanors and throw them in jail forever, because there are like, all kinds of reasons, elsewhere in the system away from the political people in front of the cameras, that that is just impossible right now.

Sandeep Kaushik: I am not saying – prosecute everybody. I’m saying prosecute somebody, anybody! The guy that just committed the 50th crime in a row, prosecute that guy!

Erica Barnett: But you understand that, literally, that’s not how the system works. I mean, if we arrest somebody, right now, because people are in line to be prosecuted, courts are back in session, the wheels of justice, as you’re describing it, are starting to turn again after two years of COVID.

Sandeep Kaushik: Good!

Erica Barnett: But, you’re going to get awfully frustrated Sandeep, because the guy who just committed a crime that you found particularly abhorrent – Ken’s Market or wherever — he’s back in the very back of the line. So he’s not going to be seeing the inside of a jail cell for any length of time for years, if ever. And so, he’s going to get arrested, he’s back out on the street the same day, and you’re going to keep seeing him. At what point are you going to become impatient? Because parts of the system that Bruce Harrell doesn’t control are slow.

Sandeep Kaushik: But I think you’re making an argument [that says], we need more cops, and we need more, we need a greater emphasis on the criminal justice system. Again, I do not mean…

Erica Barnett: I’m in between where you are and where you think I am. I think we need police. I am not a person who says, I’m not a – what do you call it? A radically permissive person? 

Sandeep Kaushik: Abolitionist, yes. 

Erica Barnett: But, I think that the system that we have currently is, both, not working, and it’s really set up to fail, given the realities of the way the courts work, the way police hiring works, I mean, everything…

Sandeep Kaushik: But you also don’t think there’s any benefit in prosecuting anybody, jailing anybody for misdemeanor crime?

Erica Barnett: I think that’s a very broad statement. I do think there are plenty of misdemeanor crimes that people should be jailed for. I mean, there are domestic violence crimes that are misdemeanors. I don’t think that there is any long term point in putting people in jail for addiction-related crimes, unless you just like spending a lot of money on things that don’t work.

David Hyde: That would actually describe my own personal spending habits. Erica C. Barnett gets the last word this week. He’s Sandeep Kaushik. I’m David Hyde. You’ve been listening to Seattle Nice. And you can find us on Patreon at Seattle Nice if you’d like to donate, or if you want to contact us. Our messages are open at Twitter. It’s @realSeattleNice at Twitter. And thanks to everybody for the comments. We’ve been getting helpful advice, the donations, and thank you so much for listening.


  1. 1. The Seattle prosecutor backlog of thousands of cases wasn’t caused by COVID, it was already there. See for example Westneat story in Seattle Times Oct 2, 2019 “Seattle says the answer to street crime is … more money. But it used to handle far more cases for less.” Around the same time Lindsay published a similar account, including cases never completed or stretching on for years. This didn’t really come up much in the election, but it’s Davison’s big challenge – Holmes wasn’t just indisposed to handle those cases, he just couldn’t do the job with the resources he had. He says, anyway. Can she do better?

    2. Reasonably well heeled north end neighborhoods really do go to progressive flag waving candidates. The divide isn’t where the “urbanists” say it is. I’m looking at the map of precincts for the Thomas-Kennedy / Davison / Holmes primary. It’s a lot like the 2013 Sawant/Conlin outcome – but broader for Sawant then than it was for Thomas-Kennedy. There have been a lot of people up here who may own what is now expensive real estate, who feel very comfortable voting for the leftmost candidate on the ballot. And as Kaushik implies, and the trend between 2013 and 2021 might suggest, that support is in many cases shallow, it’s the support you get from people busy with other things who put their money on simple right/left dualism. Where Davison, and Conlin, did better is not north end, it’s a band of neighborhoods that runs around the city closer to the water.

  2. The issue is DRUGS…….We are a society that thrives on drug usage. We peddle drugs as an answer for everything. Now that we have removed the criminal element of using certain drugs, we need to go to the next obvious step and remove the criminal element of selling them.
    ” JUST SAY NO” doesn’t work.
    If you remove the money from providing drugs by giving them away, then the criminal community can get on with stealing ATMs and catalytic converters.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Comments Policy

Please be respectful. No personal attacks. Your comment should add something to the topic discussion or it will not be published. All comments are reviewed before being published. Comments are the opinions of their contributors and not those of Post alley or its editors.